Martin H. Mahrt, Col USAF, Ret., “Headed West” on January 19, 2024.

Martin Harvey Mahrt passed away peacefully at his home on Thursday, January 19, 2024, surrounded by his family. Marty was born in Rapid City on November 6, 1933, and attended elementary and high school in Custer, SD.  He graduated from Notre Dame in 1955 and commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force.

Marty married his high school sweetheart, Colleen Wood, before entering his 30-year career in the Air Force as a fighter pilot. With more than 4,500 flying hours in the F-100, F-105 and F-4. Marty was shot down in enemy territory in North Vietnam in 1966 while flying his 102nd combat mission. A rescue ensued, the deepest of the war, and he always attributed his miraculous rescue to our Blessed Mother Mary.

In 1972 another assignment sent him to South Vietnam; he was there during the evacuation and fateful fall of Saigon.  It was at this time he gave Nyguen T. Sinh, a choice to join his family in the U.S.; she gratefully accepted and escaped the tragedy. Marty was one of the last U.S. service members on the ground, selflessly ensuring everyone’s safe evacuation. During his two tours of duty in Vietnam he received a Purple Heart, Distinguished Flying Cross, Legion of Merit medal, two Oak Leaf clusters and many other medals.

Marty’s legacy, however, was his last assignment. He launched the prestigious realistic combat training program for American fighter pilots and our allies and became the first commander of Red Flag at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. The program has trained more than 100,000 service members since its inception and continues to this day.

Marty and his wife, Colleen, moved at least 20 times during their 30 years in the service spanning across three countries. As his five children graduated college and married, Marty and Colleen fulfilled a long-held dream and retired in 1985 to his childhood Custer ranch where he farmed his land and raised horses.

He was an active member of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church as well as a member of the VFW.  He actively participated as a co-founder of Operation Black Hills Cabin which offers wounded veterans an all-expense paid vacation in the Black Hills. In 2016, he was presented the Rev. William Corby C.S.C. Award, by the University of Notre Dame Alumni Association, in recognition of his distinguished military service.

This wonderful, loving husband, daddy, grandpa, and great grandpa has left each of us with unique and wonderful memories to cherish always. He will be missed more than any words can ever hope to express. He was a very humble and honest man with much integrity. He loved the Lord, his country, and his family with all his heart, and he was an incredible role model.

He is survived by his wife of 68 years, Colleen R. (Wood), his brother Donald (Rosemary) Mahrt, his children, Debbie (George) Miner, Cheri (Mark) Ollila, Annie (Steve) Platek, Marty (Susan) Mahrt, and Kathleen (Mikal) Lewis and other family members.  He is survived by grandchildren, Kara (Michael) Schultz, Lt. Col. Brandon Scott, Joseph (Danielle) Platek, Kellie (Kyle) Kronberg, Thomas (Lindsey) Platek, Forrest Lewis, Grace (Ryan) Kienzle, Anna Lewis, Jonathan Lewis, David Lewis, seven great-grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews.

He is preceded in death by his parents, Harvey E. Mahrt and Anna S. (Mahrt) Orning; his sister, Anna Marie Warnke; and his grandson, Martin E. Platek.

A Vigil [was] held on Wednesday, January 24th and funeral services on Thursday, January 25th at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Custer. Military Honors and Burial [were] held at Black Hills National Cemetery in Sturgis, SD.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to: Marty Platek Memorial Football Scholarship at:

Or by mail to:
Heartland Credit Union
c/o of Marty Platek Memorial Fund
5500 South Roberts Trail
Inver Grove Heights, Minn. 55077

Obituary (edited) from

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