Forever grateful for his service
By Jessica Mincoff
Tomahawk Leader Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
I had never met Steve Martin. I never saw him as a Rhinelander police officer, or as an Army reservist. But, last Thursday I saw him in a casket partially covered by the American flag. There was combat headgear, a gun and boots that at one time flanked his military uniform, displayed near his casket. His family, along with military officers and co-workers from the police department, stood by his side.
This was no small event, as funerals never are, especially since it was Staff Sgt. Steve Martin - someone who died defending this country, innocent Iraqis and our freedoms.
The auditorium was still and silent. This process of good-bye was intense, but awakening in the sense that our freedoms are paid for by others.
I watched through teary eyes as hundreds of people cried while passing his body and offered condolences to his family who had undoubtedly shed thousands of tears by the day's end. Sprays of floral arrangements hung in the air and dressed the stage of the Rhinelander High School auditorium. The patrol bike he rode during the summer months sat equipped, but parked. A table of photographs, flowers and a book by Ernest Hemingway was placed near his casket. A policeman stood near the table, while two Army officers stood at the head and feet of their fallen comrade.
Veterans from across the Northwoods paid tribute. Nearly all, dressed in white shirts, lined up to salute Steve Martin and offer comforting words, and when words were overcome by tears, a hug or handshake was lent. I couldn't help but think that those veterans probably had seen some of the same circumstances or instances that Steve Martin witnessed while serving this country.
I couldn't help but watch Kathy Martin, standing at the foot of her husband's casket, and under a tent during the burial. Throughout the burial service at Forest Home Cemetery, I noticed the depth of their relationship in her eyes and wondered if a film strip of memories was going through her mind. Without being told, I knew she loved her husband. Son, Seth, played his father's guitar and sang during the religious service. During the last song, he asked the assembly to sing along. I was not informed of the press conferences that were held prior to Thursday. I was not able to talk with Kathy or the rest of the Martin family. But, I don't think I needed to be told of their emotions. Death has a way of evoking a whirlwind of feelings. I'm sure they were devastated, overwhelmed with sadness, but proud of his service to them, the Rhine-lander community and ultimately, his country.
As servicemen carried Steve Martin's casket to its final resting place, there could be comfort in knowing that this man died doing what he loved - serving. This patriot may have passed on, but there will always be endless memories of his smile, demeanor and attributes crossing the minds of the many people he met.
I will never shake Steve Martin's hand to thank him for his service, as I oftentimes do to servicemen and women, but I will be forever grateful for his life that he gave for his country.
I will never know Steve Martin, but I will always know his sacrifice.