Veterans

November 8, 2013

Vet turns tragedy to triumph

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Staff Sgt. LUTHER MITCHELL
56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Steve Martin, retired Army military police officer, performs a fire hose drag Sept. 6 at the Luke Air Force Base Warrior Fitness Center. Martin, currently an Arizona Highway Patrol officer, deployed to Afghanistan embedded with an Army infantry unit. He lost both of his legs after his humvee hit a roadside bomb.

It started out just like any other day for Steve Martin. He was on his way to an Afghan police station when his humvee hit a roadside bomb.

What took place next changed Martin’s life and tested his courage. Would he be able to overcome the hand fate levied on him?

Martin served as a military police officer in the Army for eight years. After separating from the military, he moved to Phoenix and took a job with the Arizona Highway Patrol firearms training staff.

In 2008, Martin found himself in Afghanistan embedded with an Army infantry unit as a law enforcement advisor.

“The big plan was to make the Afghan police self-sufficient,” Martin said. “So the State Department was embedding civilian cops in military units to help them train the Afghan National Police. The unit I was embedded with was, for the most part, cops who were in the National Guard. We all spoke the same language.”

Martin was driving to an Afghan police station when his humvee ran over an improved explosive device. Shockwaves rippled through the air, sending shrapnel flying. Martin and three other Soldiers in the humvee were wounded.

“I was unconscious for a long time,” Martin said. “I had no memory of the IED. It blew me probably 40 feet out of the humvee. Insurgents came over a wall and were trying to drag me away. Luckily with my kit on I’m probably 245 to 250 pounds and they were little guys, so they didn’t get that far.”

Martin’s platoon sergeant saw Martin being dragged away, drew his pistol and shot at the insurgents.

The insurgents dropped Martin and fled.

Thinking he had fallen asleep during the attack, Martin felt embarrassed, but that didn’t make sense.

He was lying on the ground. Martin looked down and saw his legs were mangled.

“I could see the bottom of my left boot,” Martin said. “It was turned 180 degrees. My legs were fractured.”

Martin lay there in shock. Other members of his unit later said he was trying to stand up and shoot at the insurgents, but the explosion erased his memory.

Martin was medevaced in a Blackhawk helicopter. He would lose both legs.

“I tried for a year and a half to save my legs,” Martin said. “I tried limb salvage for a year and a half. My legs were shattered and my hips, ribs and left arm were broken. I averaged about a surgery a month.”

Martin spent the next year recovering. He was fitted with prosthetic limbs and learned to walk again.
“I had to access a part of my brain I hadn’t used since I was a year old,” Martin said. “I had to learn how to adapt to do almost anything.”

Martin has adapted well. Since getting hurt, he has run 15 half marathons, three full marathons and countless 5ks and 10ks.

“I climbed Mount McKinley last year in Alaska, and I’m heading to Tanzania to climb Kilimanjaro in February with six other wounded warriors,” Martin said.

Martin thanks the Airmen from the 56th Security Forces Squadron for getting him moving and motivated.
“The guys here at Luke had a major impact on getting me up and mobile,” Martin said. “They gave me something to do, instead of sitting around feeling sorry for myself.”

Veteran’s Day is a day to honor those who served in the United States armed forces. Both Martin’s grandfathers served in World War II and his father did three tours in Vietnam. For Martin, Veteran’s Day is a day to give back.

“It’s a way to shake hands, say ‘thank you’ and get together with people who share a common bond,” he said. “When I run a race, I’m honoring the people who have come before me and the people who are out there doing it now.”




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