Friday, June 29, 2007

Shawn Martin remembered

BETHLEHEM -- Shawn P. Martin planted a kiss on his wife's cheek every time he came home late.

He had eggplant parmesan waiting for her on the table when she returned from her job on the finance team for Verizon near their San Clemente, Calif., home.

He gave her a ring containing a family diamond before he left for boot camp when he joined the Marine Corps in 2000, to remind her that he was coming back.

His last gift to her came on June 19, in a late-night phone call from Iraq's al-Anbar province.

She can still hear those five words.

"He said 'I love you very much,' " Marianne "Mimi" Martin remembered through tears on Tuesday.

Sgt. Martin, 30, was killed by a roadside bomb June 20 in Saqlawiyah, just west of Baghdad. The Delmar native had been in Iraq just eight days, working as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal technician for the Combat Logistic Battalion 13, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, I Marine Expeditionary Force.

Martin died as he was racing to the scene of an earlier attack against U.S. troops. His friend and workout buddy, 28-year-old Staff Sgt. Stephen J. Wilson of Duluth, Ga., died alongside him.

Melissa McClellan, a longtime Martin family friend, first met Shawn when she was 20 and he was 7. She said he was a skinny kid who was always into mischief and who loved to gobble down his mother's roast beef and apple pie.

She said Martin, who stood just over 6 feet tall, came home as a muscular Marine, but never lost his "heart full of gold."

"He was very strong and he was always willing to lend a hand with anything," McClellan said.

Friends and family remembered Martin as a "gentle giant," easy to smile and eager to put the needs of other people before his own.

From 1995 to 2000, Martin helped many people as a firefighter at the Elsmere Fire Co., where his father was a longtime volunteer. Firefighters there recalled him as the guy who pushed others out of the way to get into a burning building first.

Steve Silver will miss Martin's smile the most. The first time he saw it was 12 years ago when the two collided in the halls of Bethlehem Central High School. Silver was a little nervous about the towering football player glaring down at him until that grin broke the tension. "You looked at him from a distance, he was a tough guy," Silver said. "As soon as you talked to him, you saw how sweet he was."

Silver was the best man at Martin's wedding in November 2002. Silver said he met his own wife at that wedding. Martin helped arrange the meeting, thinking the two would be a good match.

The last time Silver saw Martin was at his own wedding in September. It's his last memory of his friend. There in the middle of the dance floor was the broad-shouldered Marine, with a circle of people clapping around him as he shook and shimmied.

Martin told Silver he was excited to go to Iraq, that he wanted to fight alongside his fellow Marines. He was disappointed when an ankle injury kept him from heading to Iraq a year earlier. Silver said his best friend died doing exactly what he wanted to be doing.

Marianne Martin, a native of Mohawk, Herkimer County, said that knowledge is her greatest comfort.

Marianne, 29, recalled the first time she saw Shawn, on May 1, 1999. He and some friends were visiting her roommate at SUNY Oneonta. She had to pause for a minute when she first noticed the young man dressed in jeans and a black T-shirt.

"He was the only person I saw and from that moment, that was it," Marianne said.

Shawn joined the Marines so he could provide a good life for her, she said. He was deployed to Italy for seven months while she planned their wedding. He made it back with three days to spare before their November 2002 ceremony after being deployed to Cuba.

When Shawn was home in San Clemente, near Camp Pendleton, they enjoyed every second.

They went to Disneyland, where he watched for tourist cameras on the roller coasters so he could make stupid faces. They spoiled Brutus, their American bulldog. They indulged in the lasagna and other lavish Italian meals Shawn loved to cook.

Marianne said Shawn never had the chance to tell her much about Iraq, except to say that he wasn't sleeping because it was hot and they were busy. She said he told her that they were staying as safe as possible and taking every precaution with their movements.

She said she is drawing on an inner strength Shawn taught her to recognize as she copes with his absence.

"Every single person that crossed his path in their lifetime, he would change them," she said. "He lived every second of his life. He knew it was a gift."

From the Times Union

Related Link:
Shawn P. Martin dies 'while conducting combat operations'