Saturday, October 03, 2009

Army Staff Sgt. Vernon W. Martin

Remember Our Heroes

Army Staff Sgt. Vernon W. Martin, 25, of Savannah, Ga.

SSgt. Martin was assigned to the 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.; died Oct. 3, 2009 in Kamdesh, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his contingency outpost with small arms, rocket-propelled grenade and indirect fires. Also killed were Sgt. Justin T. Gallegos, Spc. Christopher T. Griffin, Sgt. Joshua M. Hardt, Sgt. Joshua J. Kirk, Spc. Stephan L. Mace, Sgt. Michael P. Scusa and Pfc. Kevin C. Thomson.

SAVANNAH, Ga.—The funeral service for Staff Sgt. Vernon W. Martin took place today. The flag draped coffin was carried inside St. John Baptist Church by six military pall bearers as family members watched the somber scene. There was no sound except the distance hum of a machine from a construction site.

Inside the church, Brig. Gen. Jennifer Napper said Staff Sgt Vernon Martin was a “fallen warrior, who in a desperate attempt did everything he could to save his comrades on October third.“

Martin was among 8 soldiers who died October 3 in what has been described as the bloodiest battle in Afghanistan in the past year. His wife Brittany was presented with a Purple Heart and Bronze Star at the funeral service, bestowed upon Martin for his service during the battle that took his life.

“I hope you understand that I would rather be somewhere else today,“ Congressman John Barrow told the crowd. Then he said “Martin’s willingness to lay down his life is what service to country truly means.“

State Lester Jackson spoke, saying “this is a spiritual time for the Martin family.“

Local law enforcement and members of The Patriot Guard escorted the hearse to the church. “We are here to make sure this man’s sacrifice, the ultiamate sacrifice is never forgotten,“ Gene Altman of Jesup told me.

Martin had already served a tour in Iraq before going to Afghanistan with his unit, which was stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado.

He grew up in Savannah and attended Johnson High School, where he met his wife Brittany. They have three small children (a six year old son, Nasin, a four year old daughter Zakiya and a two year old daughter Chastity.)

Martin’s mother, Connie Brown, also lives in Savannah, along with his sister.

The burial service followed at the Greenwich section of Bonaventure Cemetery.

Memorial service video:

WSAV -- Savannah, GA - “He loved children, music and basketball, in that order,“ says 23 year old Brittany Martin. She’s sitting in the living room of her mother-in-law’s home in Savannah. And she’s telling me about her husband, the man she married right out of high school, the father of her three young children. The man she found out Saturday evening was never coming home.

25 year old Sgt. Vernon W. Martin was among eight soldiers from Fort Carson, Colorado who died in a bloody battle near a remote outpost in Afghanistan. His wife had just spoken to him Friday night about 8 p.m. Savannah time. “He sounded tired, but other than that I guess you could say it was a normal conversation, considering where he was and what he was doing,“ she says.

Less than 24 hours later, Britanny Martin heard a knock on the door of her Savannah apartment. “It was the military telling me he was dead,“ she tells me. “It was just me and my children.“

Britanny says the family had been living in Colorado Springs, but when Sgt. Martin was assigned to go to Afghanistan in May, she decided to move back home for awhile. And because she was here, among family, she accompanied the military to their second stop made that night, the home of Connie Brown, Sgt. Martin’s mother.

“I saw them coming to my door,“ Brown tells me. “What can you say? He was in Iraq for 15 months and I prayed every day then and I had been praying every day since May, too.“

Mrs. Brown says Sgt. Martin was her middle child and he often joked he was her “favorite.“ She smiles then as she recounts conversations with the young man that she says always wanted to make a difference. “He always talked about helping children and opening a youth development center to mentor youngsters,“ Brown says. “He really felt there were just too many kids who didn’t have anyone.“

Britanny Martin says that her husband even drew up a business plan on how he might make his dream come true. “He was the best in so many ways, and loved our kids,“ she says.

Mrs. Martin and her mother-in-law say they’re taking things one moment at time. Martin’s body was returned to the United States yesterday to Dover Air Force Base. And while the military offered Brittany Martin the opportunity to travel there and be present, she says it was just too much.

Mrs. Martin says she has two little girls (two year old Chastity and four year Zakiyah) to care for now as well as her six year old son Nasine. “The girls don’t understand what’s happened, but my son does,“ she says.

Connie Brown then says “my grandson told me he doesn’t want to bury his Daddy. And I said I don’t want to bury my son.“

Sgt. Martin spent most of his life in Savannah and attended Johnson High School. His mom says he played a lot of basketball during his high school years at St. Pious Community Center. Martin leaves behind a sister (in Savannah) and a brother (in New York). Brown says he also has three aunts, two uncles and numerous cousins in the Savannah area.

Sgt. Martin had been in the military for about five years. Funeral arrangements have not been made yet. Mrs. Martin and Miss Brown both say the military will assist them with those plans.

I ask Brown what she wants to wants the community to know. “I don’t really know what to say,“ this mother in mourning tells me. “Except maybe, if you’re going to send them there, have a strategy, don’t just keep sending them off to this place if no one has a plan.“

News article:

Army Staff Sgt. Vernon W. Martin was killed in action on 10/03/09.

Vernon Martin

Vernon Martin back

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