GUS MARTINEZ

Park Ranger

Gus Martinez
LISTEN TO MARTINEZ'S DIARY

APRIL 7, 2003 · When the war in Iraq began, so did another Code Orange alert. Across the country, people who are trained to be vigilant were told to be even more so. Gus Martinez is a ranger, who usually works at a national park in Alaska. But when the war started, he was called to help bolster security at what's known as an "icon" park, Mount Rushmore, in South Dakota. When it's Code Orange at Mt. Rushmore, the rangers work 12-hour days. They are more heavily armed than usual, they scan visitors through magnetometers, and check every vehicle that enters the park. Here is Martinez's War Diary entry.

I'm looking for unattended packages, I'm looking for somebody who, perhaps, avoids my gaze. I'm looking for people that may seem agitated. A gentleman drove up and normally I wouldn't have been too concerned that he reached back behind his car and was starting to grab for things... I usually am alert to that. But he was reaching frantically for something and I became very aware and very concerned. He was just looking for his hardhat and he wanted to show us that to show that he was a construction worker here.

"When I started my career, there was not even a thought in my mind that I would someday be at Mount Rushmore protecting a shrine to democracy from terrorists."

Our mission is still the same, but our tools have changed. I'm carrying an AR15 assault rifle. I go back and I think about that... how are people feeling when they come up and they see me standing here? But it's interesting, a lot of visitors have actually said, 'Hey, you know, I feel a lot safer. Thanks, guys.' They understand that we have a mission to accomplish here as well as the folks in Iraq.

That's something that, when I started my career, there was not even a thought in my mind that I would someday be at Mount Rushmore protecting a shrine to democracy from terrorists. It just never occurred. It's a different world now.




PHOTO: MARTINEZ AT MOUNT RUSHMORE

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Orange Security Level at Mount Rushmore

Tourists visit Mount Rushmore July 4, 2002.



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