March 25, 2005

Charley Doire could not wait to meet Marine Cpl. Jared Martin.

"I just wanted to say thank you," the soft-spoken 12-yearold told Martin, a Tempe native, who on Thursday visited Connolly Middle School in Tempe.

"You really made a difference."

Charley was among about 150 seventh-graders who got autographs and listened to dramatic stories from their hero, whom they had sent soap, candy, cards and personalized cartoons during his two tours of duty in Iraq.

To Charley, the difference Martin made is real.

"I lost three of my aunts in 9/11," she said. "They were in the Trade Center.

It’s just so responsible of him to risk his life every day to save another man’s life."

After losing 19 close friends in Iraq, and suffering wounds that earned Martin a purple heart, with another on the way — the cheers and salutes from the Connolly students were true rewards, the 28-year-old Marine said.

"It’s pretty hard over there," Martin said. "But when you get a package from a complete stranger or a friend, it gets us through the days."

Martin served in some of the most dangerous areas of Iraq, hunting down insurgents in their homes and guarding a main bridge to Baghdad. He’d suffered many close calls — as a target for attacks — but still returned for a second tour of duty after recovering from wounds he suffered during the rescue of POW Jessica Lynch.

His four-year enlistment, begun just after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, ends in November, but Martin is considering extending it. Now on leave for a month, he is spending time with family, including girlfriend Sarah Hanau of Gilbert and mother Dene Martin — who watched proudly as students, some wearing fatigues, intently listened to his stories.

The school used communications with Martin in lessons on American history, character education and in discussions about the war in Iraq.

"There are other people still doing a job — putting their lives on the line," said Cole Tosh, 12, who gave Martin a salute.

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