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Army Spc. Martin J. La Mar, 43, Sacramento

Soldier is fatally shot by an Iraqi soldier he was training. His love of the military dated to his childhood.

March 21, 2011|Martha Groves

Martin J. La Mar grew up hunting and fishing and playing G.I. Joe with best buddy Brad Michel in Roseville, near Sacramento. They called each other "brother" and each other's mothers "Mom."

La Mar disliked his first name, so Michel and other pals obliged with a teasing moniker that ended up sticking into adulthood.

"We called him Mickey Mouse because he kind of had big ears," Michel said. "That was his name as far as he was concerned. He never introduced himself as anything but Mick or Mickey."

Army Spc. La Mar, 43, of Sacramento was scheduled to return in mid-January from Mosul, Iraq, to his base at Ft. Hood, Texas. Soon after, he expected to see his infant daughter, Sofia, who was born in October, for the first time. Instead, La Mar was ordered to stay in Iraq for a couple of extra weeks to train Iraqi soldiers in preparation for a visit by U.S. and Iraqi generals.

On Jan. 15, his wedding anniversary and the day he had originally planned to head for home, La Mar died of wounds suffered when he was shot by an Iraqi soldier he was training. Also killed was Sgt. Michael P. Bartley, 23, of Barnhill, Ill. The two men were assigned to the 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood.

From the time he was a boy, La Mar wanted to join the military, Michel said. La Mar's late stepfather, Kenny Rose, with whom he lived while growing up, worked as a civilian employee for McClellan Air Force Base and traveled for extended periods on military business.

During those periods, young Mick would often stay with the Michel family and go camping with them at a nearby reservoir. "He was very good-natured and loved hunting and fishing and baseball," said Marsha Michel, whom Mick considered a second mother. About three years ago, she said, La Mar and her son rebuilt the porch of her Roseville house.

La Mar attended Oakmont High School in Roseville and graduated from Foothill High School in Sacramento in 1985. He enlisted in the Marines in 1986 and served for six years, including in the first Gulf War. "I can almost guarantee it went back to the G.I. Joe days," Brad Michel said of his friend's love for the military. "He thought the Marines were tougher than everyone else."

Shy as a young man, La Mar gained confidence from being a Marine and missed the military life when he left to work as an electrician and a security guard for an armored truck company. In 2007, he joined the Army and had recently re-upped for seven more years, Michel said.

"He was a military man, and that was his state of mind for all of my memories," said Jessica Brooke La Mar, his oldest daughter.

Once stateside again, La Mar had hoped to be stationed at Ft. Carson in Colorado Springs, Michel said. "We were planning a big guided hunting trip somewhere," he said. It was one of the topics they discussed when La Mar called his best friend on Christmas Day.

"The last thing we got to say to each other," Michel said, "was 'Love you, bro.'"

La Mar, who was promoted posthumously to sergeant, was buried at St. Mary's Cemetery in Sacramento.

In addition to his daughters Jessica and Sofia, Martin's survivors include his wife, Josephine, of Ft. Hood; two other daughters, Brittney Conaway and Natalie La Mar; his son, Nicholas; his parents, Marti Walker and James La Mar; and his brother, sister and grandson.

martha.groves@latimes.com

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