WEBSTER COUNTY, Ky. (6/26/13) - All Providence native Jennifer Martin ever wanted to be was an Optometrist. But she is not just another doctor, she is Major Jennifer Martin, United States Army Reserve Medical Service Corp.
“Growing up, I would go see Dr. Brown, the Optometrist who came to Dr. Cole’s office in Providence once a week for my yearly eye exams,” she said. “When it came time to make a decision on what I wanted to do with my life, I picked Optometry, mostly because no one ever said they wanted to be an Optometrist. And because I couldn’t think of anything else I wanted to do.”
After graduating from Webster County High School, Martin attended Brescia University in Owensboro on a partial tennis scholarship. After earning her B.S. in Biology there, she moved on to the Indiana School of Optometry in Bloomington, IN.
“Throughout college, I had played with the idea of joining the military. My dad was in the Army for 40 years, and I had always wanted to serve, as well,” Martin said.
In November of 2005 she enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves and was assigned to the 7218th Medical Support Unit based in Louisville, KY.
Less than a year later she received deployment orders.
“My world was changing very quickly,” she said. “My tour in Kosovo lasted from Aug. 2006 to Nov. 2007. I was the Optometry OIC for Task Force Med Falcon, KFOR 8, and was responsible for providing eye care to 1,500 U.S. Soldiers and all NATO Soldiers, approximately 20 nations.”
While in Kosovo her unit also participated in bi-monthly Medical Assistance Programs (MEDCAPs). During MEDCAPs the medical staff traveled to villages all over Kosovo, provide medical care to the locals. Approximately 1,500 local nationals received glasses and eye care during the 15 month deployment.
Following Kosovo Martin relocated to Wisconsin and spent the next two years as a private practice Optometrist, but in 2009 she was twice mobilized by the army.
In January of 2009 she and 30 other Army Reserve medical personnel were deployed to Panama for a two week Medical Readiness Training Exercise (MEDRETE). They saw and gave glasses to approximately 1200 local nationals throughout rural areas of the country.
In August of 2009 Martin was mobilized to Fort Hood, TX to serve as the Optometry Officer in Charge (OIC) of Soldier Readiness Processing (SRP). There she was to oversee the processing of active duty and reserve soldiers ready to be redeployed.
“Three months after I arrived, Nov. 5, was a typical Thursday morning,” she recalls. “We had a staff meeting, followed by lunch at the dining facility and then headed back to the office to continue eye exams for a medical unit that was soon deploying to Afghanistan. What happened next, well, hundreds of lives were changed that day.”
That was the day that Nidal Malik Hasan, a 39-year-old U.S. Army Major, serving as a psychiatrist at Fort Hood, opened fire on unsuspecting victims. 14 people were killed (12 Soldiers, one civilian and one unborn baby) and over 30 people were injured.
“Politics aside, the threat to our freedom is real, and I have never been more grateful or blessed to do my part in taking care of our Soldiers, veterans and their families,” Martin said.
“In June, 2011, I left Fort Hood and took a civilian Optometry position at Fort Campbell, KY,” she added. “I am privileged to spend my days providing eye care and taking care of active duty Soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 160th SOAR (Airborne) and various other units and Soldiers that serve our country.”
In November of 2011 she also assumed Command of the 148th Medical Detachment (Optometry) in Southfield, MI. In July of 2013 her unit will participate in an exercise at Fort McCoy, WI with approximately 5,000 other US Army Reserve Soldiers.
“The Army has given me the opportunity to travel to nearly 20 different countries, meet some amazing people and make many lifelong friendships,” Martin said. “I am truly blessed to have had the opportunity to take this path in life, and to serve this country that I love. I am thankful to the support of my family through all of my endeavors, the support of the people in the town and county where I grew up and for my husband who is currently serving in Afghanistan with 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne). No matter where I go, or who I meet, I am always thankful to return to the place and people that are home for me. Providence and Webster Co. will always be my home.”
During her career Major Martin has received numerous medals and commendations. Those include:
•Army Commendation Medal (with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters)
•Army Achievement Medal (with 1 Oak Leaf Cluster)
•Armed Forces Reserve Medal (with “M” Device)
•National Defense Service Medal
•Army Service Ribbon
•Kosovo Campaign Medal
•Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
•Army Reserve Overseas Training Ribbon
•Oversees Service Ribbon
J-E News Editor
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