McALESTER, Okla --Looking in the rearview mirror of life, JW Martin is the first to tell you, he probably shouldn’t be here. The OSP correctional officer was mauled by an attack dog during a training exercise in 1978. Martin recalled, “I thought I was gonna die, blood running everywhere. My nose and my throat, I couldn’t stop it. I thought my time had come, Sir. And it probably would have if John hadn’t been here.”
John Charles Wood was an inmate serving 20 to 60 years.
Wood was a Vietnam veteran, all too familiar with critical injuries and improvised triage. Wood said, “I was in the infantry of the Marine Corp. I was there 66’ and 67’, the hottest time of the war. I dealt with a lot of the patching people up and getting them in a safe place.”
The inmate loaded Martin up and plowed through the prison gate en route to the nearest hospital. Wood told us, “I got him in the truck and I we took off. We had to run that front gate out there because the guy was bleeding to death ya know? We almost got shot there.”
John’s heroics earned him a medal and early release, but also death threats from other inmates. According to Martin, “At that time I was running a work gang and lots of them didn’t want to work and we had to kindly help them a little bit, counsel them some That’s the ones after him.’
John left Oklahoma after his release. He’s been drug-free for 20 years – living with a new purpose. “Prison was where I first read the bible.” Wood said, “I had never read the bible before. I didn’t know what was in there and I decided I was going to give my life to Jesus. And let him handle things because I was doing a lousy job.”
Rumors of his death were greatly exaggerated. It took six months of searching but we finally found him, alive and well in Michigan. Martin called him, “If you get down in Oklahoma, drop by and see me, Sir. And if I get to Michigan I’ll sure hunt you up.”
A lifelong friendship – forged in an unlikely place. Wood said, “I’m really glad to hear from him and we’re gonna do something before I kick the bucket. He’s gonna outlive me.” Martin Added, “Me and him will be friends just as long as I live if I’ve got anything to do with it.”