In The News

James Mackler creates Nashville Attorney Veterans Group

There is a unique bond among the small percentage of Americans who have served in the military. There is an even smaller subset of individuals who are both attorneys and veterans. As an attorney and recent veteran I was surprised to learn several months ago that there was no formal organization or even list of members of middle Tennessee lawyers with prior military service. It occurred to me that such an organization could be a great source of camaraderie and, more importantly, community service. Seeing the great potential for such a group, I began to email friends and colleagues to compile a list of interested attorney veterans.

Not surprisingly, the response was overwhelming. Middle Tennessee has a very strong community of lawyers who have served their country and there was clearly a pent up demand to join forces. The list grew quickly. On May 17, 2012, Judge Robert Echols hosted the first ever meeting of attorney veterans. We had approximately 30 attendees. There were lawyers and judges who had served in every conflict from World War II through Afghanistan. We also had nearly every military branch represented. The group enjoyed sharing war stories from both the battlefield and the courtroom. There was a strong consensus that we needed to meet again and begin planning some kind of outreach project that would combine our military backgrounds with our unique legal skills.

The attorney veterans group is off to a very strong start. Inspired by the growing organization, the Nashville Bar has now created a veterans committee. Our group is open to all lawyers in the middle Tennessee area who have served, or are currently serving, in any branch of the military. It is growing day by day. We are creating a more formalized organizational structure, working to choose our first service project, and planning our next meeting. We are very excited about the future. If you are an attorney with a military background and would like more information, please feel free to contact me at 615-238-6312.

9% Vets must fight for fair compensation

By James Mackler

There is growing anger in this country as the “99 percent” continue to point out the widening gap between rich and poor. The “occupy” movement has spread from Wall Street to Nashville and beyond.

Lost among the discussion of high unemployment rates, bank bailouts and excessive corporate greed is the fact that there is a group much smaller than the 99 percent that bears the combined burden of economic inequality and “service inequality.” This “service inequality” is reflected in the fact that, at any given time, less than one-half of 1 percent of the adult population are serving in the active-duty military. Nine percent of the total adult population are military veterans. These are the “9 percent.”

The “9 percent” share the same economic challenges as the “99 percent,” but their burden is increased by the toll exacted from military service. The 9 percent make up 13 percent of the adults in homeless shelters. The 9 percent face an unemployment rate of 12.4 percent. The 9 percent account for 20 percent of all suicides in the U.S.

Although veterans are facing unemployment, homelessness and suicide in disproportionate numbers, a recent poll by the Pew Research Center indicates 70 percent of the general public admit that they have little or no understanding of the problems faced by those in the military. Even veterans themselves do not seem to recognize the negative impact of service on their civilian life. Rather, the vast majority of those who have served say that their military experience has helped them to get ahead in life. Eight in 10 would advise a young person close to them to join the military.

How can it be that the 9 percent have so little self-awareness at the same time that the 99 percent are becoming increasingly aware of their own economic disparity? The answer probably is deeply rooted in military culture. Warriors are trained to endure, even to embrace hardship. Self-sufficiency is a coveted trait. Asking for help can be a sign of weakness. The soldier’s mantra during hard times is to simply “suck it up.”

These are admirable traits in battle. They are counterproductive at home when jobs are scarce and Congress eyes veterans benefits as entitlements that can be cut in the name of balancing the budget. The time has come for veterans to refocus the energy that brought them home from the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan. Veterans need to recognize that neither the 99 percent nor the 1 percent are going to advocate for them. It is time for veterans to mobilize on our own behalf.

We need to show employers that we have skills and experience that are unmatched in the civilian world. We need to show politicians that health care and retirement and a social safety net are fair compensation for our sacrifice — not entitlements. And if it comes down to it, after multiple deployments to some of the most inhospitable places on Earth, occupying Wall Street or Pennsylvania Avenue will be easy.