Spc. Ethan J. Martin came home Friday.
The skies were a clear, brilliant blue and the sun shone bright overhead as the plane carrying Martin’s body landed at the Sandpoint Airport.
More than 100 people and law enforcement joined members of the Patriot Guard Riders to show their support as Martin’s body was officially turned over to his family by the U.S. Army in what is know as an honorable transfer ceremony.
Martin, 22, was killed Aug. 7 in Koragay, Afghanistan, when his unit was struck by enemy small-arms fire. He was assigned to 1st Squadron, 40th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.
Martin grew up in Bonners Ferry but moved to Lewiston as a sophomore and graduated Lewiston High School in 2009. He joined the Army in October 2009 and his unit was deployed to Afghanistan this past December.
The ceremony is a solemn occasion, one marked with respect and dignity, said Col. Timothy Marsano, public affairs officer with the Idaho National Guard.
As the plane landed, the door opened and the soldier who escorted Martin’s body home from Dover Air Force Base — his best friend since grade school, Pfc. Ashton Hauck — climbed down. Hauck is a member of the Idaho Army National Guard and entered the military about the same time as Martin, according
to Martin’s family.
After his flag-draped casket was somberly lowered to the tarmac, Martin’s family was escorted to the plane to place their hands on the casket and the quiet was only broken by the sound of weeping.
Army officials said
Martin is eligible to receive several posthumous medals, including the Purple Heart and Bronze Star as well as others.
About 50 Patriot Guard Riders from both Idaho and Washington gathered to escort the hearse carrying Martin’s body, his family and loved ones to Bonners Ferry.
Among them was Idaho state captain, Shane “Desert Doc” Leiser, who said he considered it an honor and a privilege to escort Martin home.
“I feel a duty to honor these soldiers,” said Leiser, who rode up from Twin Falls to participate in the ceremony.
A retired Air Force officer, Leiser said the group’s participation is a way to let families know they are not alone and is a way for members to welcome the soldiers home with dignity and respect.
“It’s just a small way to pay tribute to the support and sacrifices that our soldiers make for us,” he added.
As the procession left the airport, led by the Patriot Guard Riders in the “missing man” formation, people lined the streets, hands covering their hearts or held in salute.
Still more lined Highway 95 in front of Big R in Ponderay and the entire community of Bonners Ferry lined the streets from the city limits to the funeral home.
Dyan Hitch, who grew up in Bonners Ferry with the Martin family, came to show her respects to Martin and his family. She said she remembers Ethan Martin as a young boy, proudly riding his bicycle around the neighborhood.
“I wanted to be here and support the family and Ethan,” she said of her decision to come out to stand along the roadway leading to the airport. “I wanted them to know everyone in the community supports them. It’s just a horrible loss.”
The outpouring of support means the world to the family, said Ethan Martin’s grandfather, Harvey Martin.
“We want folks to know their support means the world to us,” he said.
“It was heart-warming to see the love, appreciation and caring we saw today. We are all so grateful to be part of such a wonderful community.”