Cindy Bither
Administrative Assistant
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Lexington, VA 24450

Alumna on Staff Watches Brother Brave Rat Line

FullTextImage/img/@altNohelia and Philip Martin pause together in front of barracks. -- VMI Photo by Amanda Berrios ’12.

LEXINGTON, Va., Oct. 11, 2012 – When Nohelia Martin ’08 applied to be the translator for an Engineers without Borders project in Bolivia in summer 2011, she didn’t realize it would turn into something else entirely. That fall, she would be employed as a lab technician in VMI’s civil engineering department, which allowed her to watch as her younger brother, Philip Martin ’15, made his way through the Rat Line. 

By chance, Nohelia Martin had come across an article about Engineers without Borders while traveling to Bolivia, her native country. She contacted Maj. Tim Moore, assistant professor of civil engineering, in hopes of helping out.

“They paid for me to go as a translator, and while on the trip, [I found out] the CE department was looking for a lab tech for the environmental lab, so he asked me if I’d be interested in working at VMI,” said Martin.

Martin accepted the position, which allowed her to spend the past year near her brother. She recently left VMI to commission in the Marine Corps. That year at VMI was a good year for her, but at the start she realized her brother might not feel as enthusiastic about the unusual family togetherness.

“There’s no protocol on how to behave,” said Nohelia Martin. “You have a lot of people that have kids that go here; that’s different than having a sibling.” Accustomed to a strict system, Martin said the lack of protocol felt “weird.”

As an alumna, Martin recognized the importance of being a part of the company and therefore didn’t try to get her brother out of Corps activities. The two of them mainly saw each other at church and lunch on Sundays.

This was a relief for Philip Martin who, though happy his sister had a good job, was initially annoyed. “I thought she would be with my cadre because she was also from Band [Company] and she might want to hang around, but she didn’t, so it worked out.” In the end, he said, “We got to spend more time together, and obviously we wouldn’t have if she had gone somewhere else.”

It was, in fact, Nohelia Martin’s stories of her own cadetship that had influenced Philip Martin to apply to VMI, and when he arrived, he was surprised at how similar his and his sister’s experiences would be.

In addition his assignment to Band Company, Philip was assigned to Room 488, the same room his sister had lived in as a rat. The coincidence didn’t initially impress Philip, but then he and his roommate lifted up the sink mirror and found Nohelia’s name written on the back.

“It was kind of cool ’cause her name is still back there behind the mirror and it was something we had in common,” said Philip Martin. Writing his name on the back alongside his sister’s is one thing he plans on doing before graduating.

There’s another thing Philip and Nohelia Martin expect to have in common – commissions in the U.S. military. Nohelia, currently in training, expects eventually to work as an intelligence or supply and logistics officer in the Marine Corps. And when tasks like the Marine Corps Physical Fitness Test get difficult, she remembers that her brother wants her to be his commissioning officer.

That goal is a constant reminder of what’s important as Nohelia takes up her commission.