PLANT CITY, Florida (WFTS) — Community heroes don’t get much more inspiring than Rey Martin.
The Cuban-born pilot living in West Tampa has dedicated his life and flying skills to helping people in need all over the world.
“I’ve always been a humanitarian,” the 64-year-old said at his home base at Plant City Airport. “I’ve always loved to help people, ever since I was young.”
When he was just a boy, a pilot flew him and his family out of Cuba to a new life in the United States.
“I’d never seen a plane before,” he said. “I still get goosebumps. It made a big impression on me.”
You can say that again.
Martin, whose pilot call sign is appropriate enough, “Seagull Romeo,” would make it his life’s mission to help people with his own plane.
One of Martin’s greatest adventures was working with Brothers to the Rescue, a famed group of Cuban exiles and pilots who helped others fleeing Castro’s regime.
Martin is now head of the Charlie Mike Disaster Relief Group, a nonprofit team of volunteer pilots helping with hurricane aid. It is entirely volunteer and donation-driven.
Martin started the charity in 2017 by flying 300,000 pounds of supplies to Puerto Rico. More recently, for Hurricane Ian, he and his team flew a recon mission to find safe landing spots for emergency vehicles.
“Charlie” and “Mike” is a call-sign tribute to two members of Brothers to the Rescue who were killed during a mission.
Dave Lawson, one of Martin’s flying friends and a Charlie Mike member, says his buddy “Seagull Romeo” is the ultimate optimist when it comes to any and all missions.
“With him, no matter what, it’s always going to work out,” Lawson said with a laugh.
Martin is currently gathering supplies, funding for fuel and more to prepare for the upcoming hurricane season.
Any supplies left over after hurricane season are donated to Feeding Tampa Bay.
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