Military Deployments: The Music

No, this will not contain sappy reminiscences of past deployments. I have none. My deployments, all prior to 9/11, are decidedly mundane and devoid of anything sappy.

However, two memories that I’ll share with you.

First, Germany.

I was never stationed in Germany, but I did stop there while traveling other places. At one point, I was there for the festival of Fasching. I don’t know much about Fasching, but I do know that the local biergarten was alive with activity, and beer.

Traditional music was played along with a few more (apparently) contemporary songs. However, the crowd howled with excitement when this song began. I went with the flow. Everyone sang along. I sang along. Sort of.

(Ignore the green bar. No, I don’t know what it says, and I don’t care.)

Second, Saudi Arabia.

While we stayed in tents during our deployment to Saudi Arabia, each had numerous creature comforts, including televisions. However, TV services were contracted, meaning that we were able to view only a few channels, Armed Forces Network (AFN), some sort of Indian soap opera channel, and Indian MTV.

Nobody likes soap operas, so that channel was out. AFN was only good for watching Rasslin’ on Monday night. That left Indian MTV. We were privileged to arrive after one of India’s most popular artists, Daler Mehndi released his magnum opus, Tunak Tunak Tun. It played constantly.


Passionate? I’ll pass.

The other day, I had a halfhearted conversation with a young lawyer assessing his options outside of the military. At one point, he jokingly (at least apparently) mentioned that he could work for me.

“You know, Eric, I’m really passionate about defending soldiers.”

I smiled and made attempts at keeping the conversation light. Though I left with the feeling that he hoped that a seed was planted for future cultivation.

The fact is, I’d never hire him. Ever.

Oh, he’s a smart kid, good heart, and presents himself well in the courtroom (for his level of experience). He demonstrated, in a short time, the ability to learn quickly and efficiently.

So, why won’t I hire him?

He’s passionate.

I don’t have time to deal with that crap.

See, it’s fine to be passionate about things. For instance, I’m passionate about my kids and their futures. For that reason, I’d make a crappy lawyer for them if one was needed. They’d need someone who is dispassionate who can calmly evaluate options and make learned decisions and recommendations. I’m not that person because I’m passionate about the subject.

You might assume that I’m not passionate about military law and courts-martial. If you did assume this, you are correct. Gold star for you.

I’m not passionate. I’m happy to be in this sector of the profession. I like doing the work. I appreciate what I do and how I am able to do it. I enjoy the challenges and always look forward to announcing my appearance in military court.

Any time I achieve a positive result for a veteran, I feel good, and even a bit proud.

Happy, appreciative, enjoying, and proud? Yes.

Passionate? Absolutely not.

Occasionally, to get a response from opposing counsel, I’ll act passionate, but it’s all an act. Acting passionate takes a lot of energy. Being passionate takes even more.

But I’m not passionate about what I do.

My experience tells me that passion usually results in one of two things: poor legal reasoning or unintended pregnancies.

I talk to passionate people all the time. Some are clients. Some are potential clients. Many are family members–moms, dads, wives, brothers, sisters, and mistresses. Others are third-party advocates (victim, veteran, and the like). They are passionate. Often very, very passionate.

They know what they know and believe what they believe. They become flustered and angry at the thought that someone could believe otherwise. When I explain that the opposing side has a logical and (generally) accepted reason for a particular stance, I’m met with the same high-powered anger and frustration.

They blurt, “How can they possibly think that?! How can you say those jerks have solid and compelling evidence?!”

Well, as lawyers, our job is to understand why and how the opposing party thinks. We must look at their logic, identify flaws, and identify ways to present our side as more logical and less flawed. Sometimes, it is possible. Often, it is not.

Feeling passion makes a person think they are flawless, and they see the other side as obviously and irreparably flawed. How dare someone think otherwise.

As lawyers, we are hired to analyze everything dispassionately, call it as we see it, and make the most of whatever hand we are dealt. If we are passionate, we fail at all three. The last thing we should do is practice in an area where we feel passion.

So, if you are looking for a job, or a partnership, feel free to be passionate about model railroading, or modern art, or the evolution of body art, or animal husbandry, or crumbling Detroit architecture.

Just don’t be passionate about military law.

If you are, take your passions elsewhere. I have no time for them. And neither do my clients.

Are Whiskers Worthy Of Delay?

More news in the Hasan murder trial at Ft. Hood, Texas. More specifically, the is more news about his facial hair.

Col. Gregory Gross, the judge who will oversee the military trial of Maj. Nidal Hasan, ordered the Army psychiatrist to be forcibly shaved for his trial, according to Tyler Broadway, a spokesman at Fort Hood.

There is no way this could be easy. After all, I have enough problems when I voluntarily shave my own face. What is it like to attempt to shave someone else by force? I suppose sedatives will likely be administered. Again, forcibly.

Let’s look at the potential impact on court-martial procedure.

The order is likely to trigger an appeal that would further delay the case, which has dragged on now since 2009.

Hasan’s attorney had filed an appeal when Gross threatened to order the shaving but the appeals court said it wouldn’t issue a decision until the shaving was actually ordered. Thursday’s order by Gross opens the door for that appeal.

I’m trying to remember. What year did the acts in question occur? At this point, it seems like it happened around 1983. Get ready for more delays.

This creates many interesting dilemmas, but one in particular is interesting to me.

  • Suppose he is forcibly shorn. I can’t imagine that it would be done well. So, he arrives at his court-martial with a crappy shave. Considering that most officers in the military are rigid in their belief that other officers should adhere to high standards of personal appearance, this may create issues on appeal (in an appellate system that is historically tedious with death penalty case minutiae).
  • Suppose the court grants the defense request for him to maintain his beard. Assuming he is convicted and sentenced to death, this could be the basis of an ineffective assistance of counsel claim (in an appellate system that is VERY liberal with IAC claims) where appellate counsel asserts that defense counsel hurt their client by supporting personal appearance that suggests to the jury that the accused has no disregard for the law/regulations.

Knowing this, he may have already won a technical, future victory.

I Get Voicemail

I get voicemail. I particularly appreciate the ones that provide me with constructive comments and positive vibes. Like this. (Not appropriate for children or sensitive transactional lawyers.)

(Note: I had to convert it to video in order to post it here via YouTube.)

Ironically, this came on a day when I spent more than 5 hours on pro bono endeavors for a couple of down-on-their-luck veterans. Ah, karma.

They get the business, and I get the lulz.

Many of my potential clients are fishing for an attorney with big, wide nets. Some want the cheapest. Some want the best. Some like shiny, fancy websites. Some rely on referrals. Some want an old man attorney. Some want a pretty female attorney. Some want guarantees. They are all different.

Some keep my number in their phone, even when they eventually choose another lawyer. Today, one of those former potential clients left a message on my machine in the belief that their chosen attorney worked in my office (I’ve never heard of her). Here’s the transcript, sanitized to protect the wonderful folks involved.

Hi. My name is __________. I’m trying to get ahold of _________. She’s my attorney for court. I’ve been trying to get ahold of her since this thing started. She won’t answer my phone calls for months now. Please, please, please call me at…

I called him back within minutes of the message. He was frazzled. I explained that I was not his attorney and had no idea of the whereabouts or identity of his attorney. He then realized that I was the guy he did not choose. He apologized for the erroneous call.

I wished him well and hung up.

While I don’t think much of his lawyer, I do hope she succeeds. For his sake.

Blood Rank

I don’t know where the idea of “blood rank” and “blood wings” came from, but the older I get, the more stupid it seems.

Here’s the deal. At promotion (before the current velcro field uniforms), soldiers would have metal rank insignia put on their collars. The rank usually was held in place by two straight metal pins. The fasteners were left off, exposing the sharp metal pins toward the skin. Then, noncommissioned officers and fellow soldiers would walk by and hit the rank, causing the pins to pierce the skin. The same practice was similarly followed when someone earned the Parachutist Badge (Airborne wings) or other insignia.

Several of my peers in Airborne School in 1994 went behind a building at Ft. Benning, GA to get their “blood wings” from the Airborne instructors after graduation. They were extremely proud. I did not, I was proud enough of the ones I earned, sans blood.

The practice has, technically, been outlawed for several decades, but I saw it happen numerous times, at numerous places.

Now, there are no more metal rank pins, only velcro. So, it seems a unit at Ft. Bragg decided to make up the difference with a hammer. A big wooden one.

I wonder who stood off-camera. I wonder what rank they are. I wonder how many other soldiers face the same “ceremony.” ¬†While Ft. Bragg is in the news today, you can bet there are many other installations and units that, today, are breathing a sigh of relief that nobody taped their “ceremonies.”

According to the video, the hammerer received a reprimand.