Since her son was killed in Iraq nearly five years ago, Jan Martin has been the recipient of kindness and support from friends and family members, but it was the actions of a stranger that may have touched her most.

Pfc. David Martin, of Edmond, was killed by an improvised explosive device in Iraq on Oct. 31, 2005. Martin was a member of the Army’s 101st Airborne Division. As the five-year anniversary of his death approaches, Jan Martin never expected a stranger to honor her son Saturday at the Redman Triathlon at Lake Hefner.

Kelii Rain, 39, a former Oklahoma City resident and University of Central Oklahoma student who lives in Haslet, Texas, competed in the triathlon carrying a special flag honoring David Martin for the marathon portion of the event. The flag has Martin’s name on it and the date of his death. It was purchased from honorandremember.org, a group started by the father of a soldier killed in Iraq.

Rain wrote the Martins a letter informing them of his plans before the event.

“I remember reading his obituary and there was just something about David that I identified with,” Rain said.

The Martins were surprised to receive his letter.

“As a Gold Star mom it really touched my heart,” Jan Martin said. “He was a total stranger to us and the fact he would do this is something we won’t ever forget.”

Rain had planned to compete in last year’s Redman but suffered an injury while training. He kept the flag for a year though he was unsure what the Martins reaction would be.

“I asked my mother what she would think if someone did this for me,” Rain said. “I didn’t want the Martins thinking, ‘Who is this guy?’ My mom said she would be honored so I contacted them.”

David Martin and Rain have plenty in common. David Martin loved kayaking, running and mountain climbing. Rain also is athletic and patriotic. He considered joining the military after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

“David would have thought this was so nice and fitting, a real American thing to do,” Jan Martin said.

Rain has honored several Texas soldiers at triathlon events there. After he completed the Redman, he presented the flag to the Martins.

And that simple gesture is something that warmed Jan Martin’s heart during her family’s long journey through grief and recovery.

“This war will end eventually but for us it will be eternal,” Jan Martin said. “We can never replace our son. But when someone honors him this way you can’t help but feel humbled.”

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