Monday, July 4, marks the anniversary of the ratification of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, generally known as Independence Day. It’s often related to hotdogs, fireworks, and price-slashing on-line/in-store buying, with little considered the heroes who’ve helped protect our valuable freedom. And though we have now a number of events to recollect our army heroes, Independence Day celebrations ought to embody their reminiscence as effectively.
I had the glory to know a type of actual heroes, Retired Air Power Lieutenant Colonel Samuel A. Martin, Jr. from Lawrenceville, Georgia. Sam, as all of us knew him, lived to be 93 years previous. Three years earlier than his passing, I had the privilege to interview him for our neighborhood publication, and it shocked me to search out out that for years, I lived two blocks from an actual hero.
In a busy, nerve-racking world the place we eat on the run, by no means make amends for much-needed sleep, and rarely discover the time to go to with pals, it’s no surprise we have a good time our nation’s independence with little considered the worth others have paid to protect life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Through the years, the households of Lawrenceville, GA, like so many others, have despatched their family members to wars and skirmishes that ought to have been deemed wars. We now have seen households rise to assist their veterans as they returned house with lifelong accidents and sadly mourn the lack of others. The worth of freedom stays excessive!
Lots of the residents and their households of our Craigdale neighborhood served this nation bravely. One, retired Air Power Lieutenant Colonel Samuel A. Martin, Jr., is a veteran of World Conflict II and Vietnam. With over twenty-five years of distinguished service, together with abroad duties in Europe, Morocco, Japan, and Vietnam, his story is one in every of pleasure and perseverance
On the age of 90 (his age on the time the article was written), he’s mentally sharper and extra fascinating than most who’re 50 years his junior. He’s refreshingly open and humble as he recollects the main points of his lengthy army profession.
Born in Lawrenceville, GA in 1921, Sam (as his neighbors have at all times identified him) attended Lawrenceville Excessive Faculty and North Georgia Faculty. He entered lively responsibility in February 1943, and by November, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the US Air Power.
In 1944, whereas assigned to the 57th Fighter Group in Corsica, he flew 72 fight missions earlier than being shot down north of Bologna, Italy.
He described, with the readability of a latest occasion, his try and deliver the failing P-47 to a secure touchdown in enemy territory. The engine failed 5000 ft off the bottom. When he determined to leap, his harness grew to become caught within the cock pit. He lastly shook it unfastened and was capable of bounce from the airplane. When the airplane’s tail handed by, he pulled the rip twine. And, simply after his parachute opened, he hit the bottom.
“Then,” he mentioned, “I ran and ran and ran till they caught me.”
German troopers put him within the entrance passenger seat of their automobile. Probably the most scary second got here when he turned and noticed a burp machine gun pointed inches from his head.
As a POW (Prisoner of Conflict), he was imprisoned in Stalag Luft III, 90 miles from Berlin.
Sam by no means talked about the e-book, “The Nice Escape,” written by an Australian fighter pilot Paul Chester Jerome Brickhill, or the 1963 film by the identical identify, with Steve McQueen’s well-known bike bounce. Each had been set in Stalag Luft III. And, I didn’t assume to ask his opinion on both. I at all times thought there can be time to search out out extra.
After writing the article, I used to be shocked to study that the Stalag Luft III POW camp ultimately grew to 60 acres in measurement and held roughly 10,949 prisoners, together with 7,500 US army personnel. It’s estimated that greater than 120,000 People had been held prisoner throughout WWII. Sam by no means dwelled on the worry of the unsure future that will need to have plagued all who had been imprisoned throughout WWII.
He was transferred to Mooseburg in Southern Germany. The POW camp held males from all ranks, together with a Brigadier Basic. He mentioned they might see town of Mooseburg from the camp. Then at some point, once they noticed the third Military increase the celebrities and stripes within the distance, they knew they had been going house!
He was liberated in Might of 1945. His whole time as a POW was about one yr, throughout which, and based on his Mother, the entire city of Lawrenceville was praying for him.
Through the years, our neighbor served the nation he liked, flying the whole lot from P-47 fighters in his first coaching college and C-47s quickly after that to an AC-119 Gunship in Vietnam.
Ten years after his time as a POW, he married his spouse in 1954. There isn’t any doubt that he thought-about his profession within the army, after marriage, a three way partnership. He spoke proudly of Elaine’s power and gave many examples, none of which was extra definitive than when she was left with a 6-week-old child on the Tachikawa Air Power Base as he was referred to as to responsibility in Northern Japan.
Lieutenant Colonel Sam Martin’s account of his time in Vietnam:
“My final and possibly most satisfying task was flying the AC-119 gunship with 4 50 caliber machine weapons, a highlight within the cargo compartment, and a gun website within the cock pit. You might fly the airplane and shoot the weapons on the identical time. We flew at night time, supporting the military outposts. Since I had beforehand flown the C-119 as a cargo ship, I accepted the chance for gunship coaching, a refresher course within the 119, and reassignment to Vietnam.
We flew at night time, answering calls from Military troops below assault. Utilizing the highlight together with the 4 50-caliber machine weapons, we had been capable of help. The pure aid within the voices of the military spokesmen as we arrived was very satisfying. Nonetheless, each every now and then, I assumed, “What’s a fifty-year-old man doing preventing a conflict at night time?” It was a job. Somebody needed to do it.”
Our neighbor served in lots of capacities throughout his army profession, together with Air Protection Train officer for the Southeast space of the US and Commander of the fifth Communications Sq., 315 Air Division in Japan.
The next checklist of decorations and repair awards was taken instantly from Lieutenant Colonel Martin’s service retirement ceremony program in 1973:
Distinguished Flying Cross
Air Medal with Eight Oak Leaf Clusters
Air Power Commendation Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster
Presidential Unit Quotation
Distinguished Unit Quotation
European-African-Center Japanese Marketing campaign Medal
World Conflict II Victory Medal
Nationwide Protection Service Medal with One Bronze Service Star
Vietnam Service Medal
Republic of Vietnam Marketing campaign Medal
Air Power Longevity Service Award with 5 Oak Leaf Clusters