Bellevue soldier honored on reality TV show

BELLEVUE "Rock of Love Bus wit
Cory Frolik
May 24, 2010

BELLEVUE

"Rock of Love Bus with Bret Michaels" isn't known for its sentimentality.

The VH1 reality television series pits scantily-clad women with enhanced cleavage against one another in sexually-charged games as they try to win the heart of the lead singer in the 1980s hair band, Poison.

Most episodes involve silly debauchery.

Michaels is the playful ringmaster of the circus, encouraging naughty behavior at every turn.

But 39 minutes into Sunday's episode, Michaels didn't feel much like partying.

Word that Sgt. Jon Martin of Bellevue was killed in Iraq reached Michaels, and the rock star was devastated.

Michaels spent three weeks getting to know Martin, 33, and his company while in Kuwait.

Sunday's episode captured Michaels' emotions as he processed the loss.

A letter the rock star received on camera told him Martin died Nov. 22 from injuries he suffered from a roadside bomb. Sadness creeps into Michaels' eyes and voice.

"Oh wow dude, this is, ugh ..." Michaels said, trailing off. "He had three little kids."

A 1993 graduate of Bellevue High School, Martin grew up on the metal of the 1980s. He loved Metallica and cheered them on at their concerts, but he also adored Poison.

So when Michaels visited the Middle East to perform in October 2007, Martin lunged at the opportunity to rock out with him. Martin was serving his third tour of duty in Iraq, and Michaels was playing at Camp Buehring.

"It was just a matter of time before he got up on stage," said Martin's sister, Heather Bollinger.

Martin crowd surfed to the front. Then he climbed to the stage, and someone handed him his rifle.

He played his rifle like a guitar as Michaels sang "Nothin' But A Good Time" -- Poison's first single from its second album.

Martin made a strong impression on Michaels, and they hung out for the three weeks Michaels was overseas.

Bollinger said her brother got to know the real Bret Michaels -- a sweet guy, not the larger-than-life celebrity seen each week on VH1.

She said his true colors showed through in Sunday's episode.

"I thought it was tastefully put together," Bollinger said Monday. "I thought it was a good tribute to my brother under the circumstances. To be able to know that Jon was being recognized on something like that is an honor, once you get past the silly stuff."

After learning of Martin's death, Michaels autographed a photo of himself and Martin on stage in Kuwait and sent it to Bollinger. He also sent signed drumsticks and other items.

Martin's children own a "Guitar Hero" plastic guitar controller autographed by Michaels.

Bollinger hopes to meet Michaels at his concert in Detroit in March.