Thomas J. Martin first became known to me at our Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce’s Patriots Luncheon in July 2017, when he was one of several local Veterans honored. I was instantly impressed with Tommy’s military story so I finally caught up with him at Valencia’s Corner Bakery recently for an interview. I found him to be a most delightful, humorous and engaging young man whom I enjoyed chatting with very much.
Tommy Martin was born April 30, 1979, at Fort Carson, Colorado, which is where his Dad, Robert Lee Martin, was stationed while serving in the U.S. Army, and as Tommy put it, “I was an Army brat.” Robert served as a combat engineer during the Vietnam War. Being an Army family meant that the Martin family relocated numerous times due to Robert’s assignments, but they finally settled in Milton, Florida, where Tommy graduated from high school in June 1997. After high school, Tommy attended Pensacola Junior College for two years before traveling to Montgomery, Alabama, to enter the U.S. Army August 20, 1998.
Russia – Russia – Russia
Following induction, Tommy went to Fort Jackson at Columbia, South Carolina for 8 weeks of Basic Combat Training. This facility is named after Andrew Jackson, a United States Army General and seventh president of the USA. Soldiers who have trained or worked at Fort Jackson live by the base’s motto, “Victory Starts Here”. Tommy entered the U.S. Army as a Linguist with a desire to study the Russian language. So, after Basic Training and a two week leave of absence he was assigned to the Defense Language Institute (Foreign Language Center) in Monterey, California, where he studied Russian specializing in combat tactical terms for one year. Tommy was selected to attend West Point, which his older brother had attended, but Tommy chose to pursue moving up the ranks of the enlisted just like his dad.
Top Secret Clearance
Tommy’s next assignment took him to Goodfellow Air Force Base at San Angelo, Texas, where he studied cryptology and took intelligence training for 12 weeks. Next, Tommy was assigned to Fort George C. Meade, Maryland, which is headquarters for the United States Cyber Command, National Security Agency (NSA), Defense Courier Service and the Defense Information Systems Agency. It was there that Tommy received his Top Secret Clearance. While his security review was in process, he developed a physical training guide for his 742nd Military Intelligence Battalion, which was very gratifying for Tommy.
On September 9, 2001, Tommy was sent to Munich, Germany, on a special assignment, but two days later, when radical Islamic terrorists attacked New York City and our Pentagon, Tommy was promptly sent back to Fort Meade where he worked in their satellite unit. Tommy admitted that he had a slight attitude adjustment at Fort Meade and he challenged authority on occasion. So, Tommy let his sideburns grow just outside the window of acceptable, however they were still within Army regulations. When his Platoon Sergeant berated him about setting a bad example, Tommy got right back in his face reminding him how lousy and out of shape he was in PT (Physical Training). In hindsight, that did not bode well at all for Tommy.
Next thing he knew, he was deployed to Saudi Arabia in Counter Intelligence which led to tours of duty in Iraq in 2002 and 2004. Tommy experienced the difficult and challenging moments while deployed and he suffered injuries, for which the VA has provided him medical services. However, during his time in the war zone Tommy noticed another soldier with a bad attitude and suddenly Tommy realized how unacceptable it was. This realization resulted in self-introspection and it created a life long change in him. “Meeting that one soldier was a message from God,” Tommy said.
Tommy is proud to report that he was Honorably Discharged August 20, 2004, at Fort Meade. His military awards include the Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, and the Global War on Terrorism Medal, among a number of service ribbons. Upon discharge, he drove straight across country to Southern California, where he has lived for the last 13 years. For the first five years, he pursued acting and modeling careers in Hollywood, which proved fairly lucrative. Then a turn of events led Tommy to pursue his college education at California State University, Northridge (CSUN) in 2008, which led to degrees in Marketing, Business and Design Illustration.
Faith Defines Us
Next, Tommy became an independent marketing consultant for a number of Southern California companies until February 2017, when he started his own business, “Faith Defines Us” (https://www.faithdefinesus.com/) specializing in Christian apparel for the modern world. Tommy said, “I was inspired by God to design a Christian clothing brand and we are breaking new ground every day.” The “we” that Tommy referenced is himself and his beautiful wife, Shanae, whom he met thru a friend of hers that he had tutored at CSUN in 2008. Unbeknownst to Shanae, her friend asked Tommy if he was seeing anyone and when Tommy reluctantly said no, she said I have a special someone for you.
Soon, Tommy found himself driving from Hollywood way out to the boonies in SCV to meet the two young women. As Tommy put it, “I was outfitted in ‘Hollywood Chic,’ wearing excessively long hair and dressed like a cowboy in boots.” Tommy and Shanae hit it off perfectly and he fondly recalls sitting with her in a Town Center parking garage until 4 a.m. chatting up a storm. It was as though God had intervened again.
Elaborate Wedding Scheme
Tommy and Shanae dated for five years until they eloped in 2012 to, of all places, South Africa, where they were married in a magnificent tree house. It was truly magical and no one in the family even knew about it. They kept their secret to themselves until they finally developed an elaborate scheme to conduct a fake wedding on August 6, 2014, in Costa Rica in order to please the family, as they wanted to be part of their wedding. Fifteen family members were invited, and they convinced Shanae’s brother into believing that he had successfully been submitted, approved and ordained to perform their marriage ceremony. It was a strategic deception to cover up their earlier legitimate wedding, but it turned out to be fun for the whole family as they celebrated the moment together and the fact that her brother was so emotional while delivering the vows made it truly special. It was a grand “wedding,” or as Tommy and Shanae like to say, “It was a renewing of their vows with family presence witnessing a joyful moment in their lives.”
Nose to the Grindstone
These days, Tommy has his nose to the grindstone carving out his niche in the apparel industry while Shanae attends Oral Roberts University online, as her calling is to help people and to become a Christian Biblical Counselor. Both attend Higher Vision Church in Valencia and they look forward to having children in the not too distant future. May God continue blessing Tommy and Shanae Martin . . .