|Name: David Veenstra
Year Graduated: 2010
Service Branch: Air Force, 1984-2007
Military Rank: Senior Master Sergeant (Grade: E8)
Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii; Bellows Air Force Station, Hawaii; Travis Air Force Base, California; Dhahran Air Base, Saudi Arabia; Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates; Cairo-West Air Base, Egypt; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Osan Air Base, South Korea (Republic of Korea); Patrick Air Force Base, Florida; Cape Canaveral Air Station, Florida; Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland; Beale Air Force Base, California; Camp Kohima, Kuwait; LSA Anaconda/Balad Air Base, Iraq; Camp Arifjan, Kuwait; Kleine Brogel Air Base, Belgium
How did military service prepare you for the study of law or for life in general?
I believe military service prepared me for law school in several ways, but these would apply equally well to virtually any endeavor. First, military service, as any full-time job probably would, gave me a sincere and deep appreciation for just how wonderful it is to be a full-time student. Second, the fundamental discipline afforded by military training and service, to accept a task and get it done on time, on target, the first time, is invaluable in law school. Third, the myriad of public speaking requirements to which I was subjected, such as briefing senior officers and visiting dignitaries, or passing information on to subordinates, helped me immensely in presenting my appellate brief in Research and Writing II and the courtroom dialogue in Trial Advocacy. Nothing prepares you more for public speaking than actually doing it. Finally, military writing was helpful, in that developing and promulgating a unit- or base-wide regulation is reminiscent of the research and thinking that goes into legal writing.
Were there particular military service experiences that heightened your interest in the law?
My military service was spent in law enforcement and military policing, so I was interested in the law, at least from the perspective of enforcing it, from day one. My interest was heightened by undergraduate and graduate studies in criminology, but it was most profoundly affected by the application of military justice I saw imparted by unit commanders on their subordinates for minor misbehavior and formally prosecuted by the military against more serious offenders. I was able to observe and participate in the process from the initial interaction on the street, through testifying at the trial and providing materials on appeal, to incarceration, release, and discharge.
What do you think civilians should know about those in the service?
A person's decision to serve in the military is both deeply personal and deeply individual, so why someone serves is, or should be, less important than the fact that they do serve. What I think the average person should know is the thing service members have in common: the real and personal cost and sacrifice that comes part and parcel with serving. Whether it is tangible, such as the lower pay the military gets for performing the same job (no unions! no overtime!), or intangible, such as time lost with family (deployments! unaccompanied overseas assignments up to a year long!) or the impact directly on the family (frequent moves: my son attended 10 different schools by 12th grade), this minimum cost is both real and unavoidable. And because their service includes the opportunity to go in harm's way on behalf of a grateful nation, this minimum cost can increase, on an individual and personal basis, infinitely.
Why did you select Stetson Law? Is the atmosphere supportive of military veterans?
My reasons for selecting Stetson for law school were unrelated to my military service and it is just more icing on the proverbial cake that the atmosphere here is quite supportive. Whether this environment is fostered by those with a military background among the student body, staff, and faculty, or by the school's close relationship with the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, or by the profound sea change in society's attitude towards the military in the decades following the Vietnam conflict, or perhaps some combination thereof, is an interesting and probably unanswerable question. But whatever its source I certainly appreciate it.
What are your plans for after law school?
To pass the Bar and get a job, of course! But seriously, my own experiences with the Department of Veterans Affairs and my local networking have revealed a potential need in this area for representing veterans in their claims for benefits. I see this as an ideal and real way to help those who sacrificed so much on behalf of us all.