Some people can’t stop serving their fellow man. Giving back to their country or community is hard-wired into their DNA.
Ben Alexander is that kind of guy.
The Mesa man served in the U.S. Marine Corp. from 1997-2001, then joined the Mesa Police Department in 2007, where he eventually became a sergeant in charge of the Youth Development Unit, where one core program is called Making Every Student Accountable (MESA) Program.
The early intervention strategy by Mesa PD, Mesa Public Schools and community stakeholders provides support and tries to improve relationships with underserved youth, operating for nine weeks twice a year at Kino Junior High School.
And the spirit of that program still motivates Alexander even though he retired from the police department.
While Alexander was still with the department, he discovered the Travis Manion Foundation in 2017 and incorporated its Character Does Matter program into the MESA operation.
The foundation is named after another Marine who gave back with the ultimate sacrifice in 2007 when he was fatally shot in Iraq as he drew enemy fire away from wounded members of his patrol unit.
The foundation enlists veterans and families of fallen warriors to become mentors whose aim is to “develop character in future generations” and “create a nation of purpose-driven individuals and thriving communities that is built on character.”
That mission fit right in with Alexander’s character and drive after he suffered PTSD in an on-duty motor vehicle collision involving a stolen vehicle and retired from the department in 2019.
“This adds to why I am so involved with the foundation,” he said.
As a Travis Manion Foundation Spartan, Alexander and his fellow mentors offer presentations at schools and to youth programs in various settings and for varying lengths of time on the elements of good character, often drawing on their experiences in military service and the sacrifices that people like Lt. Travis Manion made.
The foundation also organizes the nationwide 9/11 Heroes Run (the Mesa run is virtual this year), Operation Legacy service projects honoring fallen heroes and deeper dives into character and leadership development.
Alexander speaks enthusiastically about the young people he has met and whose leadership qualities have blossomed under his mentoring and points to a study by the foundation that found 50 percent of the youths under its mentors’ wings have led or been part of a service project.
“These kids are nothing short of spectacular,” he said.
“Statistics show one in three young people feel as though they have never had a positive role model or mentor,”
Alexander said. “Coupled with the fact that up to 60 percent of veterans feel disconnected to their communities upon exiting service, the Character Does
Matter Program can have mutually beneficial results.
“For me personally, I have worked with young people in various capacities for over 20 years. Once constant I have found is that young people not only need, but crave direction and personal growth. When given the proper instruction, their success is limitless.”
Trained Veteran Mentors from the foundation led back-to-school events in close to 30 cities across the country for middle and high school students.
They not only taught them confidence, character, and leadership but provided school supplies needed for a successful academic year.
The group estimates it impacts 50,000 young people a year across the country and, a foundation spokesman noted, “as a result, communities prosper and the character of our nation’s heroes lives on in the next generation.”