In the same park where Robert Nathan Martens grew up hiking and riding horses now stands a memorial to him and Arizona’s 85 military members killed serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A crowd of about 200 people attended the emotionfilled Veterans Day dedication Saturday morning for the Nathan Martens Arizona Memorial at San Tan Mountain Regional Park south of Queen Creek.
Martens, a 20-year-old Navy hospital worker, was killed after serving 10 days in Iraq when the Humvee he was riding in overturned.
The Queen Creek High School graduate was involved in FFA and played football and baseball. He married Erin Saben in 2004 and had a daughter, Riley Jo.
The memorial was made possible by donations and features a center plaque that has Martens’ story inscribed in it and a 70-foot flag pole that organizers hope the family will be able to see from their home adjacent to the park.
“I think we’ll be able to see it when the flag is lit at night,” said Rob Martens, Nathan’s father. “When we’re looking over here, we’ll be seeing Nathan.”
Martens said he is touched by the effort that went into the $100,000 memorial.
“In addition to the donations, they’ve put thousands of hours into this,” Martens said.U.S. Air Force Maj. Bryan Martyn of Gold Canyon organized the ceremony that included heartfelt words from Queen Creek Mayor Art Sanders, Pinal County Supervisor Sandie Smith and Maricopa County Supervisor Fulton Brock.
“It’s a way to give back and honor all of the Arizonans who have given so much to the war on terrorism,” Martyn said of the memorial.
During the ceremony, Erin Martens and daughter Riley Jo unveiled the plaque on the memorial and gave it a kiss. A flag was raised and a bagpipe playing “Amazing Grace” echoed throughout the park.
Erin Martens said Nathan would have been flattered by the memorial but also would be happy to see that everyone’s name was included. “It’s overwhelming — all of the support,” she said. “You just smile and take it all in.”