GYSGT Justin R. Martone

03-2006

Justin R. Martone

By: David Harrison via: Roanoke Times

A Marine who once lived in Bedford County died Tuesday March 7, 2006 in an explosion in Iraq.

Gunnery Sgt. Justin R. Martone, 31, was killed when a bomb detonated in Iraq's Al Anbar province, the U.S. Marines said. Martone, a member of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force based in Okinawa, Japan, had been in Iraq since early February, according to his father, Agostine Martone.

Martone was riding in the passenger seat of a military vehicle returning from a mission when a roadside bomb went off, killing him instantly, his father said. The other passengers in the vehicle were injured but Martone was the only one killed, his father said.

"My son didn't know what hit him," he said.

Justin Martone played football at Staunton River High School when the family lived in Goodview, his father said. After graduating from high school in 1993, Justin Martone fulfilled a lifelong dream and immediately enlisted in the Marine Corps, his father said. The family moved to Arizona and Justin, who was awaiting his orders from the Marines, followed.

His recruiter offered to send him to California for training but Justin Martone refused and insisted on going to Parris Island, S.C., "the biggest and hardest base to go to," his father said.

"He said, 'I go there or I won't join the Marines,' " the elder Martone recalled. "He was a very determined young man."

His Marine career took him to Iraq in 2003 when he was among the first Marines to reach Baghdad. His second stint in the country was supposed to last six months, his father said. He was in charge of seven Marines.

"He said, 'I'll see you then.' He said, 'I'll call you.' He didn't give us a certain time but down the road he was going to give us a call."

That was the last time Agostine Martone spoke to his son.

"He was one of the hardest-working Marines they'd had in a long time," Martone said. "Whatever he wanted he always achieved."

Justin Martone's wife lives in Okinawa. The couple had no children.

"My wife's spoken to her a couple times" since he died, said his father. "She was pretty shook up."

Justin Martone is survived by a brother, who works as a firefighter for the Forest Service in Arizona.

"He and his brother got really close," the elder Martone said. "You couldn't ask for a better two brothers."

During Justin Martone's high school days, his father recalled, his football coach told him to put on some weight to play linebacker. Then, when he signed up for the military, he was told he needed to drop the weight.

As a teenager he had a motorcycle, which he loved, Martone said. When he grew up, his love of riding turned into a love of flying and he got his pilot's license.

"When he got out of the service him and his wife were planning on buying him a plane," his father said.

Martone was a member of a small, elite team of Marines whose job was to dismantle explosives. He was trained to defuse homemade bombs and, in 2004, took part in a demonstration for local public safety officials at the Marine base in Quantico, according to a Marines news release.

Justin Martone is one of at least 28 people with ties to Southwest Virginia who have died in Iraq since the start of the war.

His father said the Marines plan to hold a memorial service for his son at Quantico.

A plane carrying his remains was set to land at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware at 11 p.m. Thursday night.

News researcher Belinda Harris and staff writer Jay Conley contributed to this report.

Va. Marine Had Dreamed Of Buying His Own Plane

By Dan Zak and Alec MacGillis
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 10, 2006

Marine Justin Martone had hoped to buy a plane to make cross country trips to see his family in Arizona when he returned home.

"Justin was a flier," said his mother, Paulette Martone of Prescott Valley, Ariz. "He actually carried a pilot's license. He loves flying. Someday he hoped to start a [flying] business with his friend."

On Tuesday, those dreams were dashed.

Just two weeks after arriving in Iraq, the 31-year-old gunnery sergeant from Bedford County, Va., was killed by an improvised explosive device in Anbar province, where he was assigned to the 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force, based in Okinawa, Japan, the Defense Department said.

Martone arrived in Iraq on Feb. 20, according to a military spokesman.

Before that, he was assigned to Okinawa for about a year, according to one of his neighbors in Fredericksburg, where Martone lived with his wife, Renee, for about three years.

Martone grew up in Moneta, a small town south of Bedford and east of Roanoke, and played football at Staunton River High School.

A licensed pilot, he loved to fly in his free time and was very proud of his career in the Marines, his mother said.

"He moved through the ranks very quickly," Martone said. "And he had been asked a number of times to go into officers training, but he didn't want to be an officer. He wanted to be a Marine."

She said he was scheduled to be out of Iraq by August and back in the United States by the end of the year. He and his parents planned to go hunting in Arizona upon his return.

In December 2004, Martone was featured in an online Marine newsletter article seeking recruits for an explosive ordnance disposal recruitment seminar. A photo showed Martone in a 98-pound, full-body bomb suit, crouched over a small bomb.

The article described the high level of skills required for the work but also warned that those who do it "have one of the most dangerous jobs on the planet."

Staff researcher Donald Pohlman contributed to this report.

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