Widow of WWII veteran receives his Distinguished Flying Cross

John R. Martin's Distinguished Flying Cross Medal. He recieved it for his service in the US Army Air Force during WWII from 1943-1945. The medal was returned to his widow more than 60 years later. Austin Dave/The Signal

On a sunny day in 2018, a FedEx driver dropped off a special package to Mary R. Martin’s home in Canyon Country. In shock, she opened the package to find a special piece of history from more than 60 years ago, engraved with her late husband’s name.

“I was shaking when I got the envelope because I knew who it was from,” Martin said. “I am so humbled and grateful that this man had made the effort.”

Inside the envelope was a Distinguished Flying Cross Medal, ribbon and lapel pin, that had been awarded to her husband, John R. Martin, for his time in the United States Army Air Force during World War from 1943-45.

“It remains a mystery to me why John did not have this medal in his possession,” Martin said. “I knew (he) had received the Distinguished Flying Cross Medal, because it was on his discharge papers, but I never recalled seeing the medal in our home ever.”

A war medal collector from San Francisco had come in possession of the medal. “Peter was his name, but I don’t remember his last name,” Martin said.

Peter decided to reach out to locate the heirs of John, after reading a veteran profile about her husband in The Signal.

On the weekend of July 4, Mary received an email from Bill Reynolds, director of veteran affairs for The Signal and the writer of the profile on her husband.

The email’s purpose was to connect Peter with John’s surviving heirs, so he could return the medal to its rightful owner, Martin said.

“It’s priceless,” Martin said. “How many of these were out there? The Distinguished Flying Cross Medal was only given to people who had made a big sacrifice.”

Mary R. Martin holds her late husband, John R. Martin’s Distinguished Flying Cross Medal after it was returned to her by a collector in San Francisco. Austin Dave/The Signal

John joined the service in 1943 after receiving his bachelor’s degree in business administration. During his time in the service, he was a navigator to a crew who flew Boeing B-29s.

“My husband was a navigator of three B-29s,” Martin said. “The three of them flew in formation over Japan, and their mission was to destroy the airfields and ammunition dumps.”

John was honorably discharged from the Army on Nov. 9, 1945, in San Bernardino.

He returned to the University of Southern California to earn his master’s degree in business administration in 1951.

Mary and John met when she was an employee for his insurance agency in 1981.

“I worked for him for 17 years,” she said. “He retired in 1998, because his wife, (Helen), had become ill.”
John devoted his time and energy taking care of Helen until she died Nov. 19, 2001.

John R. Martin’s Distinguished Flying Cross Medal with his name and rank engraved. Austin Dave/The Signal

Mary and John married in June 2009 and she has stuck by his side through thick and thin, she said.

“I took care of him for seven-and-a-half years,” Martin said.

John passed away Nov. 1, 2016, at the age of 93, after being diagnosed with dementia and Parkinson’s disease.

Today, Mary R. Martin, 71, lives in Canyon Country with her three dogs.

She misses her husband every day and is so proud of him, she said. “He is an American hero.”

“It’s just amazing that I have it now,” Martin said. “This means a lot to me, and I just wish John would have been here.”

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