MSgt Vasco Martin USMC Retired
MSgt Vasco D. Martin USMC, Retired
Rest in Peace Marine
SNCOIC of the Defense Attaché Office, Saigon, R. South Vietnam
during the Fall of Saigon
From: Kevin M. Maloney
I am back in Miami. I am exhausted. The last few days have been tough. The tension was enormous, I have had very little sleep. Because I work for an airline I was able to jump seat in the cockpit of several different aircraft and despite the bad weather I got to Carrollton, Missouri on time.
Greater than my discomfort is my feeling of awe and gratitude. My eyes have been opened to grace anew.
How did a chalky white boy from an Irish Catholic neighborhood in a large Massachusetts city come to stand in the pulpit of a black Baptist Church in a rural Missouri farming town?
Yesterday, I was one of five people to give eulogies for Vasco D. Martin, Jr. What an incredible privilege and honor was given to me.
The Virginia Street Baptist Church was filled to standing room only. The choir lofts were filled with Marines and Fighters.
The pews were filled with people from every conceivable background, color, shape and size, Americans and Vietnamese cannot ever remember witnessing such a diverse cross section of humanity gathered for one purpose, each with a breaking heart.
Carrollton, Missouri population 4,400 is about fifty miles northeast of Kansas City. Carrollton is Vasco's hometown. He was born there on June 26, 1937. Several of his High School Classmates were there on Wednesday.
Vasco entered the Marine Corps in December 1956. He retired twenty years ago. To Corps and country he gave almost twenty-five years of service. Dwight McDonald and I served with Vasco in Saigon. Other Marines and Vets from the surrounding area were there. One of the other men to eulogize Vasco was a native Hawaiian. He wore a purple heart, and spoke of Vasco's service with the VFW.
Curtis Shields is the Fire Chief. Curtis and Vasco joined the volunteer Carrollton Fire Department at the same time in 1979. Vasco became a Captain. He and Curtis were presented gold plated fire axes at the same ceremony commemorating twenty years of service to their community. They stood together on the fire line and in life. Another broken heart.
Vasco worked in the town's water treatment department for seventeen years. His coworkers were there in force.
Vasco had his own photography business too. He was a highly skilled photographer. Some of his work was on display.
A State Fire Marshal from Jefferson City attended the service. When there was a terrible fire somewhere in Missouri they would call on Vasco to photograph the fire scene, he was a professional.
Vasco's two daughters were there. One of the best photographs was of Vasco and his toddler grandson napping together. Vasco's two brothers were there. Don is an assistant coach with the Oakland Raiders.
Nafissia, Vasco's wife is from Afghanistan. The were married just four years ago this July. Her grown children were there. Everybody had a great Vasco story.
I will always have this image in my mind. Late in the afternoon of 28 April 1975 at Tan Son Nhut Airfield near Saigon we were attached by six jet aircraft flown by North Vietnamese pilots. They were dropping 500 pound bombs. Vasco was standing in the open, directing others to the safety of the bomb shelter while he fired at the aircraft.
At 0345 the next morning rockets fell on our position. Two of our Marines were killed and another wounded. I took the position of the dead men, shortly thereafter, Vasco organized the remaining Marines and moved up to my position. I shall ever in my mind hear his agonizing cry when he came upon the fallen Marines.
One of those Marines was Lance Corporal Darwin L. Judge from Marshalltown, Iowa. Vasco maintained close contact with that family for all these many years. They loved him for it. Henry and Ida Judge are in there eighties now. With their daughter Laurie at the wheel they drove four hours to attend Vasco's funeral service.
The Sheriffs Department blocked off several streets. Fire Departments from several surrounding towns sent their blue suited men and women in their trucks. Vasco was carried from the Church in his Flag draped Marine Corps casket and placed on the back of a vintage fire truck. The funeral procession with flashing lights and fire bells moved slowly through town. State, local police and deputies blocked the side roads, the flags in front of the police station and court house were at half staff.
At the cemetery, pall bearers carried Vasco up a hill to the grave site between two ranks of sideboys, Marines facing Firefighters. A bagpipe played. The marine honor guard fired a salute and two buglers echoed taps across the field. A Marine Master Sergeant presented the flag to Nafissia.
Scores of friends and relatives gathered in a large room in the firehouse. Neighbors catered a dinner. Pot luck, home style. A great roar of conversation carried on for two hours.
I spoke on the telephone to Vasco two weeks ago. We knew that he would make this journey. He was prepared. He would not go until he charged me to look after the Marines that he loved so much.
This was one incredible man. The cancer is stopped and the pain is no more. He is gone from us now. He is at rest. But we will see him again in a better world.
Kevin M. Maloney
05 April 2001
Vasco Martin (2nd man standing) at 25th Fall of Saigon Reunion
along with Doug Potratz. Mr. and Mrs. Judge looking forward. Picture taken at 25th Fall of Saigon Reunion in Marshalltown, Iowa 29-30 April 2000.
Vasco Martina and Bill Newell at 25th Fall of Saigon Reunion in Marshalltown, Iowa 29-30 April 2000