Stories: Who We Have Lost

Mike's Military Service, Memories for Veteran's Day

Who did you lose to Covid 19? Mike Martin

Mike Martin, my late husband, came of age (18) during the Selective Service draft for the Viet Nam war. Mike told me he'd drawn a low number, so he’d made the decision to enlist-- preferring to be proactive rather than anxiously waiting to learn when or if his number would be called up.

Mike was always a go-getter, working since he was 16 and leaving home and supporting himself at a relatively young age. He'd attended high school near Holloman Air Force Base (and was a champion pole vaulter in H.S. of all things!) Given his familiarity with that military branch living in La Luz, NM just down the road from Alamogordo, home of Holloman, he chose to enlist in the Air Force.

Mike didn't care for risk, ambiguity, uncertainty. He preferred having control over the direction of his life so he appreciated that, by enlisting, he would have some input into the type of training he'd receive and what areas he could specialize in. He chose several medical specialties. He learned everything from phlebotomy and autopsy to pathology and medical laboratory work. He also utilized those skills at the University of Arizona Hospital and when he lived in San Antonio. Mike’s last civilian job in the medical field was at Marion Merrell Dow in Kansas City. He held that position until shortly before we met each other in college. He’d gone back to school to future-proof his employability by earning a degree in computer programming because he saw that more and more of the work he did in clean rooms and other laboratory settings was becoming computerized.

While in the Air Force, he told me that he was grateful he wasn't sent overseas as so many men of that era were, including his very best lifelong friend, Bear, who also grew up in La Luz, NM. Bear was sent to Germany. Mike was stationed stateside with duty assignments at Davis-Monthan AFB (Arizona), McChord AFB (Washington), and training at Keesler AFB in Biloxi, MS. After his regular AF enlistment, he joined the Texas Air National Guard (Kelly AFB) and the Arizona National Guard (Tucson). Mike served a total of 10 years, 9 months.

I hope that posting these memories will honor Mike today, on Veterans Day, by sharing a little bit about his years of service to our country.

P.S. Remember Mike’s friend, Bear? Bear tells the story that when he was discharged and came home from Germany back to La Luz, NM, Mike’s house (where his parents used to live) was the very first place he went. He was so sad to learn that his best buddy wasn’t there, not realizing that Mike was still serving in the Air Force. Years and years later, Mike and I went to La Luz. Mike pointed to a small property and said, “that’s where Bear used to live”. Mike talked about Bear quite often, so I knew who he meant. Between that trip and the following year, out of the blue, they found each other on Facebook. We drove back to La Luz that next year, and lo and behold, that same house Mike had pointed out to me before was exactly where Bear was still living!

Spring of 2020, Bear and his significant other, Sharon, were in their camper visiting Bear’s sister in Arizona when they heard the news announcing the lockdowns. Immediately, Sharon said, “we have to go to Mike and Kim’s”. They pulled that camper from Arizona to Missouri, finding no place to even grab a bit to eat en route because of the lockdowns, arriving in March 2020.

Bear lived here, on our property, until October 2020. It was such a blessing! Mike and Bear relished that time with each other, playing guitars and singing together in the evenings, sharing memories, and telling stories. And Bear felt useful, too, lending a hand on the big construction project Mike was doing to build a duplex for our adult kids.

Bear is a little older than Mike and looked a bit frailer as he aged, so my thought at the time was how wonderful that Mike could spend so much time with Bear before Bear would die someday back in New Mexico. Little did we know, less than a year after Bear’s camper was pulled back to La Luz, Mike was the one who died. Because of COVID, that awful Delta variant that took Mike’s life. Both men served our nation, and both were brothers, the best of friends. I am grateful that the two of them were reunited after many years of thinking of each other but not knowing where they were, and I am especially grateful that they were able to share those 8 months, together, during the first year of the pandemic.

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