Interview with Che Martinson, 12/07/2021

UW Oshkosh Campus Stories
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´╗┐SR: This is Shaq interviewing Che Martinson on December 7, 2021. For COVID Campus stories, campus COVID stories is a collection of oral stories from students and staff at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh about their experiences and the time of COVID. Thank you for sharing your stories with us. First, could you please pronounce your name and spell it out for us?

CM: Yeah, my name is Che Martinson that's C H E M A R T I N S O N.

SR: Thank you. For the purpose of obtaining a good audio recording. Please tell us again your name, year, major and age.

CM: Yeah, my name is Che Martinson. I'm a second-year senior. So my fifth year here. I'm majoring in Accounting and Information Systems. I'm 32 years old.

SR: Thank you, Che. So I'm gonna start asking you the first question, which is where did you grew up?

CM: I grew up in Madison, Wisconsin.


SR: Madison, Wisconsin. How was that like growing up in Madison, Wisconsin.

CM: It was a nice, nice city. It's a quiet one. I think it's one of the nice places to live in America. But you know, I wanted to get away I didn't want to go to UW Madison just wanted to go somewhere else even if it was in the same state.

SR: Right. So like you said that it's like one of the best places to grow up in Wisconsin, or?

CM: I think it regularly makes lists for one of the top places in America in America.

CM: Why do you say that?

CM: High education, high income, low crime rate, good schools, you know, good value, scenic. Just mix of all things and attract people or make the list.

SR: So what made you come down to UW Oshkosh?

CM: So it's actually I decided I wanted to major in accounting. And I was looking for good business schools. You know, when it came down to you know, Madison, Milwaukee, Whitewater, you know, here going by the AACSB accreditation. And I felt I don't want to go to Milwaukee either, you know, Madison was out 00:02:00because I wouldn't be there. And whitewater was basically close enough to Madison that want to be leaving. So that'd be Oshkosh. I like to close the campus environment.

SR: Gotcha. So is accounting what you wanted to do like all your life?

CM: No, let's say about three to four years before I started school here, I decided to on accounting, I actually got had gotten injured, or working at the loading dock on a crappy job I had at Sears. And they stuck me in the cash office where I would do like, petty cash accounts counter over and short reports for drawers and I was like, Man, I like this stuff. It's like, oh, and I found out it's like, basically low-level accounting. more I looked into accounting rigor, that's a decent paying career with you know, good prospects. So something I like doing so why not.

SR: Yeah, absolutely. So you got you said you got injured. Do you want to talk about it?

CM: So I was working at Sears, which is, you know, as a comp retail company's been going out of business forever. Pretty sure they're almost out now. But anyways, the equipment was shoddy[?]. We were unloading crates of rotting lawn 00:03:00mowers and the you know, the system I was using polnischen[?] like something snapped metal those hold inert noise. I had like 1000 pound

riding mower coming down on me and I tried to brace it and ended up like buckled and ended up snapping my knee. And quite like year, I couldn't walk, had reconstructive surgery. And so just, you know, kind of change where I was before, I'd always been more of a like, thought I'd be working physical like loading docks or something like construction. And, you know, some of them sitting in an office and found out I didn't hate it, and there was careers to be had in it.

SR: Right, okay. Um, so what were you doing when you heard about the lockdown for COVID-19? When you heard like, COVID-19 happen? It was 2020, February, March when the lockdown happen. What were you doing at that time?

CM: I actually think I was in class. Actually, I was in accounting information 00:04:00systems class and professor literally says, All right, it looks like we're closing down we have to go home. I've been hearing about it in the news for like weeks before then or even a month before then. But you know, I figured it would be like, you know, h1 and one, bird flu or swine flu. Again, it kind of just something that hit but not, you know, I think those were more like there weren't pandemics more like endemics or something. So this one actually became a pandemic. And then when it finally hit us, and this university said to close down, it was right before spring break. Classes were can, you know, put online we basically had, what two weeks a spring break. When the professor get a chance to figure out how to, you know, restructure the course to teach online.

SR: So when you went online, what were your initial thoughts about like going online and versus in person classes? Like,

CM: I was like, Oh, these exams just got easier. [chuckles] But you know, then 00:05:00the has just started changing stuff to like a lot of papers, a lot of essay questions. And I was like, Okay, I just do not like this at all I want to I much rather be back in person actually doing stuff more applicable than just, you know, sitting here writing I'm not an English major.

SR: Right? Were you all by yourself during the lockdown?

CM: Ah, at the time, I actually live with two 19-year-old girls who were roommates. And that that was just terrible. They, um, they basically thought that they because they left during spring break. They're one of those fools who went to Florida because they didn't shut down, right? And

they come back and they're like, Oh, we don't think we should have to pay rent or anything because we're gone for two weeks. And you know, and then they looked up that, you know, rent was required and stuff like that. It's and I was a lease holder, they were sub leasers. So the basis at all we don't have to pay you. One of them was like a waitress at a restaurant that closed down. So she ended up having not money. And I think she like fell behind in rent to me like $1,000. 00:06:00And it wasn't until she did the stimulus that I actually got that money. So the first few months for me were stressful, just because I'm like, What do I do for bills? You know, I'm trying to focus on school and then at the same time, I have a three-bedroom townhouse it's $1,400 a month and I'm basically was basically paying for myself.

SR: Interesting. Wow. Um, so you were basically living in an apartment with two roommates. And then you had the stress of just paying the bills and everything. Did you ever like encounter any problems paying the bills? Because like COVID A lot of people lost their jobs like How was your like employment situation at the time?

CM: Well, luckily, I you know, I had a part time job at Planet Fitness. But with the military are still getting regular pay and benefits. They actually moved drills online, which is when we go on to train once a month, and doing that online was a welcome change. So I still had some sources of income built in. But yet bills got tight, really tight for like the first four or five months.


SR: Right. So you said that you were like getting paid by the military. You were part of the drill. So um like, Are you part of the like the military, then?

CM: Yeah, I'm actually in the United States Marine Corps Reserves. I'm a machine gunner in an infantry company.

SR: That's pretty nice. When did you join the service?

CM: I joined I enlisted on January 10, 2016.

SR: Is that before he started school? Actually, I started at Oshkosh in the fall of 2015. Did one semester and I basically took about first six months of 2016 off for three months of boot camp three months of tree schools active duty during that time. And then I didn't come back until the

following fall 2016 to resume school, you know, get the GI Wisconsin GI bill on education benefits to have everything paid for

SR: Interesting so your tuition gets paid. Like everything's paid for?

CM: Yeah, I have a tuitions covered reimbursed. I still get grants, I get a chapter 1606 which is like about $400 a month in payment I get from being a 00:08:00student veteran, pretty much.

SR: So what made you join the military?

CM: Um, it's something I wanted to do but a big part was to pay for school. And I'd always wanted to be like in some kind of capacity usually the army or you know, Air Force, something like that I thought about but I don't know I got a really motivation bog and fat. I don't you know, the toughest ones around other than Marines. Let's go there. Yeah, definitely. They definitely earned that name.

SR: Right. So you consider yourself one of the toughest, toughest one?

CM: Well, I did yeah, a few surgeries later. I'm like, Alright, time to slow down.

SR: So do you want to talk about your services? Like, like things you did being part of the military?

CM: Yeah. Yeah. So long before COVID. I was. You know, we trained with machine guns, [?] machine guns, [?]machine guns, heavy machine guns, usually in like, supporting capacity to a rifle company or rifle platoon, platoon, or squad. And 00:09:00we'd usually be in like, support by fire positions, meaning like, you know, hold an intersection, a checkpoint or something like that something where you just need to suppress. We weren't really the ones kicking down doors and stuff, but more than once provided like an Overwatch to the other guys who would kick down doors.

SR: And was that in the United States? Mostly?

CM: Yeah. For the training purposes, as well as Mountain training. There was a deployment scheduled well in early 2019.

SR: Where were you deployed?

CM: I was slated to go to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.

SR: Nice. How was that experience for you? I

CM: It was hell on earth. I'll leave it at that. [chuckles]

SR: How long were you down there?

CM: I was scheduled for eight months, 10 months with work-up.

SR: 10 months were you living like in a conjoined area like intense..?

CM: Yeah, so they had a hooch[?] which is like, like imagine a giant long aluminum tube. And it's basically cut that in half and stick it on the ground. That's a hooch[?] and they have a line of a casa[?] on either side of it. And 00:10:00yeah, it just sons baking down on it got, you know, hotter and hell inside and there was no roof.

SR: So there was no roof?

CM: There was a roof but like okay, so it was like, it just looked like you'd cut a sort of can in half and then like put that in half on the ground and it was just look like half of a cylinder, right?

SR: Yeah. Interesting. Okay, so usually when I travel I pack like, like tons of clothes and like, pack like a lot of stuff. Like, what did you pack? Like, how did you all just.?

CM: I mean, it was we had a packing list. So I was like, you know, five pairs of skivvies which are like under shirts and clothes. Then three uniforms. Different 'cammies.' We didn't bring any dress uniforms, because you know, was important to it. But yeah, I mean, basically we'd be just

be doused in sweat all the time, like my kameez in my regular clothes actually looked ahead, like look like they're white, because there's so much I'd sweat so much. And then it evaporate. And then you just have these this white powder over it from your own sweat. So yeah, it was fun time.

SR: Interesting. So you basically were like regular clothes throughout the 00:11:00drill. What did you eat there? Like what was your meals?

CM: Just MREs, they are just chow hall[?]. MREs are Like meals ready to eat. So prepackaged military rations, you know, like, Lunchables, but not nearly as good. Occasionally, they'd open up the chow hall[?] and you know, get some somewhat more fresh food but right.

SR: So and during your entire, like military career, were you ever injured or like to the point where you're like kind of compensated like your health.

CM: I've been injured on a patrol injured on a mountain warfare training, actually. So I've had about two knee surgeries, a hip surgery, and steroid injections, my lower back for type of pain and other things

SR: do you still get those injections.

CM: actually still physical therapy.

SR: Are you actually? Yeah. Interesting. Um, so um, when did you come back? And like, how was it like when the deployment in Afghanistan was over?


CM: So I came back. Again, I didn't finish the whole time because I was injured, but I came back and was able to resume classes in fall 2019. They said I've just been like, mixture of light duty and recovering ever since for that. So I haven't like during COVID There was other the company actually did a lot of things like the deploy for Riot Control. I got to stay back instead doing more positions for, like, dealing with them. COVID testing centers, you know, those were in the military that had to run those poll worker, they call in the military for that as well. So yeah, that was my summer 2020. Currently, actually, there was a and recently with the Afghanistan

withdraw, they brought a bunch of Afghan refugees back carpet[?], Operation allies welcome. And again, because of you know, injuries and light duty status, I was able to finish school and because the rest of my company is actually down 00:13:00in Fort Pickett, Virginia, helping to process something like 10,000 Afghan refugees are at that facility.

SR: Interesting. So basically, like military duties, and everything does that like come in between your academics?

CM: Yeah, in between gets in the way of it's, you know, it's, it's not an easy thing, when like, you're trying to sit there and sit there on your but, trying to study for exams, and, you know, keeping your head above the water with coursework, and then it's like, you know, you're getting told, like, Hey, why aren't you running, you need to be doing this, you need to get back on the shape, you need to be ready to go, go go in moment's notice for any deployment, you know, keep up with training, etc. So it's kind of like getting pulled in two directions, you know,

SR: interesting. So accounting is, is a pretty tough major to be a part of, how did you manage accounting and military, like side by side,

CM: I can just say that I think they got in the way of each other, like my GPA and accounting suffered. Yeah, I'm not doing too bad. But I feel like without the military, I would be doing a lot better career wise with it. I had my 00:14:00internship, but I feel you know, other accounting students were able to get a lot more because they're just had time to do more internships and get that experience, help them get the job. I'm just trying to keep my head above the water and graduate and you know, kind of worried about the job after I'm actually getting finally discharged from the reserves. Should be this weekend, December 10 2021. And graduating the week after that. So

SR: nice. How does that feel graduating? Or you graduate in accounting or

CM: graduate accounting information system

SR: information systems? How does that feel graduating in a week? Basically,

CM: it's gonna be I don't know, it's gonna be changed a life like so much with the Marine Corps and school, it's like the outcome and you won't have a wants the same time. So, you know, it's obviously evolved into a new stage of life and I'm ready for it.

SR: Right? So um, okay, coming back to like, COVID like during the COVID life and everything Did you pick any hobbies during the lockdown?


CM: I played a lot of video games, I actually got in really good shape. Because, you know, without the active military training, beat Tonsley[?] beat my knee and my body down, I was actually just able to focus on more holistic training, diet and exercise. Probably one of the best days I've been in was during COVID, a lot of the coursework some of it got harder and more, you know, tedious online, but a lot of it got easier to manage to do. So I had a lot more time that the government's just throwing money at everyone with a stimulus check. So towards the end, bills became less of a concern. So part of me actually enjoyed, you know, the COVID semesters became like an easier, slower pace of life. And I kind of liked that change compared to the breakneck pace that, you know, the hustle culture itself usually is

SR: right. So like you, you mentioned that you were you were deployed for drills and stuff during the lockdown. And like, how was that?

CM: So, at the initial onset, like early 2020, the drills were virtual, which 00:16:00was, yeah, I was weird. I, it was an odd thing to be on a zoom call with my first sergeant and standing at a tension in my living room, and then pinning myself for a promotion, that was one of the most bizarre experiences. But otherwise, it was kind of nice, just, it was weird not been going into class. I kind of missed that social aspect, especially doing a lot of group work. So that was one thing that I did not like at all, I hated the, you know, group work online, it was not nearly as good as just getting together in person and doing stuff. A lot of people were more absent, way less engagement in classes, Professor be talking. And basically, like, try to ask questions, and almost no one was responding. But I mean, I was guilty that sometimes be off making a sandwich in the kitchen. You know, who knows, just turn it on and go back to sleep. Some of the students might have been doing.

SR: Interesting. You want to talk about the bizarre experience that you just mentioned, in the military?


CM: Oh, yeah, it was just Yeah, so at first when the Department of Defense, like wanted everyone to go into lockdown, you know, obviously, people are active duty on basis, just quarantine and place, shelter in place, but those of us in reserves did not have to go in. But we still had to get our drill hours. So they would do weird things like yeah, sign like they have an online course called marine net, like an online college university where you can just select

certain courses basically, it's like watch like a 300, slide PowerPoint, and then take proctored exams on it. So they assign a lot of those so that was basically like having a class on top of my regular classes. And then when we went back in person for training I was mass on and everything it was, it was absolutely stupid, like we'd be yelled at for not being six feet apart, or not being six feet apart, but at the same time we do a combat fitness test where you literally have to carry another person so it's like, I don't know military logic with that. Doing the and then when I was called on usually this weekend to do 00:18:00the testing centers, you know, I didn't have any medical experience I was mostly just directing traffic you know, never had to stick a swab of someone's nose you know, thank God for me in them. Brain someone it's just a is a is not time. I don't still don't know if we're back to normal or not normal ever come back after that. School wise. You know, military wise, training wise, culturally wise. It was disruptive times.

SR: True. True. Yeah. Covert COVID and lockdown in general really disrupted lives in like just like systems like how things were. So let's talk about like relationships. So during COVID, during the lockdown, how was your relationships like with your mom with your family? Did you have any significant others at the time?

CM: Yeah, that was really hard with my family. I love going home to see my 00:19:00family, especially holidays, Thanksgiving, and we basically didn't have that for almost two years. Or about a year and a half. No, didn't get together for birthdays and get together for Thanksgiving and holidays. I really felt that lack of family. My mom is almost 70 years old, you know, recovering from melanoma, which is skin cancer. So high risk, none of us want to put her at risk. So no, three brothers and sisters. And none of us went home to see her and we all just got to it was really

hard. None of us got together. You know, I didn't see anyone. And I know that was that might be the hardest part in the COVID for me was not being able to see my family.

SR: So does your mom live all by herself?

CM: she has a house in Madison.

SR: When was she diagnosed with melanoma?

CM: Oh, well she's fought it off couple times. And I think the first time was in 2015 I think they removed that patch of skin. Other treatments and then she's you know, whenever she goes outside she has to wear like a like a wide brimmed hat and a special shirt to filter sunlight she's wearing sensitive that. But you 00:20:00know, I guess with melanoma, I think we're usually keep coming back. And, you know, so just a preexisting health condition that you know, she didn't need COVID on top of her, you know her age and that put her on high high risk.

SR: Yep. I mean, I can't imagine what you guys are going through what were your, what was your initial thoughts like what was your initial reaction when she was first diagnosed with it.

CM: Um, at first I just thought oh my, you know, I overreacted I was like oh my god, we're gonna lose my mom, she's like the center of the family, you know, but then the doctors are like this is you know, it's not bad. It's it's small spot we caught early enough, you know. So they're actually just able to remove patches of skin on her arm and cheek. And the bad whatever treatments had after put her in remission or, but it did come back after and getting more patches skin, you know, more treatment had to be done. So it is something that keeps coming back. And it's just something that all of us have been so worried about whether especially during COVID Because I think your doctor self so basically 00:21:00what the, you know, the treatments and what she's doing with that. You know, she put her at the highest highest risk category? For COVID. Yeah, for COVID complications from COVID.

SR: Okay, are you the closest with your mom?

CM: Probably my little sister. Little Sister is still lives in Madison. So she would actually do these meetings where my mom has a backdoor porch so that actually she would see her. It's like opposite ends of the porch both wearing masks, you know, outside. So minimize your risk and that but as my little sister

SR: did you go see your mom recently?

CM: Yeah, yeah. So ever since the vaccines came out, and you know, from, you know, all has been vaccine. We've been getting together like a family again. So, last Thanksgiving was actually

the first time we've all been together as a family since a year and over, like eight months since I've started saw. Yeah, that was soothing to the soul.

SR: That's, that's pretty nice. Um, so like, How's your mom doing right now? Does she still go to? Is she going through chemo? Or like, what is it?


CM: I don't think it's quite chemo. There's other treatments. I think as long as what the skin cancer, it's like it's isolated. And I think the risk was with it is it's it's as long as it doesn't spread to like other organs that can contain it. But I haven't looked too into it that much. Just because I don't want to, you know, kind of It worries me too much. But as long as the doctor says, you know, she's good for now. You know, and, you know, if we ever go outside and say, Mom, make sure you remember to wear your sun hat and your shirt. So

SR: that's pretty interesting. That's really nice. Um, so you're graduating in week two? Yes. Not a week and a half and right now, is your family going to come down to see you?

CM: Yeah, my mom, sister, brother.

SR: Nice. What are you doing after graduation?

CM: Moving,

SR: moving, where are you moving?

CM: So I'm actually in a dorm right now because last semester, I didn't want to bother with a sublease. And partly because those two girls I was living with I was completely soured me. So last semester, I've been in a dorm and actually 00:23:00bright for hours after walking and commencement. I need to be out of my dorm. So I immediately have nowhere else to go. So it's like all right, well, straight into a U-haul truck and out of Madison because Yeah, interesting. Like on ceremoniously quick exit.

SR: Yeah. One of my friends is also moving out pretty much at the same time they just right after commencement. They have to move out.

CM: Yeah, it's like okay, no, get packed your stuff and get out. Like I thought we get like a daycare too, but nope. Right. Yeah. Grad. Obviously to December graduations aren't really the best.

SR: Plus is gonna be really cold.

CM: Yeah.

SR: So you're gonna be living with your mom by the by then.

CM: Yeah, well, not for long, not for long, didn't go to military and get two degrees just to go back in my mom's house. Yeah, basically get my feet underneath me. I have some jobs lined up and basically selecting what I think is the best fit for what I do in the future. And then from there, I'm going on my own.

SR: Alright, sounds good. Thank you. Well, hopefully you get a job. You 00:24:00hopefully everything turns out pretty good. And I hope that your mom feels or gets better soon. Is there anything else you want to add to this?

CM: I'm just that I feel kind of bad for some of the friends I had that graduated during COVID. During quarantine, like, those basically just mailed the degree and it's all done through emails and no ceremony or anything for them. So yeah, kind of happy to you know, we got the

commencement back just for this semester. And I think last one had it too. But yeah, but otherwise, it's been nice talking.

SR: Yeah that's awesome. All right. Thank you so much. Thank you for sharing your stories with us. We appreciate your contribution your services to the campus COVID stories and UW Oshkosh. Thank you so much.