PLANTATION, Fla. – After serving tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, a Marine veteran and barber has taken to traveling the East Coast to give hair cuts to fellow veterans, the homeless and anyone in need of a trim. Despite hitting a few bumps along the way, he says he is simply trying to do good, one cut at a time.
"I turned 18 and 21 in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some youth, right?" chuckled Nic Martinez.
Since Christmas, 28-year-old Martinez has been traveling along the East Coast in a 25-foot, 1969 Airstream trailer re-fitted as a barbershop. Along the way, he stops and cuts hair for veterans and the homeless. He does not charge homeless clients, and he gives vets the option to make their payment in the form of a donation.
Martinez said after witnessing some traumatic experiences overseas, it's difficult to live a normal life back home.
"Certain emotions you don't really realize you have anymore, but it's also kind of scary, you know, because you don't have books for it. Not a lot of things for a PTSD," he said.
For his therapy, Martinez relies on his trailer.
"This man just offered to cut my hair and my kids' hair," said homeless veteran Angel Garcia. "I mean, who does that? I'm homeless, I'm here at this hotel. I'm a Marine Corps veteran, I have three kids myself."
During Martinez's time overseas, fellow soldiers lined up just to get their hair cut.
"It's peace for me," he noted. "Cutting hair is very therapeutic. I get to help people out and make people smile. That's pretty awesome."
Martinez has been cutting hair for 15 years, and, after sharing his talent with fellow service members overseas, he opened up a shop in New York after returning from war. With the dream to travel the country to help others, he closed the shop and took it on the road with his wife and baby daughter.
Over the course of his rolling venture, Martinez believes he has cut hair for at least several hundred people across a number of states.
Martinez has stationary shop outside a Plantation hotel, gaining assistance from several local organizations.
Garcia said that for him, Martinez showing up was a sign from God, as he is preparing to interview for a new place to live.
"Nic just came out of nowhere, like God put him in that elevator and said, 'Hey, help this man out.' So I want to really return the favor to you, man," Garcia said, shaking hands with Martinez.
Through it all, Martinez never once mentions that he himself is sort of homeless. Two months ago, Martinez and his family had their van, which had been hitched to his barbershop trailer, stolen in Daytona Beach. The thief also made off with thousands of dollars Martinez had saved.
"That's kind of holding us back right now," he said.
But Martinez tries to keep his focus on others.
"I'm helping everybody else help each other by way of haircut, and if I can do that for free, and it costs me a little bit of time, a little bit of gas, then, yeah, I'll do that as long as my hands don't fall off," he said.
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