By Rebecca A. Gardner –
I'll be the first to admit that I'm more than a bit biased about Veterans Day. I am the product of two military families. My grandfather and all of my great uncles on my mother's side of the family were part of the Greatest Generation serving in World War II. My paternal grandfather spent his career as an officer in the Air Force. And my father, my favorite veteran of all, voluntarily enlisted to serve a tour of duty in Vietnam and spent more than two decades in the U.S. Army, many of those years with the Special Forces.
Though only the first 10 years of my life were spent as an official Army Brat, being so entrenched in the military lifestyle taught me a few lessons that I still use in my law practice and my life in general. Veterans Day seems like a fitting day to share these lessons with you.
First, everyone is worthy of respect. Whether the person you are talking to is a five-star general or the MP guarding the gate of the base, everyone is a vital part of the mission and worthy of respect. As a child, I would love the salute my mother and I would get when we drove onto base and at a very young age I began to salute back. The men and women in our armed forces are there to serve a vital mission. And even though my missions are civilian in nature, everyone involved in my practice, my teaching, and my philanthropy is part of an important mission for me and more than deserving of my respect.
Additionally, a smile goes a long way. My father's service meant that we moved. A lot. When I enrolled in the fifth grade at Pershing Elementary School (itself named for a military giant), I was entering my fifth school. Being a military brat means that you are always the new kid. You are always the oddity on the first day of school, looking for that friendly group to join for lunch or recess. When you smile, it makes a difference. Beyond the schoolyard, the rules are much the same. Whether my friendliness is extended towards a client, a professional whom I'm partnering with to meet our clients' needs, or an opposing counsel, a smile still goes an incredibly long way.
Finally, service is noble. In all the many years that my father represented our country in service, he always represented that his job was his duty. He took his responsibility to our nation incredibly seriously. I never once heard him complain about his job. I never once heard him complain about his coworkers. And despite the fact that he was a trained soldier, capable of and experienced with elite missions, he always viewed his job as doing the most possible to avoid the negative impact of war and help make the world a better place. More could be gained by helping others. This sense of responsibility to humanity is something that I easily inherited and something that I strive to make a part of my practice.
I am grateful for all of these lessons and for the privilege to be a part of a military family. For more information on the history of Veterans Day, click here: http://www.history.army.mil/html/reference/holidays/vetsday/vetshist.html. To find out about benefits available to California Veterans through the California Department of Veterans Affairs, click here: http://www.cdva.ca.gov/.
Happy Veterans Day to First Sergeant William P. Gardner and to all of the wonderful veterans who have served us well!
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