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Air Force Family Wounded in Brussels Airport Attack Back in States

People walk away from the broken windows at Zaventem Airport in Brussels after an explosion on Tuesday, March 22, 2016. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
People walk away from the broken windows at Zaventem Airport in Brussels after an explosion on Tuesday, March 22, 2016. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

Air Force Lt. Col. Kato Martinez and his four children, who were gravely wounded in the Brussels airport terror attack that killed wife and mother Gail Minglana Martinez, are back in the U.S. while undergoing lengthy rehabilitation.

The non-profit Building Homes for Heroes group, which modifies and builds homes for wounded veterans, said Wednesday that the Martinez family will receive a mortgage-free home when they return to San Antonio, Texas, possibly in the late summer or early fall.

The Martinez family was among the casualties in the nail-laden bomb attacks on the Brussels airport and and Maalbeek metro station that killed at least 32 and wounded more than 270. Terrorists claiming to be affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria were held responsible for the attack.

Lt. Col. Martinez, who was assigned to Allied Joint Force Command at Brunssum in the Netherlands, was at the Brussels airport with his family to catch a flight home.

The Air Force at the time declined for privacy reasons to give the status or conditions of the Martinez family. Capt. Brooke Brzozowske, an Air Force spokeswoman, said Wednesday "there is no change" to the initial privacy request made by Lt. Col. Martinez.

The death of Gail Minglana Martinez, 41, was confirmed by relatives through the office of Rep. Blake Farenthold, a Texas Republican. Since then, friends and relatives of the Martinez family have given some information on the conditions of the Martinez family and the Building Homes for Heroes group disclosed more Wednesday.

In statements and a press release, the group said that Lt. Col Martinez and the four children "were left with various injuries that require a lengthy rehabilitation process, both physically and psychologically. The injuries include severe burns, fractures and shrapnel wounds."

Lt. Col. Martinez "has shown incredible dedication and perseverance while courageously serving our great nation," said Andy Pujol, Founder and CEO of Building Homes for Heroes, who started the charity after participating in the search-and-rescue efforts after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. "He is an amazing father and human being," Pujol said of Lt. Col Martinez.

Building Homes said that Lt. Col. Martinez sustained second- and third-degree burns, a fractured heel, shrapnel wounds, a concussion, hearing loss and a left foot laceration. The four children suffered severe burns, fractures and shrapnel wounds that will require a lengthy rehabilitation process, both physically and psychologically, Building Homes said.

Shortly after the Brussels attacks, Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, then-commander of NATO and U.S. European Command, ordered the departure of about 670 of the 770 military families stationed in Turkey "out of an abundance of caution."

Richard Sisk can be reached at richard.sisk@military.com.

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