David R. Olivas on being a veteran

A year after graduating from law school, Navy Reservist David R. Olivas was deployed to Afghanistan, where he spent time in Mazar-e-Sharif, Balkh, Kunduz, and Bagram. His tour of duty ended on Jan. 5, 2014, and the 35-year-old currently resides in Flower Mound, practicing criminal law as a Dallas County assistant district attorney.

Tell us about when you joined the service. What went into your decision?
I was going to school at my parents’ desire instead of my own. I wanted to travel and work, so I thought I’d join the Navy. I decided to tell my parents about my intent to drop out of college and join the service. My dad was eating enchiladas and had just taken a bite when I stated, “Guys, I think I’m going to join the Navy.” He stopped chewing and looked at me with complete shock.

Why did you choose this military branch?
I chose the Navy for many reasons: I wanted to leave Texas; I loved the uniform; the Navy would teach me a foreign language; and I knew I would get to see the world. I left Texas for training; I got to wear the Navy Blues; the Navy taught me some Arabic; and I became fluent in Spanish. As fate would have it, I was stationed in San Antonio for nearly eight years. I did, however, get to deploy with the British and Dutch navies. After almost nine years, I quit active duty, joined the Navy Reserve, and moved back to DFW to attend Texas Wesleyan School of Law’s evening program. The Monday after graduation from law school, my chief told me I was on the short list to deploy. One year later, I was stepping off a plane in Afghanistan.

Did you find that there were a lot of attorneys in the military or that many soldiers talked about wanting to become attorneys?
In the Navy, we have what’s called a sea-lawyer. This individual usually knew it all and let everyone else know it.

Has your military experience influenced the way you practice law?
Leadership, devotion to duty, and time management were the biggest tools the Navy taught me. These tools have allowed me to manage my caseloads and separate what is important and what is not. My leadership experience influences how I look at cases, associate with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, and treat everyone with the same level of respect. We were taught to become consummate professionals. I strive to maintain that reputation.

Do you see similarities in being a solider and being a lawyer?
We know when to speak and, most important, when to keep quiet.

If you could give someone a piece of advice before joining the military, what would it be?
No one will look out for your interest better than yourself. The military will use you for everything, so learn your job, do it well, and use the military for everything you can—education, training, and certifications.

What does being a veteran mean to you?
To me, a veteran is reliable. We do our job right and work efficiently.

 

Wills of World War I soldiers available online

In 2013, the United Kingdom’s HM Courts and Tribunals Service made thousands of World War I soldiers’ wills available to the public. The documents have since been viewed more than 1 million times, and more than 10,000 copies of wills have been ordered. This project is meant to provide insight into UK WWI heroes for historians, genealogists, and those whose ancestors fought in the Great War.

Before going to the front lines of battle, many soldiers past and present execute wills to simplify the settling of their affairs in the event they are killed in combat. The informal, short-form WWI wills released by the UK contain information like the soldier’s domicile, regimental number and rank, cause of death (i.e., “killed in action France,” “killed in action from gas poisoning,” or, simply, “died of wounds”), and date of death. Some records also include forms stating to whom the soldier would be leaving his property and the address of the beneficiary (many soldiers gave their property to their mothers), along with a “list of clothing to be in the possession of troops proceeding to join the expeditionary force.” Some even have handwritten letters to family expressing fears, hopes, and instructions for belongings.

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Texas Veterans Legal Aid Week offers clinics, workshops throughout state

To provide legal assistance to veterans and in honor of Veterans Day on Tuesday, this week has been deemed Texas Veterans Legal Aid Week, which consists of a multi-organization pro bono initiative coordinated by the Texas Access to Justice Foundation.

Through Friday, veterans can access civil legal services at clinics and workshops held and staffed by legal aid organizations, law schools, and private law firm attorneys around the state. Additionally, a statewide live chat via Texas Legal Services Center will be available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day this week so that veterans can privately message with a pro bono attorney.

For more information on Texas Veterans Legal Aid Week and to find an event in your area, go to http://texaslawhelp.org/veterans or http://texaslawhelp.org/resource/texas-veterans-legal-aid-week-activities.

Free legal clinic for veterans in Galveston

A free legal clinic for veterans is scheduled for Nov. 8 at the Galveston VA Outpatient Clinic, 3828 Avenue N.

Any veteran, or spouse of a deceased veteran, is welcome to attend and receive advice and counsel from a volunteer attorney in any area of the law—including family, consumer, wills and probate, real estate and tax, and disability and veterans benefits. If a veteran requires ongoing legal representation and qualifies for legal aid, a pro bono attorney will be assigned to handle the case.

The clinic, which will take place from 9 a.m. to noon in conjunction with the VA Outpatient Clinic’s Veterans Fair, is co-sponsored by the Galveston County Bar Association and the Houston Bar Foundation’s Veterans Legal Initiative.

No appointment is necessary. For more information on the event and other services for veterans, go to hba.org.

 

Free legal clinic for veterans to take place in Lake Jackson

A free legal clinic for veterans is scheduled for Oct. 25 at the Lake Jackson VA Outpatient Clinic, 208 Oak Drive South, Lake Jackson.

During the event, attorneys will be available to answer questions on a variety of legal issues, including family, wills and probate, consumer, real estate, and tax law, as well as disability and veterans benefits.

The clinic, which will run from 9 a.m. to noon, is also open to spouses of deceased veterans. No appointment is necessary.

The clinic is sponsored by the Brazoria County Bar Association conjunction with the Houston Bar Foundation’s Veterans Legal Initiative, a coalition of local bar associations that provides pro bono legal services to U.S. veterans in 17 Texas counties.

For more information, contact the Veterans Legal Initiative at (713) 759-1133.

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Free Legal Clinic for Veterans in Katy

Veterans needing legal advice or assistance can meet with a lawyer during a free clinic that will take place on Saturday, Oct. 11 at the Katy VA Outpatient Clinic, 750 Westgreen Blvd., 2nd Floor. The event, which will run from 9 a.m. to noon, is also open to spouses of deceased veterans.

Volunteer attorneys will offer counsel in any area of the law, including family, wills and probate, consumer, real estate and tax law, as well as disability and veterans benefits. No appointment is necessary.

The clinic is a public service of the Katy Bar Association and the Houston Bar Foundation’s Veterans Legal Initiative. Veterans who need ongoing legal representation and who qualify for legal aid will be assigned a pro bono attorney through the Houston Volunteer Lawyers to handle their case.

The Houston Bar Foundation also sponsors weekly Friday afternoon clinics at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center from 2 to 5 p.m. on the first floor. For more information, go to hba.org.

Foundation provides grants for veterans' legal services

The Texas Access to Justice Foundation has announced that it will provide more than $426,000 in grants among 11 nonprofits in support of legal aid services for Texas veterans.

Groups receiving the financial support include:

  • Baylor University School of Law, Waco - $22,000
  • Cathedral Justice Project, Houston - $22,000
  • Community Justice Program, San Antonio – $22,000
  • Fort Bend Lawyers Care, Richmond - $22,000
  • Houston Bar Foundation, Houston and surrounding area - $60,000
  • Jefferson County Bar Foundation, Beaumont - $22,000
  • Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas, Fort Worth (also includes Dallas, North Texas, Panhandle, and West Texas) – $50,000
  • Lone Star Legal Aid, Houston (includes Gulf Coast and East Texas) - $64,000
  • Oficina Legal del Pueblo Unido, Inc. (Texas Civil Rights Project), statewide - $50,000
  • Tarrant County Bar Foundation, Fort Worth - $22,000
  • Texas Legal Services Center, Austin (statewide) - $70,713

The Texas Access to Justice Foundation is the largest state-based funding source for the provision of civil legal aid in Texas and has awarded more than $410 million since 1984. For more information, go to tajf.org.

Free legal clinic for veterans Sept. 27 in Tomball

Veterans and spouses of deceased veterans can receive free legal advice during a clinic in Tomball on Saturday, Sept. 27. The event will take place from 9 a.m. to noon at the Tomball VA Outpatient Clinic, 1200 W. Main St.

No appointment is needed.

Lawyers will be on site to offer counsel in any area of law—including disability and veterans benefits, family, wills and probate, consumer, and real estate and tax law. Veterans who need ongoing legal representation and who quality for legal aid may be assigned a pro bono attorney to handle a case.

The clinic is a public service of the Houston Bar Foundation’s Veterans Legal Initiative, a coalition of local bar associations that provide pro bono legal services to U.S. veterans in 17 Texas counties.

For more information, call (713) 759-1133 or go to hba.org.

 

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Free legal clinic for veterans scheduled for Texas City

Veterans, as well as spouses of deceased veterans, can obtain free legal advice and assistance during a clinic in Texas City on Saturday, Sept. 13. No appointment is needed for the clinic, which takes place from 9 a.m. to noon at the Texas City VA Outpatient Clinic, 9300 Emmett F. Lowry Expressway, Suite 206.

Volunteer lawyers will offer counsel in any area of the law—including family, wills and probate, tax law, and disability and veterans benefits. Veterans who need ongoing legal representation and qualify for legal aid may be assigned a pro bono attorney to handle their case. The clinic is a public service of the Galveston Bar Association and the Houston Bar Foundation’s Veterans Legal Initiative.

For more information, contact the Veterans Legal Initiative at 713-759-1133 or go to hba.org.

 

Q&A with Richard Pena, author of Last Plane Out of Saigon

Richard Pena saw the realities of war while working as an operating room specialist in Vietnam. While he was stationed in that country full of unrest, Pena took it upon himself to learn about the locals—and to try to understand why he had flown halfway around the world to help the South Vietnamese people. The Austin-based attorney, who has served as the president of the American Bar Foundation, the State Bar of Texas, and the Travis County Bar Association, was on one of the last planes to exit Vietnam at the war’s end. He left on day 61 after the signing of the Paris Peace Accords, which stipulated that America withdraw in 60 days. Last Plane Out of Saigon is a reproduction of Pena’s thought-provoking, real-time journal from that long, final year of the war.

The Texas Bar Journal interviewed Pena in July 2014 about his experiences in Vietnam and the process of writing and publishing the book. An excerpt of Last Plane Out of Saigon will be published in the September 2014 issue of the Texas Bar Journal. For more information, go to lastplaneoutofsaigon.com.

Can you describe how the book came into existence?

I told my story to John Hagan, an award winning writer and scholar with the American Bar Foundation. He asked if he could read the journal notes. I proceeded to take them out of the brown box in my attic and delivered them to him in Chicago. It took him several days to read them. He then called me, and to my surprise, he felt they were very good. He recognized the historical significance of my journal notes and the fact that they were written in real time, while the events were happening. He also commented, “America needs to read these.” Shortly thereafter, we decided to collaborate.

Why did you start writing in a journal and how often did you write in it?

Once I arrived in Vietnam, I was assigned to 3rd Field Hospital in Saigon, working as an operating room specialist. It was early May 1972. America had grown weary of the war and I kept wondering why I was there and why we were there. After several months of being “in country,” I was compelled to begin documenting some of what I was seeing. The journal notes were written every now and then, when I had time or when something compelling had happened. In this war, as in others, what one experiences and witnesses would be unbelievable in normal society and often surreal. The war was affecting our young American soldiers and also the Vietnamese people and their country. I felt that I was witnessing a story that needed to be told.

Had it been a long time since you had read your journal entries? What was it like to revisit this material?

I was discharged from the Army when I returned from Vietnam in March 1973. I returned to law school and picked back up with being a law student. Later I was busy practicing law and became active in local, state, and national bar associations. In short, I went about the business of living my life. This whole time, I kept my journal notes from Vietnam and carried them with me from house to house. They were in a brown box. Every now and then I would read a short passage. This usually occurred when I was doing work in the attic or garage. Reading them always brought back the memories and some of the feelings experienced when I was in Vietnam.

These feelings were the same when I began work on taking the book to publication. The anger associated with the war has been replaced with a sense of sadness, especially when reflecting on the more than 58,000 Americans that were killed. But the hope is that the journal entries, and the book, will help the country learn from the mistakes made in Vietnam.

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Veterans legal clinic to take place in Conroe

The Montgomery County Bar Association, the Woodlands Bar Association, and the Houston Bar Foundation’s Veterans Legal Initiative are teaming up to host a free legal clinic for veterans in Conroe on July 19.

No appointment is necessary for the clinic, which runs from 9 a.m. to noon at the Conroe VA Outpatient Clinic, 800 Riverwood Court, Ste. 100.

Any veteran, or spouse of a deceased veteran, can receive advice and counsel from a volunteer attorney in any area of law during the session. Veterans who need ongoing legal representation and who qualify for legal aid may be assigned a pro bono attorney to handle their case.

For more information, call the Veterans Legal Initiative at (713) 759-1133 or go to hba.org.

 

Austin Bar to offer free veterans legal clinic June 9

Austin-area veterans can receive free legal advice through a clinic offered by the Austin Bar Association.

The association hosts a free legal advice clinic for veterans each month, and the next clinic is 1:30 to 4 p.m. June 9 at the new Austin VA Outpatient Clinic at 7901 Metropolis Drive.

Sign-in will take place from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. No appointments or reservations are necessary.

Attorney volunteers will provide brief legal advice but will not offer services such as wills or divorce filings at the clinic. If participants need further legal assistance, the association will provide local legal resources.

 

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Family Eldercare's Larson honored with 2014 Boots on the Ground Award

Austin attorney Christine P. “Chris” Larson is the 2014 recipient of the James B. Sales Boots on the Ground Award. 

The annual award, which recognizes exemplary pro bono or legal services program attorneys, was presented May 13 in Austin during the 2014 Champions of Justice Gala Benefiting Veterans. The Texas Access to Justice Commission hosts the event, which is cosponsored by the State Bar of Texas. 

“I’m obviously honored by this award and grateful that the commission values all that is involved in working with a population that cannot speak for itself,” said Larson, the director of guardianship estate services at Austin’s Family Eldercare, which provides essential services to seniors, adults with disabilities, and caregivers. “I love what I do and the clients I have the opportunity to advocate for. I work with an incredible group of people at Family Eldercare who are just as passionate as I am for the work we do.” 

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Free veterans legal clinic May 31 in Tomball

Veterans who need legal advice or assistance can visit a free legal clinic from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, May 31 at the VA Outpatient Clinic, 1200 W. Main St., in Tomball.

No appointment is necessary. Any veteran, or spouse of a deceased veteran, can receive advice and counsel from a volunteer attorney in any area of law, including family, wills and probate, consumer, real estate, and tax law, as well as disability and veterans benefits. Veterans who need ongoing legal representation and who qualify for legal aid may be assigned a pro bono attorney to handle their case.

The clinic is a public service of the Northwest Harris County Bar Association, in conjunction with the Houston Bar Foundation’s Veterans Legal Initiative, a coalition of local bar associations that provide pro bono legal services to U.S. veterans in 17 Texas counties.

For more information on the clinic, contact the Veterans Legal Initiative at 713-759-1133. 

Austin Bar to offer free veterans legal clinic April 14

Austin-area veterans can receive free legal advice through a clinic offered by the Austin Bar Association.

The association hosts a free legal advice clinic for veterans each month, and the next clinic is 1-4 p.m. April 14 at the new Austin VA Outpatient Clinic at 7901 Metropolis Drive.

Sign-in will take place from 1 to 3:30 p.m. No appointments or reservations are necessary.

Attorney volunteers will provide brief legal advice but will not offer services such as wills or divorce filings at the clinic. If participants need further legal assistance, the association will provide local legal resources.

 

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Free legal clinic for veterans set for Jan. 18 in Conroe

A free legal advice clinic for veterans will take place Saturday, Jan. 18 in Conroe, the Houston Bar Association announced Thursday.

The clinic will take place from 9 a.m. to noon at the Conroe VA Outpatient Clinic at 800 Riverwood Court, Suite 100. No appointment is necessary.

The clinic will provide an opportunity for any veteran or spouse of a deceased veteran to receive counsel from a volunteer attorney in any area of law—including family, wills and probate, consumer, real estate, and tax law—as well as disability and veterans benefits.

Veterans who need ongoing legal representation and who qualify for legal aid will be assigned a pro bono attorney through the Houston Volunteer Lawyers.

 

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Champions of Justice Gala raises $338,000 for veterans

The Champions of Justice Gala benefiting veterans was held on Tuesday, April 23, at the AT&T Executive Education & Conference Center in Austin. Some of Texas’ most prominent lawyers, members of the Texas Supreme Court, members of the Texas Legislature, and State Bar of Texas leaders gathered for the special event. Texas Access to Justice Commission Chair, Harry Reasoner, thanked them for their continued support to expand access to justice for the underserved.

Guest speakers included Paul Melton, President of Board of Directors of the Department of Texas Veterans of Foreign Wars Foundation and Lt. Michael E. Thornton, U.S. Navy Seal (Ret.), Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient.

Lt. Thornton is the only Medal of Honor recipient in over a century to save the life of another Medal of Honor recipient. He reads the U.S. Constitution once a month to ensure he continues to understand its meaning. He thanked the State Bar of Texas and its members for leading the way nationwide to help veterans, and for helping to open the eyes of other state bars about what lawyers can do to help. Lt. Thornton noted how important this mission is to him, “Giving back to the greatest nation in the world that has given me everything in the world.”

Melton spoke about the debt we have to the men and women who are fighting for our country. "We are returning veterans at a faster pace than has been seen since 1945," Melton said. He referred to the people in attendance as the best in the Texas legal profession and emphasized that there is no higher calling than pro bono efforts on behalf of veterans.

The Emily C. Jones Lifetime Achievement award was presented to Stewart W. Gagnon of Fulbright & Jaworski in Houston for his years of pro bono work. Gagnon advocates for the most vulnerable Texans through the Houston Volunteer Lawyers program, veterans’ legal clinics, and legal helplines. Gagnon thanked the Access to Justice Commission for honoring those who rush to help those in need. 

James C. “Jim” Harrington, executive director of the Texas Civil Rights Project in Austin, received the James B. Sales Boots on the Ground award for his singular contributions that have made an extraordinary impact. He has dedicated 40 years to legal service, working tirelessly for equal rights for migrant workers, the handicapped, children’s privacy, and battered women. Harrington said that his clients’ faith in the system gives him the faith to move forward — access to justice is a group effort and all of those in attendance are one community who believe in equal access to justice.

The awards were presented by Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson. Chief Jefferson acknowledged Chief Justice Jack Pope's 100th birthday last week, and noted that Chief Pope is responsible for inaugurating Texas IOLTA.

For more information, please visit www.texasatj.org

TAJF grant application deadline for legal aid to veterans extended to May 1

The Texas Access to Justice Foundation (TAJF) has extended the application due date until May 1, 2013 for proposals to fund legal aid programs that provide civil legal services for low-income Texas veterans. Proceeds from the Champions of Justice Gala for Veterans have been designated to fund these grants. 

These funds are to address the increased demand for legal services at a time when many veterans are returning from the war in Afghanistan. Selected applicants will help increase, support and deliver free civil legal services that help low-income Texas veterans with many critical civil legal services in matters such as family law, employment, housing, consumer, bankruptcy and probate as well as including filing claims for compensation or pensions from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Legal assistance is also needed for representing veterans in filing claims for indigent veterans suffering from service-connected disabilities. The scope of work to be funded can also help family members of living or deceased veterans apply for VA benefits. 

Grant applications will be submitted online through the TAJF web grants online system which will require applicants who are not existing grantees to register and once approved, complete the online application and submit it by the due date of Wednesday May 1, 2013 at 5:00 pm. You can access the online grants system by going to grants.tajf.org. For more information, contact Jonathan Vickery at jvickery@teajf.org or 1-800-252-3401 ext. 110

Bastrop Country Veterans Benefit Fair

The Bastrop County Veterans Service Office will host a veteran’s benefits fair and outreach even on Saturday, Feb. 2 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Bastrop County Courthouse Annex. This event is open to all veterans, active duty, reserve and National Guard military members and their families.

Learn about veteran health care, compensation, pension, education, employment, survivors’ benefits, home and land loans, life insurance, burial honors and many other potential benefits in addition to free legal consultation and guidance for filing claims and appeals. No appointment is necessary and the event is free.

For more information contact the Bastrop County Veterans Service Office at 512-581-4006 or via email at richard.hutchins@co.bastrop.tx.us.

Location:
Bastrop County Courthouse Annex
Second Floor Conference Room
804 Pecan St., Bastrop

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