Ex-Giant Martin on journey to help workers at Ground Zero

PHOENIX -- Last September, former New York Giants defensive end George Martin began a journey on foot from New York to San Diego.

Martin started the cross-country trek in order to raise money to provide health care for rescue and recovery workers who worked at Ground Zero after the attacks on September 11, 2001. A Journey for 9/11 was born.

As of Thursday, on the eve of Memorial Day weekend, he's 2,684 miles into his journey and with nearly $2 million in his coffers so far, firefighters as well as policemen and women from across the state of Arizona gathered at the Hall of Flame Fire Museum in Phoenix to say thank you.

"I lost a lot of friends on 9/11, and I've lost some friends who worked at Ground Zero," said Tom Brock, who used to work as a police officer outside of Giants stadium and now resides in Arizona. He convinced the team at A Journey for 9/11 to change its route through the state and then worked tirelessly to organize the ceremony at the sprawling 35,000 square foot museum.

"How can you not support him walking across the United States for people he really doesn't even know?," Brock asked.

One former NYPD officer Martin now knows is lifelong Giants fan Joe Brodsky, who retired in Arizona nearly 30 years ago. Martin's project is one the 70-year-old Brodsky takes very seriously.

Brodsky returned to New York in September 2001 to attend the U.S. Open tennis championships. A day after the tournament ended, he was waist deep in debris helping with the rescue effort at Ground Zero. He and his colleagues sifted through rubble while inhaling dust, particles and chemicals from more than 200 fallen stories. Their paper masks were useless and no respirators were on hand for three days.

Since his return to Arizona, Brodsky has relied on inhalers and he's been on and off Prednisone, a powerful medicine that helps his respiratory problems. Unfortunately, he also had to give up tennis. He has had to spend $11,000 more than what his insurance would pay for treatment, and later this month he will make his yearly visit to New York's Cedar-Sinai Medical Center to get more care.

To people like Brodsky, Martin is a hero for leaving his family and job behind to help others.

"George Martin's done a lot of good things for a lot of people," Brodsky said. "He's always been interested in doing the right thing."

But Martin feels a bit uncomfortable with all the praise. He was joined on stage at the ceremony by ex-NFL players Larry Wilson , Lionel Manuel , Stacy Robinson and Harry Carson . Martin said the firefighters, not former NFL stars, should be on stage, being recognized for what they do every day.

"You are our heroes," Martin said, addressing the crowd of about 200. "Never once, not once, were we asked to put our lives on the line. Not once. In my humble opinion, that does not rise to the level of being heroic."

Carson, who flew in Thursday morning from New York for the ceremony, respectfully stated that his former teammate should reconsider his definition of a hero.

"Don't sell yourself short, George," he said. "You are very much a hero and very much a role model." Carson said Martin's trip across America was the most unselfish act he'd ever witnessed.

Indeed, everyone in attendance seemed to agree with Carson.

They all waited patiently to have pictures taken with Martin, shake his hand and finally thank him for his effort.

"You can always read a sign or a shirt that says 'we'll never forget,'" Brock said after the ceremony. "George has not forgotten."

Martin invited Brock, who was injured in the line of duty and has undergone 11 surgeries, to walk the last mile with him when he reaches the finish line in San Diego, on or around June 21.

"I can't walk very well with all the surgeries," he said. "But you couldn't stop me."

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