Michael David Martino – Major, United States Marine Corps

NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense
No. 1144-05
November 3, 2005

DoD Identifies Marine Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the death of two Marines who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Major Gerald M. Bloomfield II, 38, of Ypsilanti, Michigan
Captain, Michael D. Martino, 32, of Oceanside, California

Both Marines died November 2, 2005,  when their AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter crashed while flying in support of security and stabilization operations near Ar Ramadi, Iraq.   Both Marines were with Marine Light-Attack Helicopter Squadron 369, Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, California. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, their unit was attached to 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, II MEF (Forward).

The crash is currently under investigation.

As a longtime Washington Redskins fan, Marine Captain Michael D. Martino admired former cornerback Darrell Green, a player who lacked size but had the tenacity to always make the play.

The Oceanside, California, resident showed similar determination, whether on the high school football field or in studying for his economics degree, said his older brother, Robert M. Martino.

“We used to call him the Flea. He was always one of the smallest guys on the field, but he always made up for it with his guts,” Robert Martino said last night.

Michael Martino displayed that courage and dedication most fully, his relatives said, in his career as a Marine Corps helicopter pilot.

Martino and another Marine officer were killed Wednesday near Ramadi in Iraq when their AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter crashed as they flew a support mission, Department of Defense officials said yesterday.

The Defense Department said in a statement that the cause of the crash is under investigation. Associated Press Television News quoted an Iraqi as saying he saw insurgents shoot down the helicopter.

Martino, 32, was serving his second tour of duty in Iraq as a member of a light attack helicopter squadron out of Camp Pendleton, California.

As a teenager in Southern California, he would ride his bike to the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station in search of pilots to talk to or planes to watch, family members said. He spent many weekends going to military air shows, where he would be the first to arrive and the last to leave.

“My son, from the day he was a little kid, he wanted to fly,” said his father, Robert A. Martino. A Marine Corps career grew alongside that dream.

High school friend Scott Tarlo described a meticulous person who would spend months building a model airplane and hours talking about fixing car engines or wiping down “his baby,” a Corvette. His sense of drive took him through junior college, university and summers in officer candidate school, Tarlo said.

“He was the epitome of the self-made person,” Tarlo said. “He was definitely a scrapper and worked for everything he had.”

His parents moved to Fairfax, Virginia, about 13 years ago, and Michael Martino followed after graduating from the University of California at San Diego. While in the Washington area he entered the Basic School at Quantico Marine Corps Base for officer training in 1993.

During his first tour, as the Marines pushed to rid Fallujah of insurgents in April 2004; Martino whose call sign was “Oprah,” served not in the air, but on the ground as a forward air controller. He called in airstrikes on enemy positions, and his actions during that campaign earned him a Navy Commendation Medal and a Bronze Star Medal with Valor Device.

“This guy brought all hell down on the Iraqi insurgents. . . . He saved a lot of Marines, and he killed a lot of bad guys,” said retired Lieutenant Colonel Gary Lambertsen, a family friend.

Lambertsen knew Martino for only a couple of years, but he believed that the flight hours and combat experience he logged put Martino on a fast track to rise within the Marine Corps. “He saw just a tremendous amount of combat for someone of his age and his grade,” Lambertsen said.

Martino is survived by his mother, father, brother and a sister, two nieces and two nephews.

Martino was the second fatality from the Fairfax area in recent days. Last week, Private Fist Class Dillon Miles Jutras of Fairfax Station died during operations in Iraq's Anbar province.

A 32-year-old Marine who grew up in Orange County, California,  has died while serving his second tour of duty in Iraq.

Captain Michael Martino and his co-pilot were killed a week ago when their helicopter crashed in western Iraq after being hit by a missile.

Martino grew up in Irvine and attended U-C San Diego. His parents, now retired and living in Wintergreen, Virginia, say their son died fighting for what he believed in.

Martino will be buried next week at Arlington National Cemetery.

Nearly one week after burying him at Arlington National Cemetery and minutes after a memorial service at Camp Pendleton on Monday, Sybil Martino said she is convinced her fallen son, Captain Michael D. Martino, gave his life in war in a quest for peace.

“The Bible talks about peacemakers and I believe Michael was born to be a peacemaker,” Sybil Martino said as she sat at a table with her son's dog tags around her neck. “He died doing what he loved and what he believed in.”

Martino, 32, and Major Gerald M. Bloomfield II were killed on November 2, 2005, when their Camp Pendleton-based AH-1W Cobra helicopter was shot down by a surface-to-air missile during fighting near Ramadi, Iraq.

The pair were saluted during the 90-minute memorial attended by more than 200 Marines from their unit, Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369, who gathered at the base's Marine Memorial Chapel along with the men's family members and friends.

Bloomfield, whose call sign was “Woody,” and Martino, whose call sign was “Martini,” each were awarded posthumous Bronze Star medals with Valor Device and Air Medals with Valor Device for fighting off insurgents with missile and cannon attacks the day they died.

Seated by his wife's side after the memorial, Martino's father, Robert, said the days since his son's death have been among the hardest he has ever faced, but quickly added that he is resolute in his belief that the United States should be in Iraq.

“I don't want any parent to have to go through what me and my family are going through,” he said. “But the thing that bothers me and my family is that some of our elected officials want to cut and run and cutting and running is something my son never would have done. He understood the bigger picture.”

The squadron's commander, Colonel Douglas Gough, recalled both Marines as great men of integrity who served as mentors to those around them.

“The streets of heaven are now guarded by two more of our finest Marines,” Gough said.

During his eulogy for Bloomfield, Major John Poehler, recalled the Oceanside resident as a squadron mate, next-door neighbor and friend for the last 12 years.

Bloomfield, who would have turned 39 on November 15, 2005, and who leaves behind his wife, Julie, and son, Ryan, died defending the goals of his nation, Poehler said.

Addressing Ryan Bloomfield, Poehler said: “I am in awe of the man who was your father. Tonight, I will toast my friend and remember not how he died, but how he lived his life. Semper Fi and farewell, my friend.”

The memorial service that packed the small chapel and filled rows of seats set up under two tents outside began with a bagpipe rendition of “Amazing Grace” and the showing of photos of a memorial service for Bloomfield and Martino conducted at their Iraqi air base. One of the shots showed a handwritten sign designating the base as “Bloomfield/Martino Field.”

During his eulogy to Martino, Sergeant Major Bill Skiles recalled spending 40 days with the 32-year-old graduate of the University of San Diego during fighting in Fallujah in the spring of 2004.

As he began telling a story of the fighting on one of those days, Skiles briefly broke down, and after catching himself told the gathering that “true warriors do cry.”

Regaining his composure, Skiles told the story of Martino calling in a 500-pound bomb air strike on a house full of insurgents. The bomb was on target, and the blast threw a goat and chicken toward where the Marines were hunkered down.

Skiles said the goat perished, but he, Martino and the young troops around them kept urging the chicken to move, to get up and show it was alive and it finally did.

“Me and Captain Martino high-fived,” Skiles recalled.

The crash of the men's helicopter occurred during a day of heavy fighting about 70 miles west of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad. Associated Press Television News quoted an Iraqi man as saying their aircraft was shot down by insurgents, the Pentagon has not given an official cause.

Each man was on his second tour of duty in Iraq.

In a pastoral reflection concluding the memorial service, Marine Chaplain Eric Hoog said each man lived a dedicated and committed life.

“They saw fit to put on the uniform of their country and they died for it,” Hoog said. “They died for freedom.”

After the playing of “Taps” and conclusion of the service, those assembled gathered outside for a flyover of four Cobra helicopters, two of which broke off as they passed overhead signifying the loss of the two Marines.

As she spoke a few minutes after the flyover, Sybil Martino said her daughter, Lauri, is five months pregnant and that she and her son-in-law just learned the baby is a boy.

“They're going to name my first grandson after Michael,” she said.

Fairfax Marine Is Remembered For Leadership
Iraq Crash Victim Buried at Arlington

By Lila de Tantillo
Courtesy of the Washington Post
Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Family and friends gathered beneath a dreary fall sky yesterday to bid farewell to Captain Michael D. Martino, a one-time Fairfax Marine who was killed in a helicopter crash in Iraq this month.

Martino, 32, and Major Gerald M. Bloomfield II, 38, of Ypsilanti, Michigan, were killed November 2, 2005, while flying their AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter in support of security and stabilization operations near Ar Ramadi. The crash is under investigation.


Staff Sergeant Keith Lutzkanin, 31, was among the dozens of mourners who watched as Martino was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery yesterday. Martino was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, which was presented to his mother, Sybil Martino.

Lutzkanin said the overcast sky and the falling leaves reflected the sadness of the ceremony, held amid the graves of others killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“Seeing the fallen military members, it just made you thankful for everything those guys did,” he said.

Lutzkanin met Martino in 2002 at Camp Pendleton in California, and they were later deployed to Okinawa for more than a year. Although they had some good times together — notably scuba diving — they also shared mutual frustrations. “The war was going on in Iraq, and here we were stuck in Okinawa,” Lutzkanin said.

Martino was deployed to Iraq as a forward air controller, calling in air strikes on the enemy. His actions during the April 2004 push to rid Fallujah of insurgents earned him a Bronze Star Medal with Valor Device and a Navy Commendation Medal.

Lutzkanin, who is now based at Quantico, saw Martino for the last time earlier this year at Camp Pendleton. He helped fit Martino's helmet for his second tour in Iraq — this time as a pilot. “He was a good person to have on your side,” Lutzkanin said.

Martino spent much of his youth in Southern California, where he loved to attend military air shows. Family members said he would ride his bike to the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, which is now closed, to talk to the pilots and watch the planes.

His parents moved from Irvine, California, to Fairfax. Virginia, about 13 years ago. Martino followed them after graduating from the University of California at San Diego and made the Washington area his home while stationed at the Quantico Marine Corps Base.

Martino entered the Basic School at Quantico Marine Corps Base for officer training in 1993. He was promoted to captain in September 2000.

Rebecca Trudeau, a cousin, remembers Martino as a quiet youth at Christmas family gatherings in Massachusetts. “He was a reserved person who stayed in the back of the room,” she said. “He just kind of sat back and took it all in.”

As an adult, Martino remained close to his parents, according to real estate agent Jill Green, who helped Robert and Sybil Martino find a condominium for the their son to purchase in Oceanside, Calif. “You could just sense the pride” when they spoke about him, Green said. “When I met him, I could see why.”

Green would sometimes take prospective clients, especially members of the military, to meet Martino, who was always warm and gracious, she said.

Staff Sergeant Jaime Osorio, who was in Martino's squadron, remembered the officer for his unselfishness and leadership. “He always knew what to ask for and how to do things the right way, the first time,” Osorio wrote in an e-mail from Iraq. “He would always study his flying tactics on his breaks to get ahead of his peers.”

Osorio also recalled lighter moments, such as Martino jokingly pumping his biceps at the gym to show he was the strongest, or chuckling over the notion that any other car could beat his prized 1999 black Corvette.

“It was a pleasure to work for him, and [I] enjoyed every moment of it,” Osorio wrote. “He is truly missed not only in my section, but the entire squadron along with the other officer that was killed with him.”

Martino and Bloomfield were assigned to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369, Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force based at Camp Pendleton. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, their unit was attached to the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, 2nd MEF (Forward).

In March 2006, Martino was posthumously promoted to Major.

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