Charlotte Martin said she very nearly grieved herself to death after losing her 26-year-old son Keith Martin when he drowned while fishing in February 1997. Since then, she has reached out to at least a couple of thousand parents who have also lost sons and daughters, many of which were sent off to war.
Martin said she is able to sympathize with them because she lost her son as well. Most of the parents she reaches out to mostly want a shoulder to cry on and someone with whom to commiserate, she added.
Shortly after losing her son, she said she received poor treatment from her peers. “People made terrible fun of me, mocked me, ridiculed me … people said, ‘Can you believe how crazy she is,’” said Martin.
She has also made several DVDs that are primarily aimed at the friends of such parents, to show them that what those parents need after such a devastating loss. One of the reasons this is so important, Martin said, is because the parents – especially widows – of lost sons and daughters are often discriminated against.
“Their families often try to keep them out of their inheritance, they lose their homes, and they are pushed to the very margins of society,” Martin said.
Martin started making videos to be shown at local churches about six or seven years ago as a way of making public aware of the problems that grieving parents often face, as she thought churches would be the most open to the message she was bringing. She said that between 75 and 85 percent of bereaved parents drop out of church.
“I went to a yard sale and bought a $30 dilapidated camera and just started filming,” Martin said. “I probably had six or seven hours of footage. I planned to have someone speak for a few minutes, and they would talk for an hour, and it would be the hardest thing for me to do to pare it down.”
She has produced several such videos to date. The first pastor she wanted to talk to about this project was “put off” by the idea, but other pastors warmed to it.
For her outreach to grieving parents, Martin was nominated in 2009 as the state finalist from Kentucky for the Above & Beyond Citizen Honor – now known as the Citizen Service Before Self Honor – an honor given out given out by the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation.
She didn’t win that year, but she said she was honored to be nominated and recognized.
“I’m hoping that three people who actually got the [award] got more attention,” said Martin.
She was invited by the Pentagon to the area in February 2009 – almost 12 years to the day of her son’s death.
Originally from Owensboro, Martin lives near Lake Barkley in Kuttawa with seven-year-old Brian, whom she has taken in as a son. She said that as soon as she first saw the house she currently lives in on July 4, she saw it as a great place to have support groups for grieving parents.