Every summer, since around 2002, the Louisiana Bombers Fast Pitch team, has dedicated their season to a military hero.
Yesterday, at their double header in Alexandria, Leesville student, Isabella Houck, 14, presented a shadow box to the family of Sgt. James Edward Martin; the hero of the season.
The LA Bombers wore Martin jerseys every time they had a Sunday game this summer, and also yesterday for the ceremony.
Earlier this year, Martin's remains were brought to Vernon Parish where he was laid to rest, after decades of being registered as missing in action, and later found but unidentified.
Martin was born on May 23, 1931 in Anacoco to Felton Glen and Meldredge Peace Martin. He graduated from Anacoco High School and, in 1949, enlisted in the United States Army. He died serving in the 31st Infantry in North Korea.
It was not until 2001 when Martin's remains were finally found on the eastern bank of the Chosin Reservoir, Changjin County, North Korea. The remains were not positively identified until April 2016.
To identify Martin’s remains, scientists from Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used circumstantial and anthropological evidence, including dental and chest radiograph comparison, as well as DNA analysis, including mitochondrial DNA, which matched two sisters.
Head coach, Erica Hardwell, and Houck both explained to the Martin family, and audience, why this tradition is meaningful to them.
"This organization makes an impact by choosing to teach our kids about those who serve us, so that we can play softball," said Hardwell. "It's all about perspective, respect and making choices that are sometimes bigger than me and you."
Houck presented the shadow box award to Ronnie Martin, James Martin's uncle, and flowers to Ronnie's wife, Vickie Martin. "From a player's perspective, to play with purpose, it means everything to know people lay their lives down for us every day, so we may have the freedom to play," she said.
The shadow box contains memorabilia such as a jersey, purple heart ribbon, and rank and branch pins.
Luke Houck, Isabella's father, said, "It's different this year because Martin is a local hero. The girls voted on this."