Houston resident David Martin holds the framed certificate he was presented last week for being named 2011 Employee of the Year for the South Central Correctional Center in Licking.

David Martin of Houston was named South Central Correctional Center Employee of the Year for 2011 at the prison’s annual awards ceremony last Thursday in Licking.

A Corrections Officer I, Martin became eligible for the award after being chosen by his peers as Employee of the Month last April. After monthly award winners were each honored individually at the awards ceremony, they lined up in front of the large gathering in attendance not knowing who warden Michael Bowersox and other prison brass had chosen as the yearly award winner by. Bowersox then called Martin’s name.

“You could have knocked me over with a feather,” Martin said. “I didn’t expect it at all. I just did my job.”

After retiring from a 21-year career with the United States Air Force, Martin came to Houston in 1995 and has now worked at the prison for 13 years. His father was originally from Houston and spent 23 years with the Air Force. Having all that time with ties to the Air Force has led Martin to live in many locations and see numerous parts of the world.

“I’ve been all over the place,” he said, “from Saudi Arabia to Thule, Greenland. I grew up everywhere from Alaska to Florida.”

Martin was also one of nine prison employees to receive a Lifesaver Award at last week’s ceremony. He earned that honor by saving an offender’s life on Dec. 27, 2010.

Martin was scheduled to work the prison yard that day, but was instead covering a housing unit.

“I wasn’t even my wing,” he said. “But you know when the hair on the back of your neck stands up and you know something’s not right? That’s how I felt. I walked that wing and noticed the individual’s door shut, and knocked and got no response. I opened the door with my keys and saw him hanging.”

The offender had fashioned a noose by braiding together electric cords.

“He was blue and basically dead,” Martin said. “I called for backup, and held him up while someone cut him down. I did CPR – with the help of another officer – and the offender is walking in the institution right now.

“He thanked me later. I didn’t approach him – he came to me and said he had had a bad time in his life and he thanked me for it.”

Martin will now be considered for Employee of the year recognition within the entire Missouri Department of Corrections.

“I’m very humbled by this,” Martin said, “but I’m very proud of it. I’ve been doing this a long time now, and I approach it with the same professionalism and pride that I did during almost 21 years in the military.”

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