During the time that we are allotted whether it be longer short to exist, we all are fortunate and not so fortunate to spend it with other humans. I have found that I was fortunate to spend my time with some very interesting individuals. Here I would like to tell a little bit about an individual named Marty. What you read here is at times what I believe to be quite humorous and other times quite tragic. With this said my time with Marty has taught me much about human nature. My time spent with Marty has certainly helped me to grow and become who I am. I believe that we all have had our Marty’s.
I have struggled many times to write about my friend Martin Small. The sadness concerning Marty’s life is so overwhelming that as of this date I have found myself unable to do so. Marty was with me during the years that I was inducted into the United States Army from May 1956 to May 1958. I was informed by the US Government to report for induction into the service of our armed forces. At that time all available and eligible young men were being drafted into what was a peacetime army. The place that I was told to report to was White Hall Street near the Wall Street area of New York City. Marty was at that time also told to report to this induction center.
It had been many years since I had last seen Marty. As very small children we had attended school together at the Woodmere, Long Island, New York. I did remember Marty, although after a very short time as classmates, we were no longer together at school. Perhaps the reason that I remembered him at all was that as a small child hearing that another small child had become very ill, and that he had to be removed from public school made a firm impression on my young mind. What I had heard about my classmate was that his illness was a form of Sleeping Sickness, whatever that was. My very close friend at the time I was inducted into the army Pete Greenfield over the years had stayed closer to Marty and his family. I believe that Pete’s folks were good friends of Marty’s parents. So over the years I did hear mention of Marty from Pete from time to time.
As I was being inducted into the army there stood this very slight and sickly looking young man. It was Marty. We were all put though the physical procedures of induction together. I at that time thought to myself that there is no way that this young man would pass the grade and be inducted. I was wrong!
Marty and myself spoke a bit. I also had a conversation with Marty’s mother and father. They were heartbroken and frightened that their son would be taken from them and their protection, and made to serve in the army. The Smalls as they came to realize that Marty was to be inducted ask me if I would watch over him. I said I would. Marty was placed on an Army bus, and he was sent to Fort Dix, New Jersey for his basic eight weeks of training. The doctors at White Hall kept me behind for additions physical examinations for at that time I could hardly walk since a short time before I had damaged my back and legs in an attempt to aid members of a deadly car crash. The army took me anyway, and sent me to Fort Dix on a later Greyhound bus.
Before you start your eight weeks of basic training you are sent to a barracks to await further instructions. There I met Marty once again. That evening I spoke to him and told him that I would be there for him in any way that I could. Marty was a very depressed and frightened young man. The following day while still waiting to start our basic training Marty and I walked away from our barracks and spoke much more. Marty told me that he did not want to live, and thought many times of taking his own life. He was very serious about that. I believed him. Again, I told Marty that I would be there for him, and whatever he had to face in a physical or mental nature we would do it together. This seemed to give Marty more courage, and a willingness to face what was before him.
During the first eight weeks of basic training at Fort Dix Marty and myself were not always together, yet were able to spend some time together. He did, I believe, to his surprise handle all the physical tasks the Army placed before him. Basic training was not difficult for me at all since I was in good physical shape before I entered the Army. The fact that I had difficulty with my back and legs turned out to be a God send to me for basic training forced me to walk which before I was inducted was difficult for me to do.
When the eight weeks of basic was over you are then told where you will be sent for another eight weeks where you will be trained in some sort of specialization. During the first eight weeks of our training I had again spoken to Marty’s folks who were happy that their son had done so well, yet they were now afraid that Mary and I would be sent to separate duty centers, and be no longer together. I guess that Marty had informed his parents that we had during our basic training stood together. All of the newly made solider friends that I had been with during my basic at Fort Dix were sent to other army bases for further training, but not Marty. We were assigned together to go to Fort Bliss, Texas for Nike missal training.
I clearly remember our first night at Fort Bliss. Every one sent there was somewhat apprehensive, not knowing what was before them. This was true of Marty and myself. Both of us were placed in a large sleeping area with a large group of strangers, and a number of very seemingly angry and mean non-cons. No one had much of importance to do that first evening so the sergeants in charge took full advantage of the time to yell at all, and let all of the newly recruited men now under their control know who was in charge. What I had noticed during our basic at Fort Dix was that at first a very frightened Marty had started to hold his own in every manner. He had a “big mouth” and was not afraid to use it. He was also very smart and clever, and seemed to enjoy letting all know that this little sickly looking man was not to be pushed around by anyone big or small. He also knew that I was standing by him, yet with me or without me, I’m sure my friend would face up to whatever stood before him. Marty had come out of his shell.
That first evening at Fort Bliss while standing around and waiting for our next orders in that large barracks room I heard some shouting. The noise came from a large sergeant as he yelled at Marty. Marty challenged this regular tough looking sergeant to a fight. He told the much bigger and stronger man; “let’s step outside and settle it.” When I got close enough to the sergeant to speak, I told him that it would be wrong and foolish to fight with Marty him being so much bigger and stronger. The sergeant at once agreed with me. He didn’t desire to fight with Marty, but what could he do. I then spoke to Marty telling him that he would be foolish to fight this man, and that he should not. Marty’s answer to me was that he would get the sergeant outside, and get his talking than kick him right between the legs. I at once saw that Marty was not afraid to give it a try, but did manage to help settle the situation down, and the fight never came off. The point here is that this little guy who a few weeks before had so little belief in himself that he wanted to take his own life was willing to stand up to a much bigger and stronger man to protect his own image and pride. Marty had come a long way in a very short time.
I had found out that although my friend had very little schooling since he had been removed from public school that when he was over his sickness in a very few years he had made up all the years of schooling that he was forced to miss. Marty from an academic point of view was a very smart individual, yet because of all the years that he had been sheltered because of his illness by his loving parents, Marty did not know very much about the social world that he now found himself living in.
Again, as things had it Marty and myself remained together. After the second eight weeks of Nike school, both Marty and I were assigned to remain at Fort Bliss in the same unit. As time went by Marty became more sure of himself. He started to enjoy life. His “big mouth” would get him in trouble. He would not take advice from anyone but me. If something came up he would come to me and tell me about it, or I would hear that a situation came up that I had better speak to him about, or perhaps someone else. We would talk and whatever I said he would do without question. I was always surprised at this. In just a few words I could settle him down.
This little sickly looks solider became very popular among the other troops as well as the sergeants and even with some officers. Even so from time to time Marty would shoot his mouth off, and make trouble for himself. I decided to pass the word in our unit that Marty was a genius, a boy wonder. He should be forgiven for his various social outbursts since that was the way that gifted individuals such as him act. The other soldiers picked up on this they seemed to have the desire to have contact with the genius among them.
Marty’s father was a little man who I believe was a rather well off accountant. His parents sent Marty money, and Marty with his now best companion and friend the sergeant that he was going to battle with his first night at Fort Bliss started to lend out money at very high interest rates. Marty had quite a scam working with his new friend. Every pay day I enjoyed watching other soldiers get paid, and walking over to Marty peeling off bills for him to take. It was not just the money that he and his buddy were taking in it was that Marty was enjoying the fact that he could control his life, and laugh about how he was now living.
Marty and myself were not always together, yet we kept in contact with one another. He was busy doing his thing with his new buddy and enjoying it.
After we had spent some time in El Paso, Texas at Fort Bliss Marty got a visit from his father. Marty told me that his dad had come to town, and wanted to take us both out for the evening. El Paso, Texas is right on the boarder of Mexico. Across the bridge in Mexico was the town of Juarez Mexico. This was a solider town where anything could be had most of all booze or women for the price. Mr. Small myself and Marty went out to a local bar in Juarez. As usual, we were approached by women who wanted to sell themselves. I was somewhat embarrassed being that Mr. Small was with us. To my surprise this little accountant said to us after I had brushed off the ladies of the night that if we wanted to take up the request of any of the women that he would pay for it. I told Mr. Small no thanks. Marty just looked embarrassed and shocked. We enjoyed our evening together. The next day Mr. Small left for New York.
A couple of days after Marty’s father left Marty wanted to speak with me. He wanted me to tell him about women. He wanted to know if it was enjoyable being with one. I told him yes it was, yet I was not interested in the women that were across the bridge. He wanted to know if I thought that he would enjoy them since he had never been with a woman. I told him most likely he would. If he thought so to find out for himself. After our next weekend pass Marty again found me, and wanted to talk. He told me that he had gone to Juarez and had bought a woman, yet he didn’t understand what was so great about being with one. This made me laugh. I remember telling him that being his first time he might have been frighten by the whole thing, and he might want to try again. As usual Marty took me at my word. The following weekend again Marty spoke to me, however, this time he had a large grin on his face. He said; “you know Ira that you were right that is great.” We both laughed. I don’t believe that Marty from then on missed a chance to go to town and enjoy himself. Yes, Marty had come out of his shell. Life was interesting and fun for him. It was great to see.
Marty got himself into some really big trouble. While standing formation he had spoken back to a sergeant, and I believe challenged him to a fight. He could be court marshaled for this, and that was what looked like might happen. This time Marty knew that he had overstepped, and was afraid of what might come of this. He wanted my help. What I did was go to the other non-cons in our unit and speak to them about the incident. For them to aid Marty they would have to stand with him against another sergeant, and this was never done. However to the surprise of all they did. This showed all just how far Marty had come among the men he was serving with, and Marty knew it.
Our discharge date came upon us. Both Marty and myself were in May of 1958 discharged from active duty in the US Army. We both went back to Woodmere, and went our separate ways. Being friendly with Pete I would be told of Marty from time to time. I did see him once more at Pete’s home. Soon after Pete informed me that Marty’s parents took an ocean cruise with their son. Marty had jumped overboard and was never found. All I could suppose was that Marty after being home again was placed by loving parents back into his shell. He could no longer handle being the sick and ugly Marty once more. It was such a shock to hear this about my friend, yet I must smile, knowing that my friend had his Day in the Sun.