William Donald (Don) Martin was raised in a family that believed that the male members should serve in the United States military.
I had uncles who served with pride in the U.S. Army, Navy, and merchant marines. My father, Bill Martin, served in the U.S. Navy.
A cousin who I admired, Jimmy Darryl Messer, was killed in Vietnam in 1967, when I was a junior attending Glendale High School. In honor of his sacrifice, my oldest son is named after him.
I attended Glendale Community College in 1969, and besides having a college deferment I also had a high draft number. It appeared I’d never have to go into the armed forces.
But after hearing some “hippie types” berating our servicemen and women in a geography class, I left class and almost joined the U.S. Navy.
When I told my family what I had done, my dad laughed and said I was going to drown in San Diego, as I couldn’t swim far at that time.
The next day, I went and joined the U.S. Army. I told my family at dinner I guess I wouldn’t mind dying for this country, but I sure as heck wasn’t going to drown in San Diego.
I enlisted for three years and chose to be a military policeman. My Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) was 95B.
I went into the Army on July 23, 1969, and went to Ft. Lewis Wash., for my basic training.
Afterwards, I volunteered for a special school called the Advanced Leadership Detachment in Ft. Gordon, Ga.
After graduating from both the ALD and Military Police school in Ft. Gordon, I was sent to Germany, where I immediately put in for a transfer to Vietnam.
I arrived in January 1970 in Europe, and my first thoughts were how dark and foreboding it looked. Little did I know I wouldn’t see the sun for about four months.
My service in Germany started off in Schweinfurt, then to Wurzburg and finally to Wertheim, where I stayed for several years.
Being a good soldier, I rose rapidly in rank. I was the youngest soldier in my battalion to make sergeant. I was just 20 years old.
I worked as a field officer, a military police supervisor, and finally as a military police investigator.
I also ran the Wertheim Rod & Gun Club trap and skeet range, along with being in charge of the post theater.
With the war in Vietnam winding down, I was given the option of reenlisting or taking an early out.
I opted for the early out and left the Army on March 2, 1972, after two years, nine months and 26 days, but who was counting.
I was awarded an expert shooting medal with the M-16 rifle, and received a good conduct medal and National Defense Service Medal for my service.