The University of Florida Levin College of Law hosted a three-student panel from the Military Law Student Association (MLSA) discussing the relationships between military and student life on Nov. 8.
Dean Laura Rosenbury gave the opening remarks, and MLSA President Kevin Flood moderated the event.
Mark Hudson is a Navy Petty Officer, First Class, and is in the Navy’s Career Intermission Program. He was present for the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant’s “triple-disaster” in Japan where he prepared for the possibility of relocation of the unit’s headquarters in the event the area became affected.
Michael Shepherd attended West Point. After graduating, he became a scout platoon leader in the Cavalry and served overseas, completing a nine-month deployment in Logar Province, Afghanistan, in 2013.
John Wolf is a retired Air Force master sergeant. He enlisted in Gainesville, Florida, and spent 24 years with the military. During his tenure, he spent time in Japan and at U.S. Strategic Command in Nebraska.
“Why did you join the military?” Flood began.
For Shepherd, the interest began in the seventh grade on Sept. 11, 2001. By high school, this developed into a desire to attend West Point. He was inspired by the impressive sacrifices attributed to its student body; many of them were accepted into high-ranking or Ivy League schools and chose to forego that opportunity to attend.
“What things in the military did you experience that most would not expect?” Flood asked.
“The military brings with it a type of hands-on interaction in the various locations and cultures you’re stationed around,” Wolf said.
During his career he served in both Japan and U.S. StratCom, the Nebraska-based home for national nuclear deterrence.
“The job is very demanding,” Hudson said. “You are constantly working, but get 30 days off. In addition, it’s pretty easy to turn a three-day weekend into a four-day (given the way leave is distributed).”
“What inspired you to go to law school?” Flood asked.
“I was a paralegal in the military and knew, as a result, I could be a lawyer,” Hudson said.
Shepherd always had an interest in the law, and when approaching the decision, he reflected on the stigma associated with the time away from – and returning to – school.
“My dad was an attorney and told me not to worry about the time spent,” Shepherd said. “He said ‘Twenty-seven is a young man. You’ll do this [military service] now and have it under your belt. Then you will have the rest of your life ahead of you.”
Wolf had no intention of becoming a lawyer, he said. However, after retiring he received his bachelor’s from the University of Tampa. While there, he was “bit” by the proverbial “law school bug.”
“How did you manage the transition [from the military to student life]?” Flood asked.
“The military provides transition services,” Wolf said. “Even though it was a scary time, I made sure to take a moment to decompress.”
“It was a very arduous process,”Shepherd said. “I had to declare [my intentions to go to school] a year out.”
Hudson’s experience was different. He attributed this in part to his acceptance into the Navy’s Funded Legal Education Program and the ability to use his Gi bill to cover law school expenses. After law school, he is committed to being a Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG) for at least six years.
Shepherd closed out the panel’s discussion with a brief presentation on his time in Afghanistan. In it, he spoke on the various difficulties that arose during the deployment, showing everything from interactions with local officials to the state of gender-segregated schools within Logar province.
He concluded by sharing his opinion on thanking living veterans for their service during the recent holiday.
“Memorial Day often gets confused with Veterans Day,” he said. “Memorial Day is a holiday that’s meant to remember the fallen veterans not thank the living.”
Matthew Hoisington is currently a 1L at the University of Florida Levin College of Law. He graduated from the University of Central Florida majoring in Political Science and minoring in Philosophy in Fall of 2013. In his down time he lifts weights, listens to podcasts and cares for his aged dog and life-long companion, Swede.