Remembering Isn't Enough. - The S.E. Farris Law Firm
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Remembering Isn’t Enough.

Among the (growing) list of things that annoy me are misuses and abuses of language. Overly redundant. Any and all. They’re, there and their used inappropriately, second only to your and you’re. Epic, awesome, and iconic for things that are merely pretty good. (I ignore its and it’s swaps—I am not an orthodox grammarian, after all.) As a person with an English degree, even from an agriculture school, I feel duty-bound to muster up some outrage over such things. This year I added “Happy Memorial Day” to my list.

Memorial Day is a time for remembering and honoring our fallen soldiers, not celebrating. Unless you were looking for discount furniture and got lucky at a Memorial Day sale, the day is one for somber reflection, not celebration. To those who did celebrate, congratulations on your new sofa.

I started college on an ROTC scholarship, but I never served in the military. I am fortunate to live in a time when America was not drafting soldiers and there were no active military conflicts when I was in my twenties. While that was fortunate for me, I don’t celebrate not serving in the military. My peace was only possible due to the sacrifices of men and women I will never meet.

I’ve met enough soldiers to have some idea of the burden that they take on my behalf, and a tiny idea of the sacrifices they make. I am grateful for that daily—not just on Memorial Day. When I thank a uniformed soldier, usually in an airport amidst the hustle of catching a plane, it always gives me a moment’s pause at how pitifully small such a show of gratitude must seem. I hope my “thank you for your service” feels as sincere to them as I intend.

Robert Mueller and his service in the most talked about legal investigation of recent times is a hot topic. Wired Magazine published a thorough background story about Mr. Mueller a year ago. It is notable that someone from a privileged background such as his chose to enter the military at all, let alone during war time. He strikes me as a man who takes duty seriously, and the sense of honor ingrained in him during that time remains strong.

It is almost impossible to meet someone who doesn’t have an opinion of the Mueller report. Although everyone has an opinion, the number of people who actually read the document is tiny. I confess to only reading the first few pages and skimming the rest. Mr. Mueller’s comments recently have solidified my opinion: he is a man of honor who took his job seriously. It must be tempting to defend himself or his work publicly when he has been so often attacked, yet he has not.

Lawyers in the public eye often comment on pending cases. Some see it as zealous advocacy to influence public opinion, others are grandstanding for personal reasons. Mr. Mueller has, in the opinion of this writer, done neither. He has not allowed his dedication to the task at hand to supersede his perception of the constraints of his office. This is no doubt the influence of his military training, and a soldier’s mindset. Paraphrasing Tennyson, his was not to reason why, his was but to do or die.

A lawyer in the early part of my career called me a “punk” during an argument. Sensing my offense, he apologized and refocused the discussion to our case. To be fair, “punk” was probably both accurate and deserved.

 I learned later that he had been a helicopter pilot in Vietnam and had repeatedly flown his craft through enemy fire. He never mentioned the medal he was awarded, and I only heard about it later. At that moment, I understood his frustration at young me, and was embarrassed that I had caused him to lose his cool.

A grade school friend of mine served as a Navy lawyer for several decades. After he left the service, he found difficulty translating his experience into a civilian legal job. Throughout his struggle, he never blamed spending years in the military instead of private practice. A lawyer who taught me at the Trial Lawyers’ College still defends soldiers charged with military crimes long after leaving active duty. Although they have never met each other, their stories and frustrations have similarities. Military lawyers are soldiers first and make great sacrifices to serve. Both of them inspire me and give my daily frustrations as a lawyer much needed perspective.

My goal as a lawyer is to help my clients and sometimes that help is life changing. It pains me when I fail. The sacrifices necessary for the successes are small when compared to those that men and women in uniforms make daily.

My local bar association has a memorial day for lawyers every year where we read the names and observe a moment of silence for the lawyers who died the previous year. I try to attend that ceremony even if I don’t know any of those who are gone. Remembering is not enough, but it is the last gift we can offer.

©2019 under analysis llc. under analysis is a nationally syndicated column. Spencer Farris is the founding partner of The S.E. Farris Law Firm in St Louis, Missouri. Comments or criticisms about this column may be sent to Under Analysis via email at