With Veteran’s Day just around the corner, I think about all my brothers and sisters who got caught up in the Vietnam era. Some volunteered to join and some were drafted. All experienced Vietnam in their own, unique set of circumstances.
Recently I have come to know a Rome man who joined the Army at that time and found himself involved in ways he probably did not envision. His name is Ed Martin and I am proud to begin to know him. Each time we have our coffee in the mornings, I learn a little more about him.
Ed enlisted in November 1965, received basic training at Fort Benning, medic training at Fort Sam Houston, followed by paratrooper jump school at Benning. He was then deployed to Vietnam with the 173rd Airborne Infantry Division. After 8½ months ‘in country,’ he was wounded during Operation Cedar Falls in the Iron Triangle area in South Vietnam. He was part of the patrols between Da Nang, Phu Bai, Camp Birmingham and Camp Bastogne, a fire base for the 101st Airborne Division. His unit encountered crossfire in an ambush, suffering losses and casualties. Ed was wounded in both legs.
Ed spent 76 days recovering at Walter Reed Army Hospital. Afterward, he was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg and redeployed to Vietnam. During this deployment, his brigade was sent to help stabilize the area. Ed said, “I knew what we were up against, but I had no idea it would be worse than the first time I was there.” Ed recalls leaving Fort Bragg with 56 men, but 3 weeks later only 18 were left.
He never spoke of his experiences or of not receiving the Purple Heart medal he most certainly deserved. However, with help from Army veteran Charlie Patterson of Coosa and state Rep. Buddy Childers, he finally received his Purple Heart in 1999. Many thanks to both of these men for their efforts.
I have stated many times how proud I am of all of the branches of our military. It warms my heart when I see public displays of gratitude. However, I am still saddened when I think back to the Vietnam era, when GIs such as Ed, me and others would be snubbed or looked down upon. There were no cheering crowds then. I hope you will come to know Sgt. Ed Martin as I am beginning to know him and thank him for his exemplary service. Without Ed, and countless others who served selflessly, this country would not begin to be as great as it is.
God bless Ed, our military, and the United States of America.