“I always wanted to go to law school,” Ryan Marquette said.
Marquette put his passion for law on hold after hearing from his older brother, who was deployed in the U.S. Army overseas. This sparked an interest in Marquette in the military while he was studying political science at Niagara University.
Marquette graduated in 2011 with a commission to be an officer in the Army after completing the university’s ROTC program.
“I wanted to have that experience, as someone who was young and able,” Marquette said. “The other part was a sense of service. The height of the global war on terror, doing my part to serve my country in a time of need.”
Marquette went to Fort Benning, Georgia, to complete infantry officer training before attending the Army Ranger School, along with various other advanced training courses. Finally, in April 2012, Marquette moved to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he was immediately told he would be deployed to Afghanistan.
Marquette had two other deployments, including to Iraq in 2015 and Afghanistan in 2019. He spent three years stationed at Fort Drum, about 80 miles north of Syracuse.
During a mission where Marquette helped train Iraqi forces in 2015, he met an Iraqi officer named Captain Sobhi. The two bonded through the deployment, discussing leadership. Sobhi was also a lawyer.
“I remember reflecting on that and being like, ‘Wow. This is what these sort of relationships should look like, with countries coming together to unite for one cause to accomplish world problems,’” Marquette said.
Everyday life in the military changes all the time, Marquette said. Some days he would plan the next mission and communicate with soldiers. Other days, he would fly out to a remote location to assist in stability operations.
Marquette enrolled at SU starting fall 2019 in a joint program for a Juris Doctor degree in the College of Law and a master’s of public administration in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. He said he was looking for a program of study where he could finally pursue a law degree while gaining applicable experience outside of law. He also currently serves part time in the Army National Guard.
Marquette benefits from the GI bill and SU’s Yellow Ribbon participation to provide financial support for his studies.
“Being at the time 29 years old [enrolling in graduate school], I wouldn’t have taken such a risk and assumed so much debt with a family,” he said. “I am one of countless veterans that is here because of the economic support Syracuse provides.”
The transition period to being a student was very difficult, Marquette said. He fit in with the military everywhere he went, but once he came to SU, he felt misunderstood socially.
“I felt labeled a lot, to where people thought they knew what my personality was going to be like because I had a military background,” Marquette said. “People may have expected me to be a more stiff personality and almost a lack of personality compared to who I actually am.”
Before leaving the Army, Marquette had to complete the Transition Assistance Program, which instructed him on the transition of reentering civilian life. He said this became a detriment to him because he felt like he had to hide his military background from his peers.
“As soon as I started openly discussing my status as a veteran, my experiences and backgrounds, that’s when I felt most comfortable in being myself,” Marquette said. “And I think that’s when I started being more accepted in the school, as well.”
Marquette said he thinks there is a separation between many traditional college students and veteran students that leads to a lack of understanding between the two.