Local Vietnam War hero,
67, Dies on Veteran's Day
Highly decorated, Martin
remembered as fearless
selfless man of conviction
Marilyn Miller Beacon Journal staff writer
Percy “Jimmy” Martin III was a highly decorated soldier who earned a Purple Heart and Bronze Star while deployed in Vietnam. He was a heroic figure at home, too, overcoming polio to achieve success as an entrepreneur.
Mr. Martin, 67, an Akron native, died Sunday after a short bout with cancer. Family members said it was fitting that he died on Veterans Day.
Mr. Martin, who spent five years in the Army, was part of the elite Airborne Infantry Special Forces. He was awarded the Silver Star for service in the Dominican Republic.
A former Summit County sheriff’s deputy, federal officer and firearms instructor, Mr. Martin recently was the owner of a funeral escort service in Akron.
According to family members, Mr. Martin put his heart into every task. He earned a black belt in karate and was a marksman while serving the 508th Infantry, 82nd Airborne Division.
He refused to let childhood polio cripple his ambitions. He became a star athlete at Buchtel
School, where he was an All-City performer in track and field. He
attended the University of Akron and graduated from the Federal Law
Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Ga.
According to family members, he was a selfless man, a man of
conviction and of courage. He narrowly escaped death while fighting on
the front lines in Vietnam and parachuting into enemy territory. “He’s
never been afraid of anything, including death,” said his sister, Marie
said he experienced death once before on the operating table when he was
shot in Vietnam and was brought back to life.”
Family said he didn’t
blink when doctors told him he had incurable cancer. He put his affairs
in order and made sure he completed one last civic duty: He drove
himself to cast his vote before Election Day. “Why should I go through
chemotherapy or radiation and be sick just to prolong my life? That’s
not quality living,” he said in a recent phone conversation. “They say
the cancer is terminal, but I’ll have time to get everything I need
done. It is what it is. I can’t change things if it’s my time.”
his family he had only two to three weeks to live and wouldn’t see
another birthday or Thanksgiving.
“I expected him to say he was going to
fight it to the end, but he told me very calmly he was going to die and
said he was at peace with it and it was out of his hands,” said his son,
Jamie Martin of California. “I was OK if he was OK with it.”
continued as the family’s caretaker. He was the family member who called
just to check on you or to share information he thought you might need,
relatives said. “He called once a week. He was humorous and was still
cracking jokes in the hospital,” said his daughter, Contia Martin of
Columbus. “When we grew up, we had a village all around us. Every street
in the neighborhood had a family member.”
Fearless in life, in battle
Family and friends talked about his fearless acts as
a teenager — from his Evel Knievel-like stunts with his bicycle on
homemade board ramps to playing Tarzan swinging from a rope in the tree
through the garage. “He was like that in the service, too,” his sister
“In Vietnam, they were warned not to go into any of the hutches
because the doors were booby-trapped, so to get around that he would
kick the door open, jump to the side, wait for the boom and then go in.”
She said Mr. Martin once was left behind after he was shot in the leg
from an ambush. But a member of his platoon, whom he had saved during an
earlier firefight in Vietnam, returned to see if he had survived.
1966 Beacon Journal article, he explained how he wiped out a machine gun
nest in the Dominican Republic as the point man for his platoon.
first saw the machine gun, it was right in front of me,” Mr. Martin,
then a corporal said. “I knew I couldn’t go back, so I started running
toward it. They began firing at me, but the shots were falling short.”
About 20 yards from the gun, he tossed a hand grenade, then killed other
rebels with his automatic rifle. Then he crossed the street, again under
hostile fire and placed a grenade on a locked door. The live grenade
rolled off. He retrieved it, replaced it and managed to reach cover just
as the grenade exploded.
He was awarded the Silver Star — the nation’s
third highest medal — for his feat.
Friends said his mind worked
nonstop. He tried various business ventures and ended up starting a
funeral escort business in 2004 after researching the idea and finding
there is nothing in the law requiring only police escorts for funerals.
He won a court battle that allowed him to continue his business.
Martin is survived by his wife, Lucy; children Monique, Sonya (Kevin)
Skipper, Tita, Contia, Miyoshee, Jamie, Peter, Marlon (Laura) Balana,
O’Dalee Balana and Mabelle (James) Miller; a sister, Marie (Andrew)
Waters and brother- in-law Barnest Trevillion.
will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday at Turner & Rhoden Memorial
Home, 1101 Palmetto Ave. The memorial service will follow at 6 p.m.
Burial will be at 9 a.m. Friday at the Ohio Western Reserve National
Cemetery in Seville.
Akron Beacon Journal,
13 Nov 2012, Tue, Page