His KISS James Martin’s love for the band’s music lands him a unique opportunity
In between rocking all night and partying every day, hall-of-fame rock band KISS took time to honor veterans at its Aug. 19 performance on the Grandstand at the Iowa State Fair.
Among those honored was former Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class James Martin, who got more than just a meet-and-greet with the group.
Martin was selected by Hiring Our Heroes to be the band’s “Roadie for a Day” in support of the show, part of the KISS North American Freedom to Rock Tour.
Martin has been a fan for most of his life. He said he has collected albums since his childhood.
“I was introduced to them (KISS) young,” he remembers.
A grade-school friend in Keokuk first made him aware of the band’s greatness.
“In elementary school, we used to get out the old turntable, the old vinyl albums, and we put on ‘KISS Alive,’ ” he said.
Martin brought along the books he owned that were written by various band members, to get them autographed along with the old albums he cherishes. He still has a turntable to listen to his old vinyl.
Martin is also a fan of the opening act, The Dead Daisies, and he brought a photo of the band from when he’d seen them while serving overseas in Europe.
“I thought it was a great picture,” he said. “I blew it up to an 8×10, and they all signed it.”
Martin said during his time in the military, KISS was part of his playlist. He served in Desert Storm/Desert Shield as an operations specialist.
“You know in the movies when there’s that dark room with all the radars and lights and stuff like that? I was one of those guys, watching the radars,” he said.
Martin recalls a time he sat in dark room with radar blinking and beeping and the radius spinning for 72 straight hours.
“Sometimes we’d listen to music, and some of those songs were KISS songs,” said Martin, who served from late 1987-1991. “A lot of that music is motivating music. It has heavy riffs, and it’s music that really gets your blood pumping.”
KISS’ military appreciation wasn’t just reserved for the Des Moines show.
“KISS donated $150,000 to the organization ‘Hiring Our Heroes,’ ” explains Martin. “The KISS Roadie for a day treatment wasn’t a one-time thing for KISS — they do this at every tour stop. They set a very high standard when it comes to military appreciation.”
And being part of the military set the standards high for Martin. After graduating high school, his friends left for college, but he didn’t have the means.
“I made the decision to go into the United States Navy,” he said, adding that he’s glad he did. “It made me independent. It turned me from a young adult to a man.”
Martin traveled around the world during his tenure in the military, making stops in Rome, Israel, Greece and Spain among other places.
“I made lifelong friends,” he said. “Those connections and experiences are priceless.”
After the military, Martin enrolled in college. He currently has a job he loves as claims manager at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage and credits his time in the military for the life lessons that have helped him succeed.
“Perseverance and a foundation of discipline and hard work; people will see that, and you’ll get what you want or get to where you are supposed to be if you work hard and show people what you can do,” he said. “I went in as the very lowest in the military. I was an E-1. And I become an E-5, a second-class petty officer. And it was through hard work and showing people what you can do. Those are lifelong lessons you learn in the military.”
And now, he’s started at the bottom again, as a roadie for KISS.
“Only for a day,” he cautions and laughs. “You never say never, but if I was a roadie, I would want to be a roadie for the best rock and roll band ever, KISS. You wanted the best? You got the best — KISS. How about that?”