[May 11, 2020] I first met Bob Martin standing guard on a small bridge near my Engineer headquarters back in 2004, just as the Coalition was readying itself for a major offensive. What none of us knew at the time was that U.S. Marine Pvt Robert “Bob” Martin would soon show extraordinary bravery. This is his story of courage.
Not walking past a problem, I stopped to make a note of his uniform deficiency (without rank). U.S. Marine Pvt Bob Martin politely told me that his commander had reduced him in rank, and not having rank on his uniform was technically correct. He did note that he expected to get his rank back soon. I thanked him for his honesty and said I would attend his promotion in person; he would just need to let me know when and where. And I was there, only a week later. But that is not the story.
Fast forward two months, now-Pfc Martin was part of the Second Battle of Fallujah. During that battle, a squad of eight Marines was ordered to seize the entrance to an old Iraqi army base and await the follow-on assault forces to break in and destroy the insurgents inside. It was a difficult task, but doing something dangerous was commonplace during that particular battle.
Pfc Martin was outside the entrance with his squad buddies when a dump truck full of explosives came barreling down the road straight for them. The suicide bomber inside the cab was intent on killing all the Marines holding onto their objective. And, several insurgents began firing into the Marine location with small arms fire. Bob Martin and his squad had been told to hold their ground. It meant no flexibility and that is what those two Marines did that day.
Quickly killing the cement truck driver with a great shot from his M4 carbine, Pfc Martin jumped into the cab to grab the deadman’s device that would have allowed the truck to explode. This action took unusual courage for two reasons. First, the fact the truck was about to explode, and second, his squad was still under deadly fire from insurgents.
While others were ducking for cover with the knowledge that suicide drivers always used these devices to set off their deadly cargo, if killed early, Martin ran to the truck to stop it from killing the Marines. For his courageous actions in a deadly fight, Lee was given what he most desired, a thank you from his buddies.
There was no big medal of bravery or special recognition from a Marine General. There was no fanfare or parade. He would not get a bonus point in the classroom or extra credit. What USMC Pfc Martin did that day was what Marines do. And, that is a special story of courage.