By Todd Marver
United States Coast Guard Petty Officer Second Class Cameron Martin was the guest speaker at the Veterans Day celebration at Okawville Junior/Senior High School on Thursday, November 9.
Martin is an Okawville graduate. He said when he was in high school, he did not have a huge interest in being in the military and it wasn’t something that was on his radar at the time. He said when he was in high school, he didn’t understand why Veterans Day was important.
“When I was growing up, I was kind of confused why every time you saw a veteran, you’d say, ‘Thank you for your service.’ I didn’t really understand that because in my head it seemed like it was a job that people volunteered for on their own. I didn’t understand that as a kid, but later on I understood the meaning of it,” he said.
Martin has been serving in the United States Coast Guard for about seven years. He said serving in the United States Coast Guard is the best thing he has ever done in his life and he has served all across the world from Tijuana to Alaska to New Jersey.
“I have absolutely loved it. Every day is a new mission. It’s different one day to the next,” he said.
Martin said he has participated in all different types of missions ranging from search and rescue to maritime law enforcement to maritime stewardship. He said he has personally saved about 20 lives.
“That’s really important to me. That’s something I take very seriously and that’s the reason why I serve,” he said.
Martin said eight years ago, he had just graduated from college and had a job at an Amazon fulfillment center. He said it was a great job, there were a lot of things that were very flashy and he loved it, but he didn’t really feel the sense of fulfillment that he was looking for.
“I wanted to help people. I wanted to serve my community. I decided one day I was going to quit my job and enlist in the Coast Guard. I had people ask me, ‘Are you sure you want to do this? You want to leave a pretty good Amazon job and you want to take a pay cut to go into the military?’ I was like, ‘Absolutely I do. That’s absolutely what I want to do.’” he said.
Martin said shortly after that, he shipped off to boot camp and was off to the races. He said since he joined, he has given up a lot of his personal life and has seen co-workers give up a lot of their personal lives.
“I took a pretty severe pay cut when I joined the Coast Guard. There are a lot of long days. It’s a great job and I’m so glad to be here, but you don’t clock out and go home. There are long days and long hours and sometimes long months at a time. I’m so thankful to be able to serve and give back. In the Coast Guard, you get an opportunity to serve and be part of something bigger and help your community,” he said.
Martin’s father spent 35 years in the Coast Guard. Martin said most people retire after about 20 years, so for somebody to do 35 years is outstanding and almost unheard of. He said his father was kind, compassionate, a protector of peace and the friendliest man you’d ever meet.
“He was in it so long, the Coast Guard had to kick him out. He didn’t even want to retire. The Coast Guard was like, ‘You’ve been in it way too long. You’ve got to retire.’ My father fought it tooth and nail, but that’s the way they had to get him out,” he said.
Martin said he spent his entire life watching his father serve in the Coast Guard and that was his father’s legacy.
“He put so much of his heart into it. He was really bummed out. He was crying that day. I had never seen my father cry one time in my entire life until that day. I never really understood why he was crying that day and I didn’t understand for a long time,” he said.
The event also included a short presentation and musical performances by the kindergarten through 12th grade student body of West Washington County Community Unit School District #10.