U.S. Marine Corps
Major Michael David Martino was born January 31, 1973, in the Marshall Islands where his parents worked on the Pacific missile-test program. When his parents were transferred to Southern California, the family settled in Irvine. At age nine, in what would become an annual ritual, Michael would tumble out of bed at the crack of dawn, pedal his bike across Irvine, and spend the day watching planes at the El Toro Air Show. Michael graduated in 1991 from Woodbridge High School in Irvine, where he was on both the wrestling and football teams. His small stature and tenacity earned him the nickname “Flea.” He joined his older brother Robert at UC San Diego and graduated with a degree in Economics in 1996. Michael joined the Marines shortly thereafter and fulfilled a childhood dream by earning his wings in July 2000. He was assigned to the Marine Light-Attack Helicopter Squadron 369, Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, California, attached to 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, II MEF (Forward). During his first tour of duty, he earned the Bronze Star and Navy Commendation Medal for Valor for his bravery during the battle for Fallujah. He was also awarded the Air Medal with Valor for the Anbar Province battle. He impressed everyone with his focus and composure under fire. He was someone other Marines could talk to and was such a good listener that his call sign was "Oprah," after the talk-show host. On November 2, 2005, just two months into his second tour of duty, Michael and his co-pilot were killed when their Cobra attack helicopter crashed after being hit by a missile. He was posthumously promoted to the rank of Major.