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A Common Bond: Becoming U.S. Citizens, Military Officers and UC Graduates

Army ROTC cadets Patrick Abdallah and Mark Clemente became naturalized U.S. citizens in the same ceremony. This spring, they’ll also become college graduates as well as Army officers together in UC celebrations.

Date: 4/16/2013 8:05:00 AM
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Dottie Stover
Patrick Abdallah and Mark Clemente were born a world away from Cincinnati, but both are pursuing the American dream through a college education at UC, through the UC Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program, and through military service.
Mark Clemente, left, and Patrick Abdallah
Mark Clemente, left, and Patrick Abdallah



Abdallah, who moved to Cincinnati from Beirut, Lebanon, in 2005, is graduating from UC this spring with a bachelor’s degree in international business. Clemente, who moved to Mason, Ohio, from the Philippines during his sophomore year in high school, is graduating from UC with a bachelor’s degree in social work. Both men will become second lieutenants in the U.S. Army when UC’s Army ROTC program holds its commissioning ceremony for spring graduates at 11 a.m., Friday, April 26, in the Great Hall of Tangeman University Center (TUC).

The two men became naturalized citizens together during a ceremony at St. Dominic Elementary School on Jan. 14, 2011. Both of them had joined the National Guard in 2010 and served with the 216th Engineers Unit in Woodlawn. They became naturalized citizens so that they could serve as officers in the U.S. military. It was during the naturalization ceremony that they discovered they were also fellow cadets in ROTC. The UC Army ROTC program continued their pathway to becoming military officers.

On a national scale, ROTC remains the broadest avenue for men and women seeking to serve as officers in the Army.

Patrick Abdallah
Patrick Abdallah

The 21-year-old Abdallah recalls his first class at UC was ROTC physical training, which got under way before 6:30 a.m. “UC was a great experience for me. I really enjoyed UC and going to college overall, and I’m now looking ahead to the next step after graduation.”

Abdallah knew no English when his family first moved to Cincinnati in 2005, when he was a high school freshman. His first languages are Arabic and French. He credits his English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher at Turpin High School for helping him transition to speaking English.

Born into a middle-class family, Abdallah attended a French-language school in Lebanon. He says he was also well aware that coming from a war-torn country, he felt there was more opportunity in the U.S. than in other areas of the world. “You need to work hard and you need to have a plan. The American Dream isn’t something that’s just waiting for you because you came to America. You have to work for it.”

Clemente, now 22, says his primary language was Tagalog when he lived in the Philippines. His mother worked for P&G and the family moved to Singapore when Clemente was 11. Clemente says he learned some English skills after attending an international school in Singapore. The family moved to Mason when Clemente started his sophomore year at Mason High School.
Mark Clemente
Mark Clemente



However, he admits to experiencing culture shock when the family first moved to the U.S.

“When I was in Singapore, everybody was friendly to each other because everybody was new –considering that it was an international school. Arriving here in the U.S., I realized that sports dominated the social life of many high school kids. Though I played rugby, the sport was not available and popular at the school at the time, and I found myself secluded from the cliques prevalent in this society. It wasn't until I joined a church youth group during my senior year that I started making close relationships with other teenagers.”

Clemente says his high school grades took a downturn as a result of his adjustments, but he says support programs at UC helped him get his studies back on track. He says he also gained confidence as a college student by getting involved in student organizations including Campus Crusade for Christ.

He adds that initially, he wasn’t considering the ROTC program, but became interested in ROTC after becoming friends with a fellow student in UC’s Campus Crusade for Christ. He was also a member of Athletes in Action.

Clemente, too, says that his experiences in the Philippines have kept him grounded. “Comparing the poverty I saw over there with life here in Cincinnati, I feel almost spoiled,” he says.

“We both have experiences from around the world, so when there’s news about the economic times of America, we compare that differently from people who have spent their lives here,” says Clemente. “But if they went outside of the country and came back, they’d have an entirely different perspective.”

Abdallah has been accepted into the branch of Infantry serving with the 2-107th Cavalry in Xenia, Ohio, as a platoon leader. Clemente will be commissioned as an Armor Officer and also will serve as a platoon leader for Bravo troop of the 2-107th Cavalry. In addition, he plans to pursue a master’s degree in public administration while working as a law enforcement officer.

“I’d like to say that we became good friends because of the similar experiences we’ve shared,” says Abdallah. “Since we were also in the same National Guard unit throughout college, we’ve always had each other’s back.”

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