When Sgt. Marcus Martin joined the South Dakota Army National Guard; he knew he was signing up to support his state and nation. What he didn't know, is he would one day provide support to his hometown community of Wanblee.
The mission: to deliver humanitarian aid in the form of timber to be used by his local Native American community for heating and ceremonial purposes.
Martin, a truck driver with the 152nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion from Pierre, grew up in Wanblee and got his first chance to directly help his hometown community as a part of the Golden Coyote training exercise's timber-haul mission – a joint operation with the National Guard, National Forest Service and Custer State Park.
The reception to come home in uniform was heartwarming, said Martin.
"This community has made a huge impact on my development as an individual and as a soldier," said Martin. "I am glad to come back to this community and show my support and give back to them for all the love they have showed me over the years."
Wanblee is just one of 10 timber drop-off points on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. 152nd CSSB provides the command and control of the mission with the help of the 2113th Transportation Company from Paducah, KY, which transports the timber. The goal of the timber-haul mission is to haul 97 loads of timber with the goal of 450-500 cords delivered to the ten sites.
Martin said it was a great mission that the Guard is conducting with the timber hauls.
"This is a huge blessing for the community," said Martin. "It is hard for the elderly to find enough fire wood to get them through the winter months."
Wanblee is in the Eagle Nest district, one of nine districts of the Oglala Sioux Tribe on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
Kim Conroy, a local resident, said that she was glad to see Martin back in the community.
"We are very proud of Marcus, he is one of the few that took the initiative to get out and join the military from our community," said Conroy. "It is always a great honor to see a young man come home and take pride in where he comes from."
The timber is hauled in on military semi-trucks and off-loaded near the community's center, so it is easily accessible for the whole district.
"We really appreciate the wood. Our community uses the wood for fences and burning at our traditional ceremonies as well as heating," Conroy said. "It saves the few trees we have in the area and its good commotion for the kids to see the big military trucks come into town."
Marian White Mouse, a local resident, said she was also glad to see Martin and the Guard bring timber into the community.
"It is such a big honor for us to have Marcus come back to our community," said White Mouse. "It means a lot to people around here that still burn wood for heating their homes. We don't have much timber around here that we can readily get access too."