Offers of Help Pour in to Vet who Survived Robbery

The World War II veteran robbed at gunpoint in his Fresno home is now receiving offers of support from people who read about his harrowing experience.

Josef Martin, 92, had a gun shoved in his mouth when robbers broke into his east-central Fresno home in early hours Wednesday. He was then thrown into a closet before the robbers fled and he could call authorities.

The Fresno County Sheriff's Office is investigating the robbery, believed to have been carried out by four young people, whose identities were still unknown Thursday night.

Navy Petty Officer First Class Chris Martin heard of the robbery and felt compelled to do something.

Responsible for Navy recruiting in Clovis and parts of Fresno, Chris Martin reached out to local Navy, Air National Guard, Army and Marine colleagues and quickly formed an "army" of support.

In less than 24 hours, at least 60 people told him they'd help raise money for the veteran and do improvements and clean-up work at his East Lewis Avenue home. Several hundred dollars have already been pooled to replace money that was stolen from him.

Volunteers are being sought for a rat problem, yard work -- including tree removal -- painting, carpeting and helping better secure his home from intruders, Chris Martin said. To join their efforts, email christopher.d.martin@navy.mil or call (559) 352-7023.

"He's a true veteran from an era of America where they set the standard for everyone currently serving," he said. "We definitely believe they deserve much better and a lot of respect."

Monetary support even poured in Thursday from South Dakota. Kevin Speirs of Rapid City, retired from the Army National Guard, read Thursday's story on The Bee's website, www.fresnobee.com, and said "it just pulled at my heart to do something for him." He talked to Josef Martin and will send him $300.

Fresno County Supervisor Henry Perea is also reaching out to see what Josef Martin may need. Additionally, Perea plans to honor him at an upcoming supervisors meeting.

Renato and Crystal Garza with the Visalia Veterans Committee offered Josef Martin a place in their city's Veterans Day parade -- 10 a.m. Nov. 9 on downtown Main Street -- as an honorary WWII veteran grand marshal.

"Unfortunately this was not the ideal way for him to get recognized," the couple said, "but we just wanted to show Josef that he is not alone, and that no matter what war or age or gender, we are all one big force and no one ever gets left behind."

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