John M. Martin (No.765)
Most cemeteries and burial records are rich with history. This cemetery and the records pertaining thereto are no exception. Among many things, they tell us about race and racism in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. The First World War veteran we are honoring today is John M. Martin from Portsmouth Ohio. But he was not just Private Martin. No. His name was usually followed by “col” in parentheses thus setting him aside as “colored.” Further, his service in the war was with company F. 813 of the “Pioneer Infantry.” This was an all-colored unit which served in Europe from late 1918 to early 1919 doing the grizzly work of identifying and packaging bodies and body parts to be buried abroad or sent home.
We don’t know why Private Martin eventually became a patient in the Athens Lunatic Asylum. Certainly his gruesome war experience, though not on the battlefield, had been traumatic. Did he suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, the likely ailment of so many other veterans in the three Ridges Cemeteries? We’ll never know.
What we do know is that Private Martin was a patriot who served his country in spite of the second class citizenship that was his lot in life. Today we give him the belated recognition he has long deserved. Yes: Thank you for your service, Private Martin. You are not forgotten.
A member of the Multicultural Genealogical Society will now place the wreath at Private Martin’s grave.