Highland veteran spends 74th birthday in hospital with COVID-19

HIGHLAND, Calif. (KABC) -- Leroy Martinez is a big believer in celebrating birthdays. The Highland veteran and grandfather of seven loves to celebrate each one of his family and friends with a serenade on his guitar. On his day, he normally likes to go big to mark the occasion.

"When he was teaching he would actually take a little cake with him, he would take a birthday hat with him and he would put on his tuxedo and that was his way to celebrate," said Irene Martinez, Leroy's wife.

But this year Leroy will spend his 74th birthday in the hospital with COVID-19. Both Leroy and Irene caught the virus in December after visiting the home of a cousin who was on hospice care.

While Irene recovered, he has not and was taken to Dignity Health St. Bernardine Hospital after he was transferred from Kaiser due to the overflow of COVID-19 patients.

"Our healthcare system can't take care of our people the way that they normally do," she said.

Leroy's wife and children were only able to see him through FaceTime on their phones to sing him happy birthday this year.

"He has a positive attitude about getting better because he does want to come home."

His family says Leroy is a fighter, surviving Vietnam and then the halls of Harvard where he earned his Master's degree in education.

While his family cannot be by his side, they still want to make his day special so they reached out to ABC7 and asked if we'd wish him a happy birthday.

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