AMHERST, Mass., -- Ryan M. Martin is a 25-year-old Marine veteran whose story is similar to that of many other veterans.
Join the military, go to combat, get out of the military and use the Post 9/11 GI Bill to earn a degree. Then if all goes as planned, live happily ever after.
Less than one percent of Americans have served in the United States Armed Forces. That number is whittled down even more for the few who answer the call to serve as Marines, the smallest branch of the military.
A staple perk of service in the military is the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The GI Bill covers tuition and fees up to the highest in-state school, provides a monthly housing allowance, an annual book and supplies stipend, and more, according to www.gibill.va.gov.
Martin’s life path seemed to be pushed toward the Marine Corps. His father is a Marine officer, and for as long back as he can remember he wanted to be a Marine, he said.
Martin considered enlisting right after high school, but at the behest of his father, attended college instead. He completed three semesters at Bridgewater State College before he realized he was not ready for college yet. Martin said his goals were aimless and he lacked the discipline to study hard and earn good grades.
“I gave college a shot. It didn’t work out then,” he said. “I was spinning my wheels. I wasn’t really going anywhere. I was looking for something more. I wanted a challenge. I didn’t want to miss my generation’s war, and I wanted to serve my country.”
Martin enlisted in the Marines in April 2008 with the military occupational specialty of rifleman. During his four years of service he took part in two deployments to Afghanistan, earning a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with Combat V.
“It was a life changing experience,” he said.
While in the Marines, Martin said he found discipline, motivation and focus. He also said service made him realize how important obtaining a degree was to him. Before his second deployment, Martin applied to the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
“I actually got the acceptance letter to UMASS in Afghanistan,” he said. “It was a great feeling.”
Once he returned from his deployment he went to the base education center where he attended a class that taught him everything he needed to know about the GI Bill.
“My unit set me up,” he said. “They pointed me in the right direction. I went and talked to the education office on base, and they told me everything I needed to know.”
In January 2012, Martin enrolled in college and he has been a student ever since. Currently he is pursuing a bachelor’s in resource economics.
“My school is 100 percent paid for,” he said. “It is awesome; it is almost like getting paid to go to school. It is a great thing because I don’t have to worry about student loans afterward.”
Martin said his future goal is to become a Marine officer like his father.
“I want to be able to take my experiences as an enlisted Marine into becoming an officer,” he said. “I want to give back for all the things the Marine Corps has given me.”