Buddy Benches honor legacy of fallen soldier, former BC student


Service. Sacrifice. Remembrance.

All three were at the forefront of a ceremony held Friday, June 7 at Elsmere Elementary School as a new Buddy Bench was formally unveiled at the school.

The bench honors former Elsmere student and BC grad Shawn Martin, a U.S. Marine who was killed in action in June 2007 in Iraq. The buddy bench is a place to sit and chat with friends new and old.

Shawn Martin attended Elsmere Elementary School in the 1980s and graduated from Bethlehem High School in 1995. The dedication ceremony included students and staff at the school and featured singing by students, raising of the flag in front of the school and finally, a ceremonial ribbon cutting. The school also invited retired teachers who knew Shawn Martin as an Elsmere student.

Watch coverage of the Elsmere Buddy Bench dedication on News 10 WTEN.

Shawn’s mother, Dawn Martin, and her family donated the bench to the school through an organization they formed in Shawn’s honor. Since 2010, Uncle Shawn’s Hugs has donated more than 9,000 blankets as comfort to those in need. Now, Martin and Uncle Shawn’s Hugs is focusing on providing buddy benches to schools in the area. 

“He was a friend to many and he loved helping others,” Dawn Martin said in describing her son Shawn.

Thanks to the Martin family’s generosity, all five BC elementary schools have new buddy benches.

Principal Kloss told the students gathered that when he was at Elsmere, Shawn Martin “was the kind of person who looked out for others, always shared a smile and worked hard. He was someone who liked people and who people liked.

“Our bench here is a place where new friendships can be forged, where old friends can gather, and where kindness can flourish, just as Shawn would have wanted.”

Martin was also remembered at the ceremony by his former classmate Meredith Moriarty, who graduated with Martin as part of the BCHS class of 1995. Moriarty currently serves as vice president of the BCSD Board of Education.