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.