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WWII vet, 97, one of first troops at Normandy, gets award for 101st Airborne service

Jim "Pee Wee" Martin With the (inaugural) WWII Foundation Leadership Award. (Jim "Pee Wee" Martin/Facebook)
August 08, 2018

Jim Martin, 97, from Greene County, Ohio, received the inaugural WWII Foundation Leadership Award in June for his service in the 101st Airborne Division, known as the “Screaming Eagles.”

Martin was one of the first American forces to land by parachute into Normandy on June 5, 1944, according to My Dayton Daily News.

The award was given to Martin by the World War II Foundation at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

During World War II, Martin participated in several critical battles.

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Martin and his unit were part of the British-led Operation Market Garden in the Netherlands and Germany, as well as part of the 101st-led defense of Bastogne, Belgium, which prevented the German army from splitting Allied forces in the Battle of the Bulge.

In 1945, Martin’s unit freed a concentration camp and seized Adolph Hitler’s Bavarian home, the Berghof.

Martin was awarded two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star, but still doesn’t call himself a hero because he believes that no special recognition is needed for serving one’s country.

“When you live in a country like ours, it’s your duty to protect that country, whether you agree with it or not,” Martin said in 2006.

In 2014, Martin visited France for the anniversary of D-Day and recreated his parachute jump – at the age of 93 – with the type of parachute used in World War II.

Due to Matin’s age, he did a tandem jump with a younger parachutist and jumped from a World War II C-47 Dakota.

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When his tour of duty ended, Martin just wanted to live a simple life. Shortly after his return home, Martin met Donna Veverka of Newton, Iowa, whom he married in 1946.

The couple raised their five children in a home they built themselves near Dayton, Ohio, where they still reside some 70 years later.