A hero comes home
August 17, 2012
As the cortege passed through Bonners Ferry,
chatter stopped. Hands went over hearts, solemn
salutes were held as the white hearse bearing
the body of 22-year-old Army Specialist Ethan
Jacob Martin, made its sad and slow way.
an elite paratrooper with the
1st Squadron, 40th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade
Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Joint Base
Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, paid the ultimate
cost in service to his country, laying down his
life in the line of duty August 7, 2012, while
serving in Korgay, Afghanistan.
He left behind not only a grieving family, but a
grieving community that remembered a boy who
grew up here with fondness, a boy grown up in
our midst to become a man dedicated to serving a
They turned out today in droves to show their
appreciation, love and respect, to tell the
family of a fallen young hero that they are not
alone in their grief, that they pray a small
measure of comfort helps ease the burden of a
family that, to paraphrase the words of
President Abraham Lincoln, laid a terrible
sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.
Those who witnessed the arrival of the military
aircraft that brought Ethan home one final time
say they will remember the moment forever.
"Everyone was silent and respectful as the
casket was lowered from the plane," Julie
Reinbold, Sandpoint, wrote. "American flags were
flying and people held their hands over their
hearts. Everyone's thoughts were centered on
Ethan and his family and their touching reunion
under the blue summer skies. I will never forget
before the cortege reached Bonners Ferry, people
started gathering. "Closed" signs went up in
At the street corner leading to the junior high,
a Bonners Ferry Fire Department ladder truck
slowly extended the ladder, bearing an American
flag at half staff to wave over South Main
Street on a busy morning, a road filled with
Across the highway, members of the National
Guard gathered, unfurled the colors, and patiently
waited. In ones and twos, small groups and
large, people began pulling off wherever there
was a parking space to be found.
had people from Canada to California checking
into their rooms here at the lodge," wrote Dodge
Peak Lodge manager Tamra Hiatt. "Several
wonderful comments were made regarding our
outstanding community, but what sticks most in
my mind is the older gentleman who said that in
all his years, he has never seen such an
outstanding welcome or a more proud community
honor a soldier home like Bonners Ferry did
today. Now that says a lot about our community."
As a reporter, my intent was to travel back and
forth from Harrison Street south to capture
pictures of gathering crowds; my wife Debbie and
I saw small groups just arriving to set up and
took note of all the reader boards in front of
businesses expressing thoughts for Ethan and his
remembered halfway through, still nearly an hour
ahead of time, that she'd not brought with us
the flag of our son, who died in 1998. We
thought of returning home to get it, but worried
at the delay.
Instead, Debbie decided to stop in at
Huckleberry Variety to buy several U.S. Flags.
As we entered the parking lot, we watched a
young woman seeing her toddlers into the truck,
handing each a small flag as they got in.
Inside the store, Debbie found no flags
remaining; she settled for a red, white and blue
windsock we took turns holding as she drove back
up the South Hill, and a handful of patriotic
The South Hill we'd just left, while still heavy
with traffic, was transformed. Where there was
scant moments before bare ground there were now
flags big and small. As we watched, places to
park filled as if a firehose full of cars had
pulled in at the first parking place found.
It was a good thing we did.
Shortly after we parked, another car pulled in
and a family stepped out.
"What's going on?" the driver asked after his
wife and several children stepped out and
gathered at roadside.
I told him of Ethan. He nodded and joined his
"How many people live here?" he asked a bit
later. I told
"I don't think everyone's here," he said, "but I
bet it's more than half."
noticed that the two youngest of their children
were watching the waving flags and seemed to
wish they had something to wave as well. She
unwrapped two of the new pinwheels, whirling
red, white and blue, and they took them eagerly,
with profuse thanks.
After the cortege passed, the father, whose name
I never asked, stopped as he was leading his
family back to their car and said "thanks."
I asked him where he was from, he said northern
Alberta. A long way from home, I said.
"Very," he replied. "At home, you'd never see
anything like this. As we were driving through,
we saw that big flag, and I noticed it was at
half staff, and I wondered what was going on. As
we came up the hill, I started seeing the people
gathering, and we decided to stop to see. Thank
you for sharing with us."
As they were getting into their car to continue
on to Bonner County for a family reunion, we
noticed the youngest children holding the
pinwheels high. We saw the tears course down
Mom's face as she seated them in safely.
"Thank you," she whispered our way as she stood
and opened her door, not looking at us, but
across a community.
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