Blue Star Mom Remembers Her Son
In September, Jan Martin appeared on the cover of the premiere issue of Edmond Outlook. She and the other women pictured are Blue Star Mothers, a group that sends care packages to military servicemen. At the time, Martin’s son, David, was about to be deployed to Iraq.
Private First Class David Martin was a member of the 2nd Battalion, 502 Infantry Unit of the 101st Airborne Division, stationed in Baghdad. One week after his arrival, his company took command of the city and David volunteered for the first patrol.
“They were told it would be dangerous,” Jan said. “They knew it was an insurgent stronghold and there would be IEDs (improvised explosive devices).”
From intelligence reports, they expected to find five IEDs in the area they were patrolling. David was on the top of the Humvee, looking for the homemade bombs, having found the first four.
As their vehicle rolled over it, the fifth IED, buried deep beneath the road bed, exploded. On October 31, 2005, Pfc. David Martin and the other three soldiers in the vehicle were killed, including his First Sergeant, a 17-year veteran of special operations.
To date, more than 2,500 American soldiers have been killed in the war in Iraq. More have lost their lives in Afghanistan. Of those, 47 listed Oklahoma as their home state on military records. At least six were from the Oklahoma City area.
David Martin grew up in Edmond and graduated from Edmond North High School in 2002. Before joining the Army, he was in the ROTC program at UCO for two years. He turned down two scholarships to join the war effort.
David worked at Snyder’s IGA and often went the extra mile to help those in need. “There was an elderly couple who would call Snyder’s and David would deliver their groceries,” Jan said. After David’s death, the couple sent the Martins a condolence card letting them know how kind David had been and how he would call to check on them.
“He was very caring,” Jan said. People from all over the community turned out for David’s funeral, to honor their hometown hero.
“The Edmond Police and Fire Department gave us a lot of support and it was great. We really needed it,” Jan said. “The community was just beautiful. The streets were lined and people were waving flags in a show of support for this fallen soldier.”
“Edmond is a community of families and they could relate to our loss,” Jan said. “They let us know they felt our grief.”
The Martins love their community and their country. David’s oldest brother, Neil is an Edmond Police officer and older brother Andrew is a communications officer for the city of Edmond. His sister Allison works for the Edmond YMCA and younger brother Daniel is with the parks department at Lake Arcadia.
“We’re a tight-knit family,” Jan said. The Martins enjoyed camping at the lake together and David was a real outdoorsman, hiking and kayaking with his brothers.
Jan keeps David’s medals, patches, challenge coins and special photos in a wooden box from the 101st with his name on it. During his year and one week in uniform, David was awarded the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Combat Infantry Badge and the Army Achievement Medal. In nearly all of his pictures, David is smiling and giving the thumbs up sign, a reflection of his positive personality.
“He always had a smile on his face and always had something funny to say,” Jan said.
While his unit was training at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, David organized a kite-flying club. “David wasn’t one to drink and party, but he wanted something to do,” Jan said. On his last visit home in September, the Martins flew kites together in Mitch Park.
“It’s a good memory for us,” Jan said.
David’s dog, Strike, died just before he came home on leave and he told his family, “I hope that’s not an omen about me going to Baghdad.” Jan says now when she is missing David, she thinks about him and Strike walking along a lake together in heaven.
Jan got involved with Blue Star Mothers when David was finishing up basic training because she wanted to do something proactive to support the troops. Now, it helps her cope with the loss of her son.
“Doing something positive for them helps me,” she said. Jan knows that every soldier who receives one of the care boxes has a desire to protect and serve our country.
“They know they will be in grave danger, but they still sign up for it,” she said. “David believed he was stepping up to the plate; that it was up to the young people to take a stand and stop the terrorists . . . . He thought they should be stopped, even if it meant the ultimate sacrifice.”
In the very beginning, after David’s death, Jan said she didn’t feel comforted by God and “was stunned silly.” She said during the really bad times she would try to deal with it, but the pain was enormous. Nearly always, someone would cross her path and offer support. After a while she recognized the divine plan.
“God knows I’m a people-oriented person, so He’d send me these people and they’d share their wisdom,” Jan said. “When I would least expect it, there would be someone with a comforting message.”
Jan keeps in touch with the families of those who died with David. “We’re all trying to cope and keep living,” she said. “We all have a sense that they are all together in heaven.”
She also communicates by email and care packages with David’s friends in Iraq, many of whom are now on their second tour of duty.
“We can’t forget our troops and we can’t thank them enough,” Jan said. “The war is being fought over there so that it doesn’t happen here.”
Jan also finds solace in her favorite picture of David. It was taken on a hiking trip in Colorado with David on the summit of a mountain. He said it was how he wanted to be remembered if anything happened.
“He told me, ‘I made it to the top of the mountain and it’s blue skies all the way,’” Jan said. He’s giving a thumbs up in the photo, meaning it’s okay. He’s made it to the top of life’s mountain and now he’s in heaven with God. “I keep it on my desk and I look at it every day and say, ‘I’m trying.’”
How Can You Help?
There are currently 136,000 American soldiers serving in Iraq and another 17,000 in Afghanistan. Over the past two years, Blue Star Mothers of Edmond and North Oklahoma City have sent out more than 4,000 care boxes and they are always collecting donations for the next mailing. Items needed include presweetened drink mix, sunscreen, snacks in crush-proof containers and personal care items like toothbrushes, toothpaste, razors and shampoo. Donations can be left at the Edmond Armory or the Blue Star Mothers’ office at 2801 E. Memorial.
“It may seem to people, ‘Oh, they don’t need that,’” Jan said. “But if it brightens up their day for a little bit – mission accomplished. We can make a powerful difference in our soldiers’ lives.”