Family and friends gathered beneath a dreary fall sky yesterday to bid farewell to Capt. Michael D. Martino, a Fairfax Marine who was killed in a helicopter crash in Iraq this month.
Martino, 32, and Maj. Gerald M. Bloomfield II, 38, of Ypsilanti, Mich., were killed Nov. 2 while flying their AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter in support of security and stabilization operations near Ar Ramadi. The crash is under investigation.
Staff Sgt. Keith Lutzkanin, 31, was among the dozens of mourners who watched as Martino was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery yesterday. Martino was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, which was presented to his mother, Sybil Martino.
Lutzkanin said the overcast sky and the falling leaves reflected the sadness of the ceremony, held amid the graves of others killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"Seeing the fallen military members, it just made you thankful for everything those guys did," he said.
Lutzkanin met Martino in 2002 at Camp Pendleton in California, and they were later deployed to Okinawa for more than a year. Although they had some good times together -- notably scuba diving -- they also shared mutual frustrations. "The war was going on in Iraq, and here we were stuck in Okinawa," Lutzkanin said.
Martino was deployed to Iraq as a forward air controller, calling in air strikes on the enemy. His actions during the April 2004 push to rid Fallujah of insurgents earned him a Navy Commendation Medal.
Lutzkanin, who is now based at Quantico, saw Martino for the last time earlier this year at Camp Pendleton. He helped fit Martino's helmet for his second tour in Iraq -- this time as a pilot. "He was a good person to have on your side," Lutzkanin said.
Martino spent much of his youth in Southern California, where he loved to attend military air shows. Family members said he would ride his bike to the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, which is now closed, to talk to the pilots and watch the planes.
His parents moved to Fairfax City about 13 years ago. Martino followed them after graduating from the University of California at San Diego and made the Washington area his home.
Martino entered the Basic School at Quantico Marine Corps Base for officer training in 1993. He was promoted to captain in September 2000.
Rebecca Trudeau, a cousin, remembers Martino as a quiet youth at Christmas family gatherings in Massachusetts. "He was a reserved person who stayed in the back of the room," she said. "He just kind of sat back and took it all in."
As an adult, Martino remained close to his parents, according to real estate agent Jill Green, who helped Robert and Sybil Martino find a condominium for the their son to purchase in Oceanside, Calif. "You could just sense the pride" when they spoke about him, Green said. "When I met him, I could see why."
Green would sometimes take prospective clients, especially members of the military, to meet Martino, who was always warm and gracious, she said.
Staff Sgt. Jaime Osorio, who was in Martino's squadron, remembered the officer for his unselfishness and leadership. "He always knew what to ask for and how to do things the right way, the first time," Osorio wrote in an e-mail from Iraq. "He would always study his flying tactics on his breaks to get ahead of his peers."
Osorio also recalled lighter moments, such as Martino jokingly pumping his biceps at the gym to show he was the strongest, or chuckling over the notion that any other car could beat his prized 1999 black Corvette.
"It was a pleasure to work for him, and [I] enjoyed every moment of it," Osorio wrote. "He is truly missed not only in my section, but the entire squadron along with the other officer that was killed with him."
Martino and Bloomfield were assigned to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369, Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force based at Camp Pendleton. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, their unit was attached to the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, 2nd MEF (Forward).