I am not a veteran. In fact, when I turned 18, despite America being at the height of two wars, joining the military was probably the last thing on my mind. Thankfully, that has all changed due to a few great people entering my life. Today, as the Operations Officer of the Veterans Defense Project, a non-profit fighting for effective legal representation for our nation’s veterans, and a new Associate criminal defense attorney at Brockton D. Hunter, P.A., where I work with the country’s premier criminal attorneys specializing in defending veterans, I’m more involved in the veteran community than I ever would have imagined. The intention of this post is to express my deep gratitude toward a few individuals — mentors who have allowed me to become a part of this community and to serve those who have served our country.
First, the head honcho at Brockton D. Hunter, P.A., Brock Hunter. Brock travels around the country delivering his “Echoes of War” presentation to law students, lawyers, law enforcement, and politicians. The presentation discusses the history of war, combat injuries, and how they lead to criminal behavior. One of many powerful moments in the presentation is when Brock describes a piece of graffiti left by an anonymous Marine on a blast wall in Ramadi, Iraq at the height of the war, it reads,
AMERICA IS NOT AT WAR
THE U.S. MARINE CORPS IS AT WAR
AMERICA IS AT THE MALL
When Brock came to speak at my school, the University of St. Thomas School of Law, I couldn’t help but think how well that Marine captured my experience of our current wars. After the speech I, as so many of those who view this presentation do, approached Brock to thank him. He gave me a job as a law clerk with his Minneapolis criminal defense firm, where I started to work with our veteran clients and volunteer at the Minnesota Assistance Counsel for Veterans’ free legal clinic, StandDown for Homeless Vets. In the 2 years since I began working for Brock, I have seen what it means to truly devote your time, resources, and soul to a worthy cause and community. A former Army Recon Scout, Brock is an incredibly unique figure in the Minnesota legal community. As a criminal defense attorney, he provides far more than what we lawyers commonly believe is our duty to our clients. In addition to being one of the strongest and most creative courtroom attorneys I have seen, Brock is a true counselor and a caring ear for his clients. His ability to hear a client’s story and then re-tell it in a compelling, thoughtful way reflects his unparalleled ability to empathize with others’ struggles.
Brock, thank you for the opportunities, mentorship, and friendship. And thank you for serving our nation in the military and as a veteran!
Second, fellow Minneapolis criminal defense attorney and former Army National Guardsman Ryan Else. Ryan is the perfect ambassador between the U.S. military and public. He holds his time in the Army dear, exudes military values, and as a civilian, fights tirelessly for veterans in the criminal justice system. When I first joined the law firm, Brock & Ryan were just completing the final edits to a three-year project, writing and publishing The Attorney’s Guide to Defending Veterans in Criminal Court. Free of charge, and at the expense of his wife and two daughters, Ryan regularly worked into the wee hours of the night to get the book done. Once the book was complete, it was right on to the next project. It is not in Ryan’s nature to rest. His strong convictions don’t allow him to take a break. He considers the military a brotherhood and he fights for the veteran community as if they were his brothers. Ryan has been an incredible mentor over the past 2 years and I am proud to consider him one of my closest friends. Ryan, thank you for everything and especially for your service to our country!
Working with Ryan and Brock, I have been introduced to an incredible number and range of veterans who I can truly say have impacted the direction of my professional and personal life. To Hector Matascastillo, Robert Fafinski III, Evan Tsai, Tom Plunkett, Ryan Schmidt, Floyd “Shad” Meshad, and the many other veterans I have worked with over the past 2 years, thank you for accepting me into this community. It has been, and continues to be, one of the greatest honors of my life to work with you gentlemen. Thank you all for your service!