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Army Spc. Chase Marta, 24, of Yuba City is killed in Afghanistan

Chase Marta found his calling in life when he joined the Army, his mother says. Family and friends remember a kind, admirable man with a gentle soul.

August 19, 2012|By Melissa Leu, Los Angeles Times
  • Army Spc. Chase Marta was “the guy you can go to for anything,” said Taylor Silva, his fiancee and high school sweetheart.
Army Spc. Chase Marta was “the guy you can go to for anything,”… (handout, unknown )

When an elderly man dropped his tray on the floor in a McDonald's, it was a young Chase Marta — about 7 years old at the time — who raced to pick up the contents and toss it into a bin before the man could be embarrassed in front of others.

More than a decade later, the boy's mother still remembers how proud she was of her son that day, and how proud she is of him still.

"He was just a very kind, soft-hearted, considerate kid," said his mother, Karyn Stone. "He wasn't just a soldier. He was a good person. We lost a good person."

Army Spc. Chase Marta, 24, of Yuba City, Calif., was killed May 7 in the Ghazni province of Afghanistan by a roadside bomb. He and two others — Sgt. Jacob Schwallie, 22, of Clarksville, Tenn., and Pfc. Dustin Gross, 19, of Jeffersonville, Ky. — died from blast-related injuries.

Marta was part of the 3rd Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. He was only six weeks into his first deployment and had just been promoted to specialist, family members said.

Born and raised in Yuba City, Marta graduated from Yuba City High School in 2006. He was never the best student, but he was smart. He had options, his mother said; he just didn't know what he wanted to do with them. He spent a few years at various colleges and worked a short stint at the local post office, but nothing stood out to him.

Then Marta found his calling: the Army.

He finally discovered his passion, Stone said. "Every picture that I had of him, when he was in uniform, he was happy. He would have made a career of it."

From the beginning, Marta wanted to be a paratrooper. He was a military history buff who loved the idea of being where the action was, said David Fishback, a close family friend. Despite scoring high enough on his aptitude test to go into other occupations, Marta enlisted as infantry in October 2010.

The night before his deployment, Marta went to a local shooting range with Fishback, who had taught Marta how to handle his first gun, and another friend. Over several months of boot camp and training, Marta had become quite a good shot, Fishback said.

"I used to be someone he looked up to," said Fishback, who was 16 years older than Marta. "But by the time he went to Afghanistan, I actually had so much admiration for what he was doing that I looked up to him."

Stone was home with her husband when two men in uniform knocked on the door. It was 11 days before her daughter's wedding.

"Unfortunately, it's just exactly like the movies," Stone said, holding back tears. "There's nothing anyone can do or say, because he'll never come home."

Fiancee and high school sweetheart Taylor Silva, 21, was devastated. Marta had proposed to her three days before he joined the Army. It wasn't until the night before he left for Afghanistan that she said yes, and it wasn't until he died that she told anyone. The couple wanted to keep their engagement a secret until after the wedding of Marta's sister.

"Everyone's going to remember him for being this great Army guy, and he was," Silva said. "But to me … I remember him so much more when we were together."

She remembers the boyfriend, who drove her to school every day when she didn't have her license; the friend, who would stay by her side at parties because he knew she was shy; and the love of her life, who would take her out to stare at the stars.

"He's the guy you can go to for anything," Silva said. "Just kind."

Marta was posthumously awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge and Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Army Good Conduct medals.

When his body was brought back to Yuba City, thousands lined the streets to welcome him home. Strangers stood outside their houses holding flags and saluting as the procession drove past.

"It's like an oxymoron," Stone said. "He was very, very proud of what he was doing, and he was also a gentle soul. I don't know how he should be remembered other than he was doing what he felt like was the right thing to do."

melissa.leu@latimes.com

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