Unit: 10th Mountain, 2/14 Infantry (QRF)
Home Town: Collinsville, IL
Died On: 10/03/1993
One could say that James H. Martin Jr. had itchy feet. The sense of adventure that saw him enlist in the Army in early 1992 and eventually took him to Somalia in August 1993 had its beginning more than 20 years ago in a three-year-old from Collinsville, Ill.
That toddler would occasionally take off on his own to visit his grandmother some 2 1/2 miles down the road, or go to a nearby lake just to watch the ducks.
"He was a handful," says his mother, Karen Martin, who still lives in Collinsville. Years later, after joining the Army but still very much family oriented, James Martin talked of trying to get posted in Kansas so he could live closer to his family, his favorite fishing spots and his friends.
Joining the Army was something James Martin had thought about for many years, says Karen Martin. After all, she says, his father, James H. Martin Sr., served in the Korean War and his grandfather and an uncle died in service in World War II. "I didn't want him to go in, but I wasn't surprised," Karen Martin says. "Our family has paid more than its share."
When he went off to Fort Drum, N.Y., James Martin took with him his love of music. He liked to write his own music, and liked the oldies, says his wife, Lori. "His favorite was Buddy Holly." He took his guitar and harmonica with him to Fort Drum, but only took his harmonica to Somalia. "He was concerned his guitar would get beat up, so we were going to send him a cheap one," his mother says, "but we never got the chance."
James Martin, 23, was assigned to A Company, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry). Members of the company, part of the Quick Reaction Force in Somalia, had been sent to rescue Rangers exchanging fire with Somalis in the streets of Mogadishu Oct. 3. James Martin was killed when the company's convoy was ambushed.
When she was asked about her husband's final mission and the dangers he faced in Somalia, Lori Martin says: "If it meant saving someone's life, he would do it. That's the kind of person he was."
Of her only son, Karen Martin says simply: "He was perfect."
PFC James H. Martin, Jr. was awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge and Purple Heart.