Family, friends remember Maryland sailor who died in USS Fitzgerald collision

Personnel Specialist 1st Class Xavier Alec Martin, of Halethorpe, Md.


By MICHAEL BRICE-SADDLER | The Baltimore Sun (Tribune News Service) | Published: July 8, 2017

When faced with adversity, Navy sailor Xavier Martin of Halethorpe, Md. didn't have to search far for words of encouragement — they were tattooed on his wrist: "We Will Figure It Out."

He had adopted the simple mantra from his father, Darrold Martin, who used it to reassure his son that they could overcome any challenge together. Darrold, who had raised Xavier as a single parent since Xavier was 10, even got a tattoo to match his son's.

But last month, the elder Martin faced one of the greatest challenges any parent could experience. His 24-year-old son was killed when his ship, the USS Fitzgerald, collided with a container ship off the Japanese coast.

Martin was one of seven U.S. sailors to die in the June 17 collision. His body was returned to Maryland on June 29.

On Friday, Darrold Martin was joined by friends and family at the Vaughn Greene Funeral Home in Randallstown to mourn his son and celebrate his accomplishments.

Xavier Martin was remembered for his selfless nature, professionalism and infectious smile.

"Maybe it was his smile that lit up the entire room or his outgoing personality," said Lt. Col. Stephen Vile, who knew Martin and was friends with his father. "I just knew there was something special about him."

Upon graduating from Lansdowne High School in 2010, Martin earned an internship at the National Security Agency. He then enlisted in the Navy, hoping to follow in the footsteps of his father, who served four years in the Navy.

Vile commended Martin's ability to quickly move up the naval ranks. Martin was the youngest petty officer with a rank of first class aboard the USS Fitzgerald, and was able to reach grade E-6 in less than five years — which is considered a rare military achievement.

Martieze Brockington, who met Martin when they were in elementary school, said their friendship blossomed into a brotherhood.

The last conversation Brockington had with Martin was about how proud they were of each other, he said.

"Growing up from where I'm from, there are a lot of people who aren't happy for your success," Brockington said. "Seeing the pure joy in his eye when I shared my success with him was just one of a kind."

Others commented on the close relationship Darrold Martin shared with his son, who wanted to be just like him. One mentioned their matching tattoos, which they got just this year.

Martin's cousin, Yvette Daniels, said Darrold and Xavier demonstrated what a bond between a father and son "is supposed to be."

"You mirrored your dad, and you could not have picked a better man to mirror," Daniels said about Xavier.

Gov. Larry Hogan, U.S. Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin, and National Security Agency Director Michael S. Rodgers were among many officials to share their condolences through cards written to Martin's family, some of which were read at the service.

The Rev. Charlton Chance, who eulogized Martin, said Darrold told him Xavier strove for excellence and was always prepared — so much so that he learned how to properly salute and memorized the Sailor's Creed before he joined the Navy.

Xavier Martin "had a transcendent purpose in life," Chance said. "He didn't want life to be all about him, he wanted it to be something bigger than himself,"

Martin's burial will take place at 3 p.m. Aug. 9 at Arlington National Cemetery. Guests are asked to arrive by 2:15 p.m..

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