Friday, February 08, 2008

Army Sgt. Timothy P. Martin

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Timothy P. Martin, 27, of Pixley, Calif.

Sgt. Martin was assigned to the 2nd Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; died Feb. 8, 2008 in Taji, Iraq, of wounds suffered when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device. Also killed were Spc. Michael T. Manibog, Staff Sgt. Jerald A. Whisenhunt and Sgt. Gary D. Willett.

Sgt. Timothy P. Martin, 27, of Pixley, Calif., who was assigned to 2nd Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

Like most any parents would, Tony and Lucy Martin worried about their son when he decided two years ago to join the Army.

But that fear didn't stop them from being proud of Timothy Paul Martin for wanting to serve his country and better himself with military training that he hoped would one day help him land a job as an FBI agent. But the fear remained. And Friday evening, it became reality when a car pulled up to in front of their home on their farm northeast of Pixley.

"I thought somebody was out of gas when I heard the doorbell," but it was an Army officer and a chaplain, Tony Martin said.

They didn't have to say a word, because he instantly knew they were there about Timothy.

"When I saw them, I knew he was gone," Tony Martin said.

"I just heard the word, Army, and I knew," Lucy Martin said.

They soon learned that Timothy, and three fellow members of the Army's 25th Infantry Division out of Hawaii, died Friday when a roadside bomb exploded near the vehicle in which they were riding in Taji, a town north of Baghdad.

Timothy, 27, was a graduate of Monache High School in Porterville, where he was a member of the school's track team. He also was a graduate of College of the Sequoias. He had been raised on his family's farm and was last home at Thanksgiving while on leave from his duty station at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

While here, he visited his 10-year-old cousin's elementary school class, where he showed the children the Arabic alphabet — which he'd learned as part of his training as an intelligence specialist — and one of the children asked him if he was going to Iraq to shoot Iraqis.

His reply: "We're going there to help them keep the peace," said his mother, who went to the school with him.

The other soldiers killed with Timothy Martin were Michael T. Manibog, 31, of Alameda; Staff Sgt. Jerald A. Whisenhunt, 32, of Orrick, Mo.; and Sgt. Gary D. Willett, 34, of Alamogordo, N.M., all members of the 25th Infantry Division.

The Pentagon has released little information about the bombing, and the Martins — sitting in their living room Wednesday with their daughter, Alise Martin, and her husband, Eric Stadtherr —said they were waiting for a phone call from Timothy's commander in Iraq to fill them in more on what happened.

Lucy Martin said waiting for more information on what happened hasn't made things worse for her. In fact, she assumed the information would come slowly, and she was prepared for that.

What she wasn't prepared for was Timothy's death, even though she knew from the time he joined the Army in April 2005 that he might be sent to a war zone in the Middle East as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"I don't know that you can [prepare]," she said. "I thought about it."

Not that she wanted to show her son she was worried.

"I totally supported him. It's what he wanted," Lucy Martin said. "Sure we worried, but a mother always worries."

And, apparently, Timothy didn't want his mother to worry about him.

Timothy was an Army sergeant and intelligence specialist and often told his mother in his phone calls from Iraq that he couldn't say much about what he was doing there, and after a while, she stopped asking.

But his sister, Alise, said, "Sometimes he would tell me things and tell me not to tell my mom — something that would worry her."

She declined to say what she discussed with her brother, but she did say that Timothy seemed happy "and excited about what he was doing."

Lucy Martin said that among the things Timothy told her about life in Iraq was that it was very, very cold, and — probably because he spoke Arabic — whenever he went out local children swarmed around him asking for his pens that they used to do their school work.

The family said Timothy had gotten in the habit of carrying two or three pens every time he went out to give to the children, and he had asked family members to send him hard candy so he could also give it to the children.

Before joining the Army, Timothy had been an avid learner, and often seemed happiest when taking classes. So he particularly enjoyed his military training, which included earning an associate arts degree in intelligence.

A love of target shooting, which he developed as a teenager shooting cans and cereal boxes on the farm, also served him well in the military. In fact, he'd nearly become an Army marksman, said Stadtherr, who flew to California with his wife to be with her family after hearing of Timothy's death.

Since word got out about what happened, the family has regularly been visited by family members and friends offering condolences and sharing warm stories about Timothy.

In fact, as the family's interview was ending Wednesday afternoon, some visitors arrived.

"There's been a lot of support," Stadtherr said. "People are just coming out to say hi. That's how it's been."

Harder for the family to deal with has been the media attention.

On Tuesday, five television news vans were parked in front of the house, which for Lucy Martin — who described herself as a very private person — made an already difficult time more difficult.

Since the bombing, Timothy's body has been returned to the U.S., but on Wednesday was at the aerial port mortuary at Dover Air Force Base, Del., before being flown to California.

A funeral for Timothy is scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday at St. Anne's Catholic Church, 378 N. F St. in Porterville. He will be laid to rest next to the grave of his older sister, Bryna Martin, who died in 1990 of leukemia, at the Tulare Cemetery, 900 E. Kern Ave.

Army Sgt. Timothy P. Martin was killed in action on 2/8/08.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Tim was a great friend of mine from childhood. We went all the way through Saint Anne's elementary school together, served as alter boys together, and spent quite a bit of time hanging out on the weekends on his familys farm out in Pixley. I remember the first time I ever drove was in his dad Tony's old blue truck. We cruised that thing out around the haystacks feeling like grown men. I remember the first time I handled a firearm was with Tim. We took out his dad's old double barrel 12 gauge and had a good time. I will never forget that day. We even rolled around in a mountain of manure once just for the hell of it. We were kids.

I'll never forget the day when my mom called me with the news of his death. I was living in Sacramento at the time. I remember hearing the details, holding myself together, then ending the call. After that, I broke down for a bit. I hadn't ever lost a friend before. Tim and I fell out of touch during high school, but you can't erase the relationship we had prior to that. I still get choked up when I remember him.

I know his sister Bryna welcomed him into heaven after he passed. I'm sure Tim was happy to see her again.

Kyle Fitzpatrick