In Iraq, fellow Marines nicknamed him "Oprah" because he was so good at listening to people's problems. It was a trait he developed in childhood.
Martino also had a playful side. In September, after learning that high school pal Scott Tarlo had to pay $130,000 in estate taxes after the death of a parent, Martino told him the sum would pay for one of the Hellfire missiles carried by his helicopter. A few weeks later, Tarlo received a photo of Martino next to a missile painted with Tarlo's name and the message, "USMC thanks you."
Born in 1973 on the Marshall Islands, where his parents worked as military contractors, Martino was the youngest of three children. When he was 8, the family moved to Irvine.
At Woodbridge High School he joined the football team and was nicknamed "Flea" for his small size and tenacious play.
After college, he signed up as a Marine and eventually was assigned to a light-attack helicopter squadron based at Camp Pendleton.
Thursday, November 3, 2011
Michael D. Martino, 32