Two students share their journey. A military career was the perfect starting point for Robert Dowling, 2L, and Monica Smith, 2L.

From his earliest days at Joint Base Lewis McChord, Robert Dowling, 2L, felt the positive impact of how a military career would shape his future as a leader, and ultimately a practicing attorney. Monica Smith, 2L, also felt the transformative power of the military and credits her time in the Army as leaving an indelible mark on her life and career.

Dowling, a retired Army veteran, and Smith, a captain in the Army, both come from rich military lineages. Dowling’s grandfathers were veterans and Smith’s father, uncle and grandparents also served, with her sister currently on active duty.

From common roots in family legacies of service, Dowling and Smith have found different paths for their future careers. Dowling aspires to practice law in the civilian sector, while Smith will join the United States Army Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps after graduation.

Their stories of service and sacrifice convey the spirit that defines Veterans Day. Follow along as UW Law honors them — and all U.S. veterans — on this special day.

Read the Transcript

Robert Dowling: I'll never forget the first day that I went to Joint Base Lewis McChord when I got to my unit, which was 2-2 SBCT, and they're like, hey, sir, here's your 2, 3, 4 soldiers that you are, you know, in charge of their moral, physical, professional well-being on a daily basis. And that's a lot of responsibility as a leader to take on, especially when you're only 21 years old.

Monica Smith: I was one of the first women in the infantry. And that experience completely, completely changed my perspective and completely shaped who I am today.

I needed a way to pay for college and my dad served for 30 years. So, ROTC was a great option for me.

RD: I grew up wanting to be in military, I think a lot of that came from the long line of military lineage that I have in my family. For example, both my grandfathers served, one of which was the 25th Chief of Naval Operations in the Navy. The other was a chief warrant officer, and he flew in Vietnam, where he was unfortunately in killed.

MS: My dad was in the military for 30 years. His brother was in the military for 30 years, both in the Army. Their parents were both in the Army. My sister is currently serving as well. She graduated from West Point. My brother is in ROTC so once he graduates college he’ll commission in the Army as well.

RD: I had five soldiers underneath, I hope that they saw me as a leader, and I hope to emulate what I brought to them, and I hope they're doing so in the military or the civilian sector.

MS: In the Army in general, you learn leadership skills, that's our number one skill as an infantry officer is being a leader. And I had really wonderful noncommissioned officers who really helped shape that quality and show me what right looks like and teach me how to lead other soldiers.

RD: I grew up wanting to be an attorney. Roughly 2020, I realized, you know, hey, I did my military service, I kind of want to give a shot in the civilian sector. So, I got to work with the Special Victims Unit. And I also got to work with the administrative law unit there on base and I was able to see how, you know, those military attorneys are assisting their clients, the organization, Army as a whole, and really just emitting that level of service that we had in the military.

MS: I worked for the Trial Defense Service Office, it's the public defense office for Joint Base Lewis McChord. And pretty much all the soldiers who are accused of a crime, get in trouble for something, need legal help, they come over to us and we support them in a court martial or a board. That really also solidified my desire to be a criminal defense attorney or just criminal litigation in general.

RD: So, I started the veteran Law Society, we're up to, I think, it's 10 to 15 members, currently,

MS: So many non-veterans law students that I meet, they're like, oh, what did you do in the military? And I was like, oh, I was infantry. Do you know what that is? And they'll be like, no, I have no idea.

RD: I think there are immediate connections you make with any veteran, whether it's in the legal community or outside of it. I mean, you can be at a supermarket and run into a veteran in their Army hat and have a conversation with him for an hour based off the experiences that you have that are similar, or she or they might have as well.

I still think back and look on those individuals that lost their life serving just like my grandfather did in Vietnam. Serving at Joint Base Lewis McChord, where he's buried and where he flew out of for the last time on American soil and you kind of take a step back and realize how lucky you are and how fortunate that we are to have individuals that are serving every day to protect our country and make sure that we're safe and doing a lot of things that a lot of people wouldn't want to do.

MS: Veterans Day reminds me of the sacrifice that my dad would make every single day to our country and our family and all of the wonderful men and women that I've been able to work with. And Veterans Day is just a great day to honor those people.