98-year-old veteran who served in three wars had always wanted to visit KIA plant, so KIA made it happen

Published 2:11 pm Wednesday, March 22, 2023

When the announcement came that Kia Corporation would build a plant in West Point, Georgia, the news spread throughout the state – including in Stovall, Georgia, where Render Martin read about it in his local newspaper.

Martin, an Army veteran and survivor of three wars, was 81-years-old when the plant announcement came in 2006, and he said to himself that he sure would like to see how Kia vehicles are made.

“I read about it, and I heard people talking about it,” Martin said of the Kia facility. “I also saw the Kia cars (on the road), and I knew that Kia made pretty cars, and I wanted to see how they were made.”

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As the years went on, Martin’s health declined, and he wasn’t able to make it to the plant once it was announced that the public could come in for tours. Then, of course, COVID-19 shut down the world for a couple years and everything was put on hold.

Martin, who is now 98-years-old, kept up with news about Kia Georgia, and he recently renewed his interest to visit.

When his care team at the Trinka Davis Veterans Village in Carrollton heard about Martin’s wish, one of them contacted his uncle — an engineer in Kia Georgia’s general assembly production area — and the team at Kia set about making Martin’s visit one he would not forget.

Kia veterans from several production shops and departments at Kia lined up to greet Martin, who was wheeled in by his caretakers, wearing his favorite cowboy hat. The smile on his face as the team members thanked him for his service was immeasurable.

“It was more than a pleasure to meet Mr. Martin and thank him for all he’s done for our country, and to show him what we do here at Kia,” said Vicki Taylor, a group leader from the general assembly shop at Kia Georgia.

Martin served in World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam War. He shed a tear as he described to Kia’s CEO Stuart Countess how he was grateful to have made it through so many wars: “I just prayed to the Lord to keep me safe,” he said.

Martin said the tour at Kia Georgia lived up to his expectations.

“It was excellent,” he said. “I enjoyed all of it. I have never been to one place in my life where everybody looks so happy and content, and that made me feel really good.”

Countess said Kia’s tour program was designed to bring about special moments like the one experienced by Martin.

“Over the years, we’ve had plenty of visitors to tour our facility,” Countess said, “and Render Martin’s visit is one that we won’t forget. We are glad he chose to visit our plant and that he holds our products and team members in such high regard.”

Martin is married and has two daughters — one who lives in New Jersey and one lives in Philadelphia. His caretakers at the VA village said he had talked for a while about visiting the plant, and they were excited that his wishes were granted. Martin said he was excited as well.

“The Kia team is doing an excellent job from what I saw,” Martin said. “Everybody had a smile on their faces and was happy.”

Martin said his favorite Kia vehicle is the Telluride — exclusively built at the Kia Georgia plant.

“I hope to have the opportunity to come back again,” Martin said.

Joy Johnston, Kia’s tour coordinator, said her team was happy to have hosted such a special visitor.

“I think he made our day more than we made his,” she said.