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‘It touches my heart’: Veterans offer support for recruit’s family after deadly crash

By Zachary Hansen, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution #atlanta-ga

Despite moving to Georgia from California three years ago, a 19-year-old had her foreseeable future planned out.

Savanna Joyce Martin graduated last year from Cass High School in Cartersville with honors, enlisted in the National Guard and was weeks away from beginning basic training. She had a boyfriend she loved, a family who supported her and a tight-knit group of friends.

However, all of those plans were cut short after a night of shooting pool in Cherokee County with her friends turned tragic.

“My daughter was a wonderful person inside and out,” Richard Martin Sr. told “She was very much in love with her boyfriend. She had plans for her life, and she was stripped of that.”

On Aug. 22 about 11:30 p.m., the pickup truck Savanna Martin was riding in hydroplaned and struck a tree, ejecting the young woman from the vehicle. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

ExploreCops: Teen killed after suspected DUI driver crashes into tree in Cherokee

While Martin had not completed basic training, she will receive a military funeral, the Georgia National Guard said. However, with many friends and family members on the other side of the country, her devastated parents posted a plea on Facebook, asking veterans in the area to show up for her services.

The response they got was overwhelming, Richard Martin said.

“There’s so many people already who are going to be there that we don’t know,” he said. “They’re just coming to support our daughter. It touches my heart.”

The post was made in a Facebook group for news in Bartow County, and it amassed more than 200 comments and 3,600 shares. Richard Martin’s wife, Kristian Martin, shared their daughter’s obituary as well, which received several hundred shares.

“We’re not used to that type of hospitality or love from people,” Richard Martin said. “It just blows our mind.”

He wasn’t sure how many veterans will show up, but he said it will include several veteran motorcycle clubs, with at least one coming from Alabama. They will ride in Savanna Martin’s honor.

“Most of them will show up to the funeral home with their motorcycle clubs, their vet motorcycle clubs, and they’re going to be there when the service is over to escort us to her final resting stop,” he said.

As for the driver of the pickup truck, he is under investigation by the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office following the deadly crash. The driver, a 19-year-old from Acworth, has not been charged but is suspected of driving under the influence, Capt. Jay Baker said. He said any charges will depend on pending toxicology results.

Richard Martin said he knows the young man, who is a friend of his daughter’s boyfriend. They were among a group of roughly 10 young adults who were playing billiards that August night.

Savanna Martin and her boyfriend were passengers in the pickup truck, and neither knew how intoxicated the driver was that night, according to Richard Martin. He said they found out when the young man hit another vehicle and kept driving.

The father said the two begged — to no avail — for the driver to stop before he pulled onto I-75 North. The crash happened soon after near the Priest Road overpass.

“(The driver) made a really bad choice that night,” Richard Martin said. “We heard that he was asked if he wanted to get a hold of us and give us condolences, and we heard he chose not to.”

He hopes his daughter gets justice.

Funeral services will begin at noon Saturday at Owen Funeral Home in Cartersville. A GoFundMe page has raised more than $7,600 for the family’s funeral expenses.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Savanna Martin would not receive a military funeral.

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