TERRE HAUTE —
For 11 years, Staff Sgt. Eric Martin served his country, with four tours of duty in Iraq.
He was there when the U.S invaded Iraq, and his job as a U.S. Army combat engineer called for him to help clear the route, including two mine fields.
He’s also looked for IEDs [improvised explosive device]. “We were the guys out there going five miles an hour down the road in front of everybody, trying to make sure we’d find the IEDs” so others didn’t get hit.
In 2011, “I was part of the last trip out,” he said. He flew a flag from his RG 33 (mine resistant ambush-protected vehicle), and he gave the flag to his grandfather last Christmas.
But today, Martin has completed his military career and he is celebrating Thanksgiving in Terre Haute with his family, including his mom, Melanie Van Winkle, and grandfather, Ray Harney.
“I don’t even remember the last time I had Thanksgiving with everybody,” said the 30-year-old in an interview at his mom’s home, where he will live until he figures out his next step, either college or a civilian contract job that takes him to … Afghanistan.
It’s a good-paying job, he said.
The family will gather at his aunt’s house in North Terre Haute. Martin also is looking forward to seeing his 5-year-old daughter, Kamryn, who lives in Wisconsin; he’ll see her next month.
Van Winkle is “ecstatic” to have her son home. “He has served our country well,” she said. Martin is a 2001 graduate of Terre Haute North Vigo High School and left for basic training in October of that year.
Until he decides his future sometime after Jan. 1, he’ll be helping his mom and stepdad with work on their house and his grandfather with work on his home.
Also, “Everybody in the family has something they need done on their car,” Martin said. “I’m kind of a jack-of-all trades when it comes to a lot of things.”
Before he joined the army, Martin “was a very laid back, quiet kid,” his mom said. “He didn’t really cause me too much trouble — just basic teenage stuff. I never expected him to join” the military.
When he returned after his first tour in Iraq, she noticed a change. “He went in as a boy and came out as a man,” she said.
For his first two tours, she would constantly watch television news to learn what was happening in Iraq. “I made myself sick from watching TV all the time” and worrying about him, she said. She discourages others with loved ones serving in war zones from doing the same and constantly monitoring the television news.
While he joined the military right after 9/11, Martin said that was not what caused him to join. “One of my buddies [Nick Caldero] wanted to join the army,” Martin said.
Caldero asked his friends if they wanted to join, also. “I said okay,” Martin recalls.
He believes he made the right decision. “It’s supported me the last 11 years,” he said.
While the job he did was often dangerous, it’s not something he dwelled on. “I just never really thought about the fact this is what I’m doing right now and at any given time something could happen. I think that was due to a lot of the training we did,” he said. “I didn’t have to think about it. It was second nature.”
He did experience culture shock when he first arrived in Iraq, and Iraqis’ attitudes toward Americans “went up and down a lot,” he said. Initially, after the fall of Saddam Hussein, “It was instant joy.”
Other times, “They wanted us gone.” Also, the poor behavior of a few soldiers would “ruin it for the others,” Martin said.
Whether the United States accomplished what it set out to do remains to be determined, he said. While Iraqis are able to make choices now, “I guess we’ll see in time how their own government runs things,” he said.
Today, Martin and his family will celebrate Thanksgiving and his safe return home.
A sign in front of his mother’s home reads, “Welcome Home SSgt Martin.” It features artwork on a white sheet, including a yellow ribbon, a military tank, hearts and a flag.
Thanksgiving “was the most missed holiday for me,” Martin said. “So it’s going to be good.”
Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@
Terre Haute North grad back with family after four tours in Iraq with U.S. Army
TERRE HAUTE —
For 11 years, Staff Sgt. Eric Martin served his country, with four tours of duty in Iraq.
Back home again: Items from vaudeville stage and Terre Haute native sent to Historical Society
Husband charged in Archer homicide
Terre Haute Police have found local reports of domestic violence between a Terre Haute man and his wife, whose body was discovered wrapped in a tarp and dumped in an Ohio ditch.
National Road panels dedicated
Rewind to the mid-1800s, when the trotting of a horse and buggy on National Road could be heard alongside the voices of people heading west, searching for opportunities.
Pence sets agency priorities
Following a directive from Gov. Mike Pence, state agency heads are reorganizing some of their top priorities to better reflect the first-year governor’s “roadmap for Indiana” plan for improving the state’s economy, infrastructure and health.
Another I-70 traffic snarl: Three injured in two related crashes
Three people were injured Monday afternoon from a pair of crashes on Interstate 70 that temporarily closed the highway and diverted traffic into Terre Haute.
Terre Haute man still hospitalized after scooter/car crash
A Terre Haute man remained hospitalized Monday at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis after his scooter struck a car early Saturday on Wabash Avenue at 25th Street.
Overpass repairs causing Interstate 70 lane restrictions
Repairs to the Frye Road overpass in southeastern Vigo County has caused a restriction to the left lane of Interstate 70 between the 13- and 14-mile markers, about two miles east of the Indiana 46 exit.
Indiana woman condemned for killing at 15 is freed
A woman who was sentenced to death at age 16 for taking part in the torture and murder of a 78-year-old Bible studies teacher was released from an Indiana prison Monday after growing to middle age behind bars.
Grant will let Vigo Library evaluate map collection
The Vigo County Public Library has received a $2,000 grant to evaluate its historic map collection, a library official announced Monday.
Four juveniles caught on elementary school roof; one injured jumping off
Police say a juvenile was lucky to have suffered only a broken leg after jumping from the roof of a Vigo County elementary school – dropping about 30 feet to the ground.
Farmersburg man sentenced after guilty plea in rape case
A Farmersburg man has been sentenced to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to a rape that occurred at his parents’ residence in May 2012.
Still no information being released on Rosedale homicide
No new information was being released Monday afternoon concerning a Rosedale homicide.
Fathers take time out to spend quality time with children, grandchildren
A big, circular white cloud rose up through the tall atrium as Mike Woods held his 4-year son, Nathan, Sunday at the Terre Haute Children’s Museum.
On Friday, hit the park and raise funds for skateboarders
The On-board United Initiative — O.U.I. for short — has scheduled an all-ages fundraising event Friday in honor of national Go Skateboarding Day.
STATE OF THE STATEHOUSE: Sentencing law could benefit juveniles
Monica Foster is a longtime public defender who’s been pushing uphill in the legal system for a long time. So, when she says the General Assembly is making progress protecting the rights of the disenfranchised, it’s worth stopping to listen to her.
Mastering the art of Gardening
The Wabash Valley Master Gardeners group gathered over the weekend to marvel at each other’s gardens on its annual garden tour. The event was a chance for master gardeners to showcase their labor of love, meanwhile sharing stories about their plants.
RESTAURANT INSPECTIONS: June 17, 2013
The Vigo County Health Department inspected the following food establishments May 28-31:
Lawn mower fire destroys barn
A lawn mower that caught fire was cited as the cause of a fire that destroyed a single story barn Sunday in the 2000 block of North Chamberlain Street, said Harold Osborn, assistant fire chief of the Lost Creek Township Fire Department.
Wabash Valley residents vie for spot on Wheel of Fortune
Ellen Fujawa of Zionsville wants to be on the popular syndicated Wheel of Fortune game show.
No ID yet on body found in Rosedale home
Sheriff Mike Eslinger said his department is waiting to obtain an immediate family’s confirmation of a woman found dead in a home in the 2900 block of West Rosehill Lane.
Vigo School Corp. eliminating bus transportation for middle school sports teams
The Vigo County School Corp. will no longer provide school bus transportation for middle school athletic events, starting with the 2013-14 school year.
B.J. RILEY: Fathers are an inspiring figure
Ever since I can remember, I wanted to be a salesman. In grade school, I was so excited about selling candy bars or candles or whatever the chosen product.
‘24/7 Dad’ program focuses on key fathering characteristics
Terre Haute resident Aaron Poarch grew up without a father. His stepfather died when he was a teenager and just quite recently met his biological father.
Blues mosaic fundraiser to benefit Boys & Girls Club
A photographic mosaic, featuring images of the Blues at the Crossroads Festival from 2004 to 2012, was unveiled Saturday as part of a fundraiser to benefit the Terre Haute Boys and Girls Club.
Meeting June 18 to discuss cleanup of former Coke, Carbon site
The public can learn more about plans to clean up the former Terre Haute Coke and Carbon brownfield site Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Booker T. Washington Community Center
South Vigo Jets teams raising money for trip
The Terre Haute South Vigo Jets Varsity A and Junior Varsity B teams have qualified for national competition and are working to raise funds to help cover expenses.
United in Service: 300 volunteers take part in United Way’s Day of Action
As a graphic designer for Clabber Girl, Denise Turner usually sits in front of the computer most of the week. But as a volunteer on Friday’s Day of Action, she was outdoors spreading mulch at a community garden.
Police investigating Rosedale homicide
Parke County authorities are investigating a homicide at Rosedale.
Sheriff Mike Eslinger confirmed Friday afternoon that police had been called to a home in the 2900 block of West Rosehill Lane on a report of a dead person.
Homicide suspect’s father: ‘I am so sorry’
The father of a Jasonville man charged with murder broke down in tears following his son’s appearance in Greene Superior Court on Friday morning.
African Methodist Episcopal Church reaches out to youth through Sunday School
How to make church relevant for today’s young people is a challenge that some dedicated pastors and youth ministers are willingly taking on this weekend in Terre Haute.
- More News Headlines
- Back home again: Items from vaudeville stage and Terre Haute native sent to Historical Society