Photo by Sgt. Sean P. Casey
By: Sarah Rance
NIAGARA UNIVERSITY, N.Y. – Veterans Day is for honoring and thanking the men and women who have dedicated themselves to and fought for their country. There are 85 student veterans on campus this semester. According to Robert Healy, the Director of Veteran Services here at Niagara University, the number of student veterans at NU has grown immensely.
“The veteran population has increased by 300 percent over the past eight years and continues to grow,” said Healy. It is important to take the time to recognize these men and women.
John Martek is just one of the student veterans here at NU
“[Niagara] has really great support for veteran,” said Martek. “I haven’t had any issues with professors, they’re really supportive, especially for guys like me. I’m married with three kids so I have so many other things going on in life and they’re really good if I have to miss a day of class or anything like that.”
Prior to attending NU, Martek retired from the U.S. Army as a Staff Sergeant after serving for almost 14 years.
“[The Army] was an easy fit for me,” said Martek. “I didn’t plan on staying in as long as I did, and then every time a re-enlistment came up I was like ‘alright I’ll stay in longer.’ And then it just came to the point where I was in for a career.”
Martek served as an infantryman in Iraq twice as well as Afghanistan twice.
“We are the ones who fight on the frontlines,” said Martek. “We are the ones who do all the grunt work out there. We are always usually the ones getting into firefights or advancing on the enemy and trying to take them out or find them.”
Martek had many opportunities to gain leadership and teamwork experience during his time in the Army. As a Staff Sergeant, he was in charge of many men.
“All of my soldiers came home every deployment,” said Martek. “I’d say that’s probably my proudest moment.”
Along with these leadership and teamwork experiences, Martek was able to get travel experiences as well. Martek traveled to places including Alaska, Louisiana and Oklahoma.
Martek is the secretary of the Student Veterans Organization here at NU. He is also a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). In addition, he is a volunteer firefighter at Getzville Fire Company.
So, what does Veterans Day mean to John Martek?
“Veterans day to me is just a time to thank and honor all of the veterans that have served all the way back to World War II,” said Martek. “I’d say it’s just honoring everybody that came before me and everybody I have served with over the years and just tell them thank you or cooking someone dinner maybe.”