Student Veteran Alexander Marte Shares His Story and Goals for the Future
"How can we change our systems to focus on specific veterans issues, like homelessness and mental health?"
– Alexander Marte (MUP 2017), U.S. Marine Corps 2008-2012
“I worked for a while and I hated everything I did because it wasn’t part of a larger picture,” says Alexander Marte, recalling the tumultuous period that followed leaving college after just one semester. “I felt like I wasn’t doing anything with true meaning.”
That’s when he looked to the U.S. Marine Corps—wondering, he says, if going to war was a way to make a difference in the world. “I didn’t want to be an accountant or an electrician, which I was selected for, and could’ve been paid more money to do. I wanted to be on the ground, to experience what the movies portrayed, which is why I ended up in the infantry.”
There were certainly bright spots during Marte’s five years of service: He felt useful providing relief in Haiti after the earthquake in 2008, and today he cherishes the friends he made—fellow soldiers with whom he bonded so strongly that he can now call out of the blue after not talking for years. “It just clicks,” he says. But he’s ambivalent, too. “Serving in Afghanistan I was a little bit conflicted,” Marte says, “because I felt that our purpose there got lost.”
Because of the military, Marte got a second chance at an education, earning an undergraduate degree in criminal justice management from John Jay College before beginning a master’s degree in urban planning at NYU Wagner. He hopes to work as an urban planning strategist, coming up with plans to revitalize economically depressed neighborhoods, and for his capstone project he has been working with the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development on the revitalization of Staten Island’s Port Richmond neighborhood.
As chair of the WagVets executive board, Marte has led an effort to shift the organization from a networking group to one more focused on advocacy, using public policy expertise to address the social, economic, and medical issues that veterans often face upon return to civilian life. “I’m a walking portrait of this,” Marte said, alluding to his own struggle to readjust.
When asked whether he’s proud of his accomplishments, Marte demurs, saying he’ll wait until graduation to take stock of how far he’s traveled. “I’m not really happy with short wins,” Marte says. “I want to get things done, turn the page, and then try to establish bigger goals for later on.”