Canyon Lake residents, Steve Martin, Anne Norris, and Marti Morrison, were invited to share personal stories about veterans in their families. Steve Martin submitted a touching story about his father John Martin, a veteran who served in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War in the early 1950s. Anne Norris submitted a story about her husband Don Norris, a Canyon Lake resident and veteran who served on the front line where he witnessed many of his fellow soldiers die. Melissa Schoo submitted a story about her father James who, like many Vietnam veterans, never received praise or a welcome home when he returned from war. Marti Morrison submitted a story about her father-in-law James who is grateful for what the U.S. Navy taught him.
Recently I went to the gravesite of my father, John Martin, who is buried next to his parents, John Sr. and Ruth Martin, at Ivy Lawn Cemetery in Ventura, California. He was an awesome and unique father, husband, brother, uncle, grandfather and U.S. Veteran. He served in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War in the early 1950s and served the full four years. After Basic Training, someone saw him playing basketball and asked if he would like to play for The Navy. He accepted the invitation and off he went; playing basketball at all U.S. bases around the world. He had a lot of interesting stories and even collected foreign currency and coins wherever he traveled. His father (my Grandfather) John, Sr., was in the Navy too, during WWI. He told of a story how there was a fleet of ships in a row on a convoy when the ship in front of them was torpedoed. As they fished their fellow sailors from the water, the ship behind them was torpedoed as well. My grandfather knew that at any moment their ship would be hit next and they would be cast into the bloody ocean water too. Miraculously, they were spared and they completed rescuing the dead and injured from the water.
As a little boy I inquired of my Dad, after I learned he was a “War Veteran.” “Dad, did you ever shoot anyone?” Most inquisitive boys will ask. “Son, he said, I was probably in fear of getting a paper cut!” I learned that not only did he play basketball for the Navy at night, but his job during the day was that of a Teletype Operator. “What’s that,” I asked? He asked if I had noticed his typing skills. I had. At that pre-computer time in history, most men didn’t use all their fingers like they do today. They would use one finger and type one letter at a time. My dad would lay his hands comfortably over the typewriter keys and go to town in a rapid fashion. “I would type out information as it would come across the wire.” He had to explain that to me as well and how he had to have a high-security clearance, as some info would come directly from the top; The President himself!
My Dad, coming from an era of pranksters, would show his buddies, who were serving in the Army in Korea, what they were missing out on in the Navy. As he was stationed in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, he would send his high school chums pictures of himself sunning in the sand, playing his ukulele, or some other enjoyable recreational activity. Years later, my dad’s friend, John Aguilar told me, “Man, your dad would really get me charged up. We would be freezing in the mud in Korea and he would send us these pictures of himself sunning on the sunny sands of Hawaii. We made a pack that when we returned from the war we were gonna ‘clean his clock’.” I don’t know if they ever did, but it was a fun story to hear.
Once he completed his time in the Service, he went off to a University in Northern California, where he met my mother, Carol. They were both athletes and in a short time were wed. In so many years, my sister, brother and I were born and the Martin Family was formed.
When we were still very young, my father and mother made the single most important decision they ever made together: They both accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. This molded our family in a very positive way that continues through me and my siblings (and their families) today. Because my father was a high school Sunday school teacher in the 1970s, he led a young teenager to Christ, who, several decades later, helped me get into my career today: A Set Medic for the Motion Picture and Television Industry.
Every time I thank Mr. Jeff Porter for helping me into this awesome and fun-filled career, he always says to me, “It’s the least I can do for the son-of-the-man who led me to Christ.” Wow, what a legacy! Jeff then tells me that he can’t wait to see my dad in heaven and thank him for all he did in his life.
A couple of years ago, I wrote a song about him, “Dear Ol’ Dad,” which I have performed for a Bible study, sang during the Father’s Day service at Canyon Lake Community Church and other family functions in honor of my Dad. In it, it speaks of his faithfulness to his family, our country and his faith in the Lord. It is a very emotional song. All I can say is, “Thank you, Dad,” for being an honorable and loving father, husband and Veteran. Happy Veterans Day!
Don received his draft notice on January 1966, he was married and 22 years old. It was the largest draft that the United States had ever had. Don reported to the induction center in Los Angeles which took two days to get through the line. Once through the line, he was inducted into the United States Army and was flown that day to Fort Bliss in Texas for basic training.
Upon completion of basic training he was sent to Fort Ord for advanced individual training for two month. He was then sent to Fort Polk, Louisiana for Jungle Training. After this training, he was sent to Fort Carson Colorado where he received his orders to South Vietnam in the 9th Infantry Division. Don served for 13 months during which time he was a rifle squad leader in direct fire mortar during The Tet Offensive.
While in Vietnam he contacted Malaria, mosquito-borne disease caused by a parasite. Don, weighing less than 150 pounds, was sent to Hawaii for treatment. Once he recuperated he was sent back to the front line where he witnessed many of his fellow soldiers die. Don return to the United States in 1968 and was given an honorable discharge with a Good Conduct Medal, Vietnam Service Medal and Combat Infantry Badge
Visiting The Vietnam Memorial in 2003 was very emotional for Don. He looked up several of his fellow soldiers on the wall and paid his respect to them.
My father was a Vietnam Veteran. He was drafted into the US Army in 1966. While serving he moved up in the ranks to become a Special Forces Sergeant. He fought for his country from 1966 to 1968. My dad was a patriot through and through. He was so proud of being a veteran and never went anywhere without his Vietnam veteran baseball hat on.
He was married to my mother, Cynthia Sales, for 42 years. Together they have three children and five grandchildren. Growing up he coached his children in football, baseball and softball. He also coached one of his grandsons in football as well. My father was a family man.
The last few years he became sick with numerous illnesses due to his exposure to Agent Orange while in Vietnam. Sadly, in February his body could no longer fight off these illnesses and Jesus took him home.
My dad, as well as all other Vietnam veterans, never received a lot of praise when they returned from war. He would tell our family how nobody gave them a welcome home or a thank you.
To all Vietnam veterans, veterans, and especially my father, thank you and welcome home.
James began his service in the United States Navy in 1955. He wanted to be a respectable citizen and thought what better way to do that than to serve his country. He entered the Navy as a seaman and began his journey at the San Diego Naval Training Center eventually being stationed at the Naval Air Station in Memphis, Tennessee. While stationed in Tennessee, James became an aircraft mechanic. It was there that he was honored to work on aircrafts such as the TV-2 and the F-86 Sabre jets. His service abroad lead him to the Mediterranean 6th Fleet in Barcelona, Spain. During that time, he was able to visit some of the most beautiful places such as Greece, Italy, France and Germany.
After completing his service, James married his wife Nancy and together they started J&N Trucking. They grew their family of three boys and truly lived out the American dream. James retired from the trucking industry in 1997. He has retired here in Canyon Lake with his wife of 56 years. James is living out his dream of retiring into a life of fishing and collecting classic cars. He has two classics, a 32 Ford Roadster and a 48 Ford classic, earning him a few awards already through the Canyon Lake Car Club in which he is a member.
James enjoys talking of his time in the Navy. If you see him around and have some time on your hands just ask him about that Sabre jet! He is grateful for what the Navy taught him and is so proud to have had the honor to serve his country in the U.S Navy.