By David Perry
Marty Martinez looked out at the crowd of about 120 students, faculty and student veterans assembled for the university’s eighth annual Veterans Day flag raising ceremony. He saw more people than lived in his hometown of Boone, Colo.
“Seriously,” he said later of Boone, “one hundred people and a post office.” And his mom was mayor.
Martinez, a 1996 graduate in criminal justice, was one of four veterans inducted into the university’s Military Hall of Fame on Nov. 2. Against a backdrop of a 36-foot-by-20-foot American flag, speakers touted the work of the university’s Office of Veterans Services, which serves more than 1,200 student veterans, aiding them in everything from adjustment to civilian life to landing jobs after graduation.
UMass Lowell’s student-veteran population is the largest of any university in the state. For the sixth consecutive year, the Military Times newspaper named UML a “Best for Vets” school.
Chancellor Jacquie Moloney said student veterans enrich the university, bringing “unwavering determination, global insight and real-world problem-solving to our classrooms and campus.”
Moloney praised Veterans Services Director Janine Wert and her staff for their work on behalf of student veterans.
Besides Martinez, this year’s hall of fame inductees included a pair of 2015 UMass Lowell graduates: Michael Hubbard, a retired U.S. Army staff sergeant and Green Beret and a former aide to U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas, and Henry De Lima, also a retired Army sergeant.
Hubbard now works for the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, helping to build the country’s infrastructure. De Lima is a social worker in Lawrence helping children and families recover from the chaos and disarray following the city’s recent gas explosions.
Sgt. Maj. Josue Rojas is not an alum, but was inducted for his “outstanding support” of UML students.
Martinez is special agent in charge of the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service’s Chesapeake Region, based in Portsmouth, Va.
“UMass Lowell has continually bent over backward to help student veterans succeed.”
-Veteran Michael Hubbard
“I come from a family where education was valued and just expected,” said Martinez, who nonetheless enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1979, after high school. He ascended to the Coast Guard Investigative Service, but found his lack of a college degree was a roadblock to several promotions. In 1992, after transferring to the Boston office, he moved with his wife and two daughters to Bedford and enrolled at the university.
“I took an Intro to Criminal Justice class, and I was hooked,” he says.
Martinez says his job taught him the letter of the law, but he learned the history of it here, in class.
Retired from the Coast Guard in 1999, Martinez currently oversees a team of 51 agents. He investigates homicide, terrorism and other violent crimes.
“He is the voice of those who can no longer speak. He seeks justice on behalf of the voiceless and retribution for the evil, the soulless,” Wert said in introducing Martinez. “It’s not what he believes, it’s who he is. We’ll never know the breadth and depth of his success, because he can’t share much of it.”
Hubbard, who received a Bronze Star while in the Army, spoke of the resilience of veterans, of his work with Tsongas and of veteran political science professors Frank and Patty Talty, who are both retiring this year.
Hubbard literally took off the uniform one day and was taking classes the next, noted Wert.
In offering “a world-class and affordable education, UMass Lowell has continually bent over backward to help student veterans succeed,” said Hubbard. “I went to school while my wife took care of two kids.”
“I worked full time, too,” said Martinez as he closed his remarks. “And I was never once made to feel different than the other students … I got a great education, and for that, I can never repay UMass Lowell.”