Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Travis Martin, June 3rd, 2011

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries


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00:00:00 - Introduction / childhood and high school

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Partial Transcript: Uh, we're here in Richmond, Kentucky with, uh, Travis Martin.

Segment Synopsis: Martin gives some basic information about himself. He talks about his childhood and his attitude then and as a high school student.

Keywords: Hawaii; Somerset (Ky.); Tennessee; attitude; brothers; children; elementary school; fights; high school; rebellion; single mothers; sisters; trouble

Subjects: Eastern Kentucky University.; United States. Army.; University of Kentucky.


Map Coordinates: 37.09202, -84.60411
00:01:47 - Joining the army

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Partial Transcript: It was about my junior year in high school, you know, I kept getting in trouble in class and stuff, and so the counselor there said...

Segment Synopsis: Martin shares how he was first exposed to the idea of joining the army and what made him decide to do so.

Keywords: Bible; English assignment; Europe; JROTC; Somerset Community College; army recruiters; college; counselors; discipline; failing; marriage; prayer; recruiters; stepfathers; teachers; writing

Subjects: Basic training (Military education).; United States. Army.

00:04:19 - Family reaction to joining the military / basic training

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Partial Transcript: So I signed up, went to MEPS, did all the physical stuff.

Segment Synopsis: Martin talks about the military entrance processing station and what his family thought of his joining the military. He also describes his experience in basic training.

Keywords: "ghost"; Fort Leonard Wood (Mo.); MEPS; Motrin; Somerset (Ky.); White Lily; asprin; bootcamp; camping trips; dark humor; drill sergeants; drugs; family; getting in shape; learning; meth; military entrance processing station; outdoors; part time jobs; rebelliousness; suicide; suicide attempts

Subjects: Basic training (Military education).; United States. Army.


Map Coordinates: 37.73806, -92.11722
00:08:49 - Advanced individual training / learning Spanish

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Partial Transcript: All right. Uh, you've already talked about what your occupation was going to be, but you graduated boot camp. What's the next step from there?

Segment Synopsis: Martin talks about his advanced individual training and how he learned to speak Spanish during that time.

Keywords: "deuce and a half"; AIT; Fort Leonard Wood (Mo.); HET; M35 2 1/2 ton cargo truck; M915 Truck; Spanish language; advanced individual training; combat; conflict procedures; heavy equipment transport system; training; trucks; units

Subjects: United States. Army.


Map Coordinates: 37.73806, -92.11722
00:10:29 - Duty station in Germany / lack of combat training

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Partial Transcript: All right. So from there, you go to your first duty station?

Segment Synopsis: Martin discusses the short period of time that he spent in Germany before being sent to Iraq. He also talks about his combat training, which he describes as being inadequate.

Keywords: "smoking"; AIT; German preparation course; German road tests; Germans; Glen Schletter (??); JROTC; Kentucky; M16 rifle; Mannheim (Germany); PLS; Sanchez; advanced individual training; alcohol; combat; discipline; duty stations; exercise; friends; invasion of Iraq; palletized loading systems; power abuse; processing; rear detachment; staff sergeant; training; units

Subjects: Baghdad (Iraq).; Iraq War, 2003-2011.; Iraq.


Map Coordinates: 49.48746, 8.46604
00:15:38 - Deployment to Iraq / first day in Iraq

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Partial Transcript: Okay. Let's, uh, let's talk about the move forward.

Segment Synopsis: Martin talks about his deployment to Iraq, his arrival and his first day at Forward Operating Unit Dogwood.

Keywords: "census session"; FOBs; Forward Operating Unit Dogwood; Italy; M16 rifles; MREs; Mannheim (Germany); Staff Sergeant Sanchez; ammunition; convoys; dust; fast food; flat rack; forward operating base; garrison; heat; racial tension; racism; sand; sleeping; sleeping bags; tents; third platoon; units; war zones

Subjects: Balad (Iraq); Kuwait.


Map Coordinates: 34.01639, 44.14528
00:21:38 - Red ball missions / lack of protection for the soldiers

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Partial Transcript: Eventually they tell me, you know, we're going to be doing what's called the red ball mission.

Segment Synopsis: Martin talks about the missions that he ran in Kuwait and Iraq. He also stresses the lack of protection that the soldiers and vehicles had at that time against small arms fire and improvised explosive devices.

Keywords: Kevlar; SAPI plates; World War II; armor; armored vehicles; bullets; driving; equipment; flak vests; night vision goggles; protection; red ball mission; sandbags; small arms protective insert; supplies; transport; trucks

Subjects: Improvised explosive devices.; Kuwait.

00:24:38 - First mission "outside the wire" / rumors of combat

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Partial Transcript: ...well, let's talk about, talk about your--just kind of your, your experience to you know, what you were thinking, what were you feeling when you...

Segment Synopsis: Martin tells the story of his first mission and how he got in trouble for giving food to an Iraqi child. He also shares how the first few months of his deployment, which was supposed to be a short one, were fairly uneventful and how he only heard about combat going on.

Keywords: Euphrates River; Fanta; Iraqis; MREs; Staff Sergeant Sanchez; camels; child safety; children; combat; convoy missions; convoys; discipline; explosions; ice; intel briefs; lieutenants; meals ready to eat; missions; red ball missions; sightseeing; supplies

Subjects: Ambushes and surprises.; Improvised explosive devices.; Kuwait.

00:29:12 - First combat experience

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Partial Transcript: And then eventually, you know, I'm on a mission to go north, and this is where I get my first combat experience at.

Segment Synopsis: Martin talks about his first combat experience, when his convoy was ambushed in Fallujah. He gives his thoughts on that time and talks about the aftermath. He shares how the violence affected him and his fellow soldiers.

Keywords: Al Taqaddum (Iraq); IEDs; November; Risk (game); Thanksgiving; children; combat; convoys; crowds; danger; depression; explosions; grenades; infantry unit; injuries; killing; loss of innocence; machine gun fire; machine guns; supplies; supply delivery; trucks; units; violence; weapon jams; weapons; wrecker vehicle

Subjects: Ambushes and surprises.; Fallujah (Iraq).; Fallujah, Battle of, Fallujah, Iraq, 2004.; Improvised explosive devices.; Insurgency.


Map Coordinates: 33.35000, 43.78333
00:37:10 - Being ambushed and training / hitting an improvised explosive device on Thanksgiving

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Partial Transcript: What did you find out later about that day, about that ambush?

Segment Synopsis: Martin talks a little more about the ambush and shares his views on how training can never completely prepare anyone for actual combat. He also talks about someone in his convoy hitting an improvised explosive device and what his reaction was to it.

Keywords: Staff Sergeant Sanchez; Thanksgiving; attacking; bombs; cavalry scouts; crowds; deployments; friends; machine guns; marching movements; missions; rain; training; trauma; unarmed civilians; units; wedge formations

Subjects: Ambushes and surprises.; Basic training (Military education); Grenades.; Improvised explosive devices.

00:41:10 - Leaving Iraq / coming to the United States on block leave

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Partial Transcript: After that, you know, we started packing up our stuff. It got cold and muddy.

Segment Synopsis: Martin talks about returning to Germany after his deployment in Iraq. He also discusses taking block leave and what he did during that time.

Keywords: Germany; Kentucky; MREs; Mannheim (Germany); T-rats; Vietnam War; battalions; block leave; chicken; companies; dirt; families; family; friends; hamburgers; leave; meals ready to eat; missions; mud; packing; partying; preservatives; protestors; rain; t-rations; tents; weight loss


Map Coordinates: 49.48746, 8.46604
00:44:45 - Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder / self-medication through alcohol / getting into fights

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Partial Transcript: Did they--did anybody notice a change in you?

Segment Synopsis: Martin talks about some of the symptoms of post-traumatic stress that he experienced and how he dealt with it by drinking and partying on a regular basis. He talks about the fights that he and other American soldiers got into in Mannheim and his concern about how violent they were becoming.

Keywords: Europe; Lars; Leon; Mannheim (Germany); PTSD; Rethford (??); Turkish people; World War II; alcohol; anti-American sentiments; anxiety; bars; celebrations; drinking; fights; go-carts; money; neo-Nazis; panic attacks; partying; roommates; self-medication; sisters; skinheads; unit; violence

Subjects: Iraq.; Post-traumatic stress disorder.


Map Coordinates: 49.48746, 8.46604
00:51:06 - Learning about a second deployment / drunkenness and an incident with a Turkish man

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Partial Transcript: Then, our second deployment came and they told us we were going to Fallujah.

Segment Synopsis: Martin talks briefly about his learning that he would be deployed again to Iraq. He also describes the large amount of drinking that he and his friends did in Germany, as well as an incident that he and others were arrested for.

Keywords: Al Quaeda; Al Taqaddum (Iraq); NCOs; Turkish people; alcohol; alcoholism; arrests; clinical counseling; deployments; drinking; drugs; drunkenness; non-commissioned officers; police; self-medication; withdrawal

Subjects: Fallujah (Iraq)


Map Coordinates: 49.48746, 8.46604
00:54:03 - Becoming a 240 bravo gunner / dangers of "IED alley" / improvement of accommodations

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Partial Transcript: Okay. Um, so I think we left off with you guys were ramping up. You knew you were going to Fallujah, right?

Segment Synopsis: Martin talks about his work as a gunner, the danger of improvised explosive devices and some of the improvements that were made to military accommodations while he was in Iraq.

Keywords: "IED alley"; 50 caliber; Al Taqaddum (Iraq); Anbar Province; Dogwood Forward Operating Base; Jordan; KIA; M240 machine gun; Purple Heart; SAPI plates; bases; battles; bullets; captain; chow hall; connexes; escort; gunners; humvees; improvised explosive devices; killed in action; lead gunner; machine guns; marine bases; omelets; platoon leader; small arms protective insert; tents; tracking systems; warlock

Subjects: Fallujah (Iraq); Fallujah, Battle of, Fallujah, Iraq, 2004.; Improvised explosive devices.; Medicine, Military.


Map Coordinates: 33.79390, 42.44299
00:58:30 - Iraqi truck drivers / morale and cultural training / withdrawal from alcohol and alcoholism

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Partial Transcript: So I get to be the, um, the lead gunner.

Segment Synopsis: Martin talks about the Iraqi truck drivers who were contracted by the United States, and tells why he was concerned by the way they were being treated. He also talks about morale improvements and his cultural training. He describes dealing with the alcoholism he had developed in Germany, and his concern about his behavior at that time.

Keywords: Christianity; Christians; God; Iraqis; LT; alcohol; alcoholism; bases; captains; competitions; contracts; control issues; coolers; cultural training; deserts; discipline; gunners; living conditions; morale; mosques; payment; platoon leaders; platoon sergeants; shots; showers; training; truck drivers; trucks; unit cohesion

01:03:45 - Learning about Martin's stepbrother's suicide

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Partial Transcript: All right. Um, any, any significant events on the second tour?

Segment Synopsis: Martin tells how he learned that his stepbrother had committed suicide. He also talks about going back to the United States on emergency leave and his emotional reaction to this time.

Keywords: Red Cross letter; emergency leave; family; funerals; grief; missions; stepbrothers; suicide; supply delivery

01:04:59 - Hitting an improvised explosive device / promotion to sergeant

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Partial Transcript: And then, um, you know, I got, I got really into the missions and stuff.

Segment Synopsis: Martin tells how his vehicle hit an improvised explosive device during his second deployment. He discusses the damage that was done to him and his comrades and how this incident led to his promotion.

Keywords: Army Achievement Medal; CB; Forward Operating Base Duke; IEDs; Iskandariyah (Iraq); Purple Heart; SINCGARS; Staff Sergeant Brockman (??); board; burns; communication; driver; explosions; flak vest; gunner; humvees; killzone; promotions; rear security; sergeant; sergeants; shrapnel; single channel ground and airborne radio system; specialists; truck commander; units

Subjects: Improvised explosive devices.


Map Coordinates: 32.88504, 44.34800
01:10:37 - The death of Specialist Kevin Jones / problems with a reserve unit / causes of terrorism

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Partial Transcript: But, um, yeah, after that--actually, before that--I missed this part.

Segment Synopsis: Martin talks about the death of Specialist Kevin Jones, who was a part of the convoy he was in. He also discusses a reserve unit who shot at civilians rather than following standard procedures. He shares why he thinks that kind of behavior can lead to more terrorism.

Keywords: Captain Sheets (??); Forward Operating Unit Duke; IEDs; KIA; PLS; casualties; civilians; death; heroism; humvees; injuries; insurgents; intelligence; killed in action; lead gunners; lead truck; medevac; missions; reserve units; sandbags; shooting; shrapnel; spotlights; standard operating procedures; suicide; support units; terrorists; units

Subjects: Improvised explosive devices.; Insurgency.; United States. Army Reserve.

01:16:52 - Therapy and Martin's mental state / leaving the military / Martin's wife

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Partial Transcript: Um, so I got my step-brother, Kevin--you know, I--they say whenever you're in, uh, an IED attack...

Segment Synopsis: Martin talks about his mental state of mind when he returned from Iraq and the therapy that he sought for it. He also discusses leaving the military and shares how he met his wife, a German woman.

Keywords: Christian videos; Germans; Germany; OCD; anger problems; bars; brain damage; classical music; combat; control problems; dark chocolate; discipline; drinking; grief; lack of direction; leave; obsessive compulsive disorder; religiousness; stop-loss; therapy; wives

Subjects: Improvised explosive devices.; United States. Army.

01:21:15 - Going to Somerset Community College / post-traumatic stress disorder

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Partial Transcript: And then, um, first thing I do, November, was, um, get an apartment, enroll in school, start Somerset Community College.

Segment Synopsis: Martin talks about his decision to attend Somerset Community College and describes his dealings with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Keywords: American Legion; English majors; GI Bill; Germany; Purple Heart; VA; VFW; Veterans of Foreign Wars; Veterans' Affairs; alcohol; anger problems; cigarettes; claims; community college; compensation; creative writing; disability claims; lieutenant colonels; medication; physicals; school; social workers; therapy; writing

Subjects: Anxiety disorders.; Iraq.; Post-traumatic stress disorder.; Somerset Community College.; Veterans--Education (Higher)--Kentucky.

01:25:03 - Anger problems

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Partial Transcript: And, luckily, I'd had--I'd had--I had had a physical in Germany that was already done...

Segment Synopsis: Martin discusses some of the anxiety and anger problems that he had when he first went to school. He tells a story of getting into an argument with one of his professors and shares how they later reconciled.

Keywords: Creationism; PhD; Robert Graves; VA; Veterans Affairs; anger; anger problems; anxiety; argumentative writing; civilians; grief; lack of control; maturity; papers; professors; religion; self-pity; snipers; therapists

Subjects: Post-traumatic stress disorder.; Somerset Community College.


Map Coordinates: 37.06039, -84.61877
01:29:11 - Coming to Eastern Kentucky University as an English major / starting the Student Veteran Organization

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Partial Transcript: Kept going to school. I got my associate's degree in a year. Um, transferred to EKU, Eastern Kentucky University.

Segment Synopsis: Martin shares how he came to Eastern Kentucky University after getting his associates degree and why he chose the major that he did. He also talks about being a founding member of the Student Veteran Organization there.

Keywords: Christianity; English majors; God; Student Veteran Organization-Eastern Kentucky University; VFW; Veterans of Foreign Wars; anger issues; associates degree; bachelors degree; full time students; goals; literature; medication; non-traditional students; student organizations; students; veterans; writing

Subjects: Eastern Kentucky University.; Education.; University of Kentucky.; Veterans--Education (Higher)--Kentucky.


Map Coordinates: 37.73851, -84.30182
01:33:43 - Martin's thesis and war literature / working while having post-traumatic stress disorder

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Partial Transcript: Have you noticed that your efforts pay off with other veterans coming in with similar issues that, that you faced?

Segment Synopsis: Martin talks about his masters thesis and how he could relate to the war stories that he read. He also discusses the difficulty of working some of the jobs he has had due to his post-traumatic stress disorder.

Keywords: Bret Morris; Christian videos; TBI; benefits; control; disabilities; disabilities office; fear; grocerystores; leadership; masters degrees; medication; memories; psychology; research; respect; student veterans; theses; traumatic brain injury; veterans; war literature; war stories; work

Subjects: Eastern Kentucky University.; Post-traumatic stress disorder.; Veterans--Education (Higher)--Kentucky.

01:38:36 - Teaching a veterans' orientation course / long term plans / closing remarks

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Partial Transcript: And then, um, Brett gave me a job as a GA in the veteran's office...

Segment Synopsis: Martin talks about a class for veterans that he taught at Eastern Kentucky University. He discusses his plans for the future and sums up his military experience. The interview is concluded.

Keywords: EKU reads; GSO veterans' orientation course; Journal of Military Experience; Tears of a Warrior (book); Veterans' Studies program; gains; losses; military culture; publishing; student veterans; study skills; teaching; therapy; veterans; war; writing

Subjects: Post-traumatic stress disorder.; University of Kentucky.