The family of a North Idaho soldier killed in action gathered this morning in Sandpoint to receive his remains.
The body of Army Spc. Ethan J. Martin, 22, who had ties to Lewiston and Bonners Ferry, was flown to the Sandpoint Airport from Dover Air Force Base and returned to his family in what’s known as an honorable transfer ceremony.
Martin was killed Aug. 7 in Koragay, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when he encountered enemy small-arms fire.
Col. Tim Marsano, an Army National Guard spokesman, said the honorable transfer is a “very time-honored” and “solemn” tradition.
“It’s an opportunity for the family to greet the remains of the fallen soldier,” Marsano said.
The roar of the charter plane’s engine ceased and the casket, topped with a flag, was removed as family members and friends looked on. Six pallbearers from the Army National Guard Honor Guard stood at attention, then saluted.
The still quiet on the tarmac was broken by the sounds of weeping as the family approached the casket, encircled it and placed their hands on top.
Martin’s remains then were transported in a motorcade that included law enforcement, Patriot Guard Riders and the family.
Family friend Dyan Hitch, who was a neighbor of Martin’s, stood outside the airport gates as the motorcade passed. She held a sign that read “God Bless you Ethan Martin ‘Our Hero’.”
“Just a very energetic kid, very well-mannered,” Hitch said of Martin. “Just a horrible loss. I wanted to be here in honor of the family.”
Community members waving flags lined parts of the passing motorcade’s route in a tribute to Martin and his family.
“I’m just beside myself from the support,” Hitch said of the community turnout. “It’s amazing. Amazing. It’s just so heartfelt.”
Martin spent his childhood hunting, fishing and playing in Bonners Ferry until his sophomore year in high school, when he moved to Lewiston, according to his obituary. He graduated from Lewiston High School in 2009 and joined the military later that year.
“Ethan had a special talent for touching the lives of everybody around him,” according to an excerpt from his obituary. “His contagious smile, joy-filled laugh, and amazing sense of humor made Ethan the incredible person he was. Ethan was always willing to help anyone, putting their needs before his own no matter what. He will forever be remembered for his carefree attitude, love of life, goofy smile, and his incredibly annoying habit of never planning anything more than an hour in advance.”
Martin was assigned to 1st Squadron, 40th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. His brigade went to Afghanistan in December.
He will posthumously be awarded a Purple Heart, Bronze Star, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Combat Action Badge and the Army Good Conduct Medal.
Flags around Idaho were flown at half staff in honor of Martin, as well as for 20-year-old firefighter Anne Veseth, of Moscow, killed Sunday by a falling tree while fighting a wildfire near Orofino.
Martin’s funeral will be today at 1 p.m. at Bonners Ferry High School, 6485 Tamarack Lane. A ceremony with full military honors will follow at Paradise Valley Cemetery.
Another memorial is scheduled for 4 p.m. Tuesday at the Salvation Army worship center, 1220 21st St., Lewiston.
The services are open to the public. Donations can be made at any Wells Fargo Bank to the Ethan Martin Memorial Fund.
“He has made a mark on the lives of his family and friends that will touch them forever and will never be erased,” his obituary said. “You will FOREVER be remembered and your sacrifice NEVER forgotten. We know you are with our Heavenly Father and we will see you again, until then we will love you always.”