Sunday, June 24, 2007

Shawn P. Martin dies 'while conducting combat operations'

BETHLEHEM -- Shawn P. Martin died exactly where he wanted to be.

The 30-year-old Marine sergeant had only been in Iraq for five weeks when he was killed Wednesday by a roadside bomb in Saqlawiyah, just west of Baghdad.

He told his family in his last phone call home that he was doing something he believed in. And he let them know that in his last e-mail, sent on May 22.

"I thank God every morning that I wake up and put on this uniform with the knowledge of knowing that for all that I sacrifice today allows you all to have a safer and brighter tomorrow," he wrote.

Before Martin was in a war zone -- serving as an ordnance specialist for the Combat Logistic Battalion 13, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit -- he was a Delmar firefighter.

Martin showed up at the Elsmere Fire Company soon after he could walk, Capt. Rick Zigrosser remembered on Thursday. He was just a little boy climbing all over the trucks when his father, longtime Elsmere firefighter Paul Martin, brought him to the station.

In 1995, the year he graduated from Bethlehem High School, Martin joined the volunteer fire company.

Zigrosser said Martin approached firefighting with the same energetic enthusiasm he did in life. He pushed people out of the way so he could be first inside the burning building.

"He wanted to be the guy going in and taking care of everybody," Zigrosser said. "He would do whatever he needed to do to get the job done."

He stayed with the Elsmere Fire Company for five years and worked local jobs until he joined the Marine Corps in 2000 and traveled the world. He went to Italy, Hungary, Cuba and Spain. Somewhere in there, in November 2002, he found the time to marry his longtime sweetheart, Marianne.

By the time he got the call to go to Iraq, the two had settled in California.

Martin was very family-oriented and came home whenever he got the chance, said Terry Hannigan, an attorney acting as spokesman for the Martin family.

He said Martin's death had hit the firehouse particularly hard. He said the group still puts a wreath on the grave of Sgt. William C. Adams, who died in World War II. Adams was a former member of the Elsmere Fire Company, which still displays a letter he sent on Dec. 25, 1944 -- two days before he died.

Hannigan said sadness from Martin's death would spread throughout Bethlehem, where so many people know each other.

"When it hits someplace like here, it's tougher," Hannigan said. "It affects so many people in a small area."

His family has his final words as comfort. That last e-mail also mentioned how eager he was for his next trip. "I am looking forward to coming home soon and seeing all of you again," Martin wrote.

Martin is survived by his wife and his parents, Paul and Dawn Martin, a sister, Nicolle, and niece, Kira, all of Delmar.

From the Times Union