Barry McNamara  |  Published December 15, 2023

Rolling Along in the Army

Martinez-Urbina ’23 commissioned as second lieutenant in Monmouth College ceremony.

MONMOUTH, Ill. – Back in May, Alexander Martinez-Urbina of Round Lake Beach, Illinois, was listed in the program for Monmouth College’s 166th Commencement Exercises, along with nearly 200 other members of the Class of 2023.

NEWLY COMMISSIONED: Alexander Martinez-Urbina is congratulated on his achievement by Lt. Col. Mark Christiansen, commander ... NEWLY COMMISSIONED: Alexander Martinez-Urbina is congratulated on his achievement by Lt. Col. Mark Christiansen, commander of the Leatherneck Battalion.But on Dec. 14, he had a printed program all to himself as the lone student receiving his formal commission as a second lieutenant in the United States Army.

The ceremony for Martinez-Urbina was held in the Veterans Memorial Great Room in the College’s Center for Science and Business and marked the completion of his Reserve Officers’ Training Corps instruction.

“ROTC trains and educates officers,” said Lt. Col. Mark Christiansen in his remarks at the ceremony. “The process forges officers.”

Direction and dedication

A professor of military science, Christiansen assumed command of Western Illinois University’s Leatherneck Battalion earlier this year. Several of the battalion’s cadets were part of the crowd of around 50 people at the ceremony. Many members of Martinez-Urbina’s family were also present, including his younger brother, Jonathan.

Martinez-Urbina’s first salute was given to his brother, who enlisted in the Air Force after graduating from high school.

“That came as a shock to me, because I thought he was going to go to a community college, but he told me he needed that direction,” said Martinez-Urbina. “I leaned a lot on him. For part of the time, he was stationed in Okinawa, and we had many late-night phone calls, where he gave me a lot of good direction.”

“I didn’t think I’d be able to do it, but (communications studies professor) Trudi Peterson was my adviser, and she kept me focused throughout that tough time. I considered stopping, but she kept my head straight. She’s my cornerstone.” – Alexander Martinez-Urbina

On campus, Martinez-Urbina didn’t hesitate when asked about the direction he received. The toughest part, he said, came during COVID, when needing to go online for his military training almost broke his spirit.

“I didn’t think I’d be able to do it, but (communications studies professor) Trudi Peterson was my adviser, and she kept me focused throughout that tough time,” he said. “I considered stopping, but she kept my head straight. She’s my cornerstone.”

Martinez-Urbina also gave special thanks to Peterson’s communication studies colleague Shweta Srivastava and music faculty member Tom Clark, who worked with him in the Concert Choir. He’s also taken private lessons online from rock guitarist Page Hamilton.

Discovery and discipline

Monmouth College first got on Martinez-Urbina’s radar through athletics and the presence of ROTC.

“I’d been looking around for colleges with an ROTC program, and Monmouth was one of the few in Illinois that had it,” said Martinez-Urbina, a runner who was recruited by former Fighting Scots cross country and track coach Jon Welty. “I came to campus for a visit and loved it. I felt it would be conducive to my growth, and we talked about the growth mindset in my ILA (‘Introduction to Liberal Arts’) class my freshman year.”

“I had to go down to WIU a lot. That means waking up really early to drive down for PT. Waking up at 4:30 a.m. was always a bummer, but it taught me discipline.” – Alexander Martinez-Urbina

It took Martinez-Urbina four-and-a-half years to reach his goal, but the challenge was worth it.

“I had to go down to WIU a lot,” he said. “That means waking up really early to drive down for PT. Waking up at 4:30 a.m. was always a bummer, but it taught me discipline.”

The chemical officer is now in a seven-year contract with the Army, and he’ll eventually be stationed at Fort Leonard Wood in south-central Missouri. Since 2000, it has been home to the Army Engineer, Chemical and Military Police Schools.

“I enlisted in the National Guard in 2021 and was assigned that job,” he said of his work with the 135th Chemical Company out of the Machesney Park (Illinois) Armory. “I learned a lot about it – it’s fascinating.”

The timing of what Cadet Cora Gregersen called in her invocation “the next step in his service to this country” is still unclear, so Martinez-Urbina plans to be a substitute teacher until he receives his orders. That could come as early as January or as late as May.

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