The COVID-19 pandemic has gripped the world in a state of anxiety, discomfort and tragedy as we have sought to navigate and make sense of the changes to our lives. However, it has also brought out the best in us. Businesses, schools, organizations and families made difficult adjustments and took extra precautions to keep others safe, and communities united to help one another and protect those most vulnerable. Those who fight COVID-19 on the frontlines have shown true commitment, bravery and heroism despite the hardships and health risks they face every day.
"I continue to be impressed with our alumni and am honored to lead the Missouri Military Academy that produces outstanding alumni like these men," said MMA President Brigadier General Richard V. Geraci, USA (Ret). "Their involvement in the war on COVID provides outstanding examples and role models for our current cadets, and demonstrates the value of the educational and leadership experiences at MMA."
We are honoring a few MMA alumni who have made and continue to make a difference during the pandemic…
Eric Martinson ’96
Through his work with the Lower Colorado River Authority in Texas, Martinson has been leading an emergency management team since December 2019, taking an aggressive stance on COVID-19 prevention in over 450 facilities that provide critical power services across the state.
Martinson’s primary focus is ensuring hundreds of critical government facilities remain operational. He is personally responsible for the health and safety of over 2,000 critical workers, ensuring they can continue to provide power, as well as manage dams and prevent floods. He leads teams who write and review response plans, obtain and distribute PPE and provide medical screening for workers, conduct contact tracing for presumptive COVID-19 cases, contract disinfection services, and more.
Martinson credits MMA for providing him the skills to lead his team effectively and with heart.
“The core values [MMA] teaches – operating with integrity and honor, being truthful and doing what you are supposed to do and being held accountable for your actions – those values have translated into my life and I keep those values with me today,” Martinson said. “As a manager, I try to use those values in how I lead my staff, and I try to push my younger workforce to use them. I try to instill those values in how they work and lead, too.”
Mike Davis ’85
Through a personal project with less than a dozen fellow volunteers in Fairbanks, Alaska, Davis printed 3D masks for medical personnel, first responders and essential businesses during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic’s early days. Their volunteer effort was well-organized and included a website that offered masks for free, only requesting donations to cover the costs of printing.
In total, their group was able to print over 400 masks.
Davis gave credit to MMA for making him proactive in his community.
“[MMA] made me who I am in a lot of ways,” he said. “I’ve always been involved in the community, and that was instilled in me at MMA. This was just an opportunity that presented itself and it seemed like the right thing to do.”
Weiss is a respiratory therapist who works directly with COVID-19 patients in California. One of his key roles is helping intubate patients who need to go on a ventilator.
According to Weiss, MMA helped prepare him for the chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic. He says MMA helped him hone skills he already had – such as being methodical in his everyday practice – and provided him key personal training that enables him to maintain composure despite the unusual and stressful circumstances of the pandemic.
"I would have to say that the discipline and the structure [at MMA] made me more cool, calm and collected in high emergent situations," Weiss said. "I have always been analytical, and MMA helped me become more detail-oriented."
Thomas Butler ’86
A registered nurse in Davenport, Iowa, Butler has been working at COVID-19 testing sites with hospitals, FEMA and the National Guard since the beginning of the pandemic.
According to Butler, MMA gave – and continues to give – him inspiration to carry on and serve with integrity.
“[MMA] taught me to never quit,” Butler said. “I always ask myself ‘what would Mort (Col. Mortenson, former MMA faculty member) or the old boys do?’”
Frank Sierra ’58
Sierra works as the director of missions-order at St. John’s Parish in Woodstock, New York. He also serves as a volunteer for Red Cross. Through his work and volunteer efforts, he helps feed, shelter and transport those who are most vulnerable in the pandemic, including veterans and elderly individuals.
Sierra says MMA instilled in him a strong sense of respect and duty and provided him the leadership skills to step up and fill the needs of his community.
According to Sierra, the Academy taught him leadership to get the job done.
"[There is a] mission and a job to accomplish when there are those in need,” he said.
Burch is a doctor and medical director of Methodist North Hospital in Tennessee. Even before the pandemic, he worked to improve operations and patient flow in the emergency department, which enables them to provide a faster, higher level of care to their patients.
Dr. Burch credits MMA for teaching him leadership skills that prepared him for his high leadership positions, and he hopes current cadets appreciate the unique learning opportunity they have been given in MMA’s environment.
“MMA gave me the leadership skills to be able to not only succeed on a personal level, but to be able to be a leader on a national level,” he said. “I hope today’s cadets recognize the importance of building those leadership skills at MMA so they can use them to make a great life for themselves.”
Hunter Jenkins ’85
Jenkins provides an unfortunate, but very necessary, service to those who lose the battle against COVID-19 in Greenbrier, Arkansas. As a logistical specialist for Roller Funeral Homes, he transports the deceased from hospitals to the funeral homes or crematories of the deceased family’s choosing.
Jenkins credits MMA for the discipline to do the job well, and for instilling in him a strong sense of honor and respect.
“[MMA helped me prepare for the pandemic by providing] the organizational skills to get to different locations in the same day.”
George Morrell ’64
Morrell is an adjunct online instructor at the University of Indianapolis. His role during the pandemic involved ensuring students could safely continue their education by preparing the campus for incoming students.
Morrell says MMA helped prepare him for the pandemic by teaching him valuable leadership skills and instilling a strong sense of selfless service that motivated him to step up to the challenges the university was facing.
“I utilized many of the leadership skills that I acquired at MMA to make sure that my team followed and carried out our assigned tasks in an orderly and efficient manner.”
Evan Spaulding ’05
Spaulding, a paramedic for MU Healthcare in Columbia, Missouri, responds to emergency calls, which include COVID-19 patients.
According to Spaulding, MMA’s core values of honesty, integrity and selfless service, help him serve as a good clinician.
“Mental toughness in the face of adversity and the concept of service to others were both instilled and reinforced in me at MMA,” Spaulding said. “Public service does not need to be military in nature, everybody has to find where they fit and give whatever endeavor they pursue their utmost effort. I found that in emergency medicine.”