A Wichita veteran went through the ROTC program at WSU and became an Air Defense Artillery Officer.
He would eventually get orders to Fort Riley, and as he headed there the 9th Infantry was deploying to Vietnam.
At that time Martin had already been stationed in many countries, but he knew his final assignment would be the jungle.
“These are the jungle fatigues like I wore in Vietnam,” Air Defense Artillery Officer Gary Martin said.
“We as veterans are pleased with what we were able to do, just our part,” Martin said.
He said he joined the more than 500,000 already overseas.
Martin deployed with the infantry, since he was an Air Defense Artillery Officer, and there were no missiles in Vietnam.
He said there was plenty of fire power.
“With rockets coming in at night and things like that,” Martin said. “All of the individuals in Vietnam we did not know whether we were going to be there the next week, or not.”
In the first year, in his division alone, 1200 were killed in action.
On a recent Kansas Honor Flight Martin got to pay his respects to those who never made it home.
“58,300 and some names are listed there and certainly those were individuals who never came home and certainly, they were the true heroes,” Martin said.
So their sacrifices are never forgotten, he’s now on a mission to educate the future.
“They have a lot of history that is far away from them now, but they still need to remember the importance of it,” Martin said.
He spends time in local schools, talking about his time in Vietnam, and why he saved so much from his time in service.
“I have here the tape recorder and some of the tapes I sent back and forth with my wife, usually once a week,” Martin said.
He said it is also important for them to understand there were boots on the ground far before his.
Throughout the years, Martin has built a collection, that includes his Father-in-law’s dog tags, ID and hat from the Korean War.
He also has two copies of the newspaper that came out on D-Day.
Martin said he’s been to the Beaches at Normandy.
“As I walked out onto that beach it was unbelievable to think thousands of men crossed that beach and many of them died on that day,” Martin said.
For each of them, and all the others who have lost their lives in times of war, Martin said he will share as long as he’s able, so generations for years to come understand the definition of a true hero.
Martin was so moved by his experience on the Kansas Honor Flight, he now volunteers with the network, and helps send off and welcome heroes home from their trips.
He said during his time in the military he saw 23 countries and got to put one of his passions to work along the way, so in addition to all of the memorabilia he has many photos.