Denver Bar Association
February 2008
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An in-depth look into a lawyer turned soldier

by Tara Miller

Have you ever imagined what it would be like to be an American solider? Imagine sacrificing your law career to fight for your country. For Rowe Stayton, his job as a lawyer was put on hold to take on a different and far more dangerous career.

Q: When do you leave for Iraq to go on your second deployment?

A: I left for my second deployment on "state" orders the first of October. I have been training under state direction in Arkansas since then. We have been doing what is known as basic warrior tasks. We left for Mississippi’s Camp Shelby on Jan. 5. We will be there for two months and then leave for Kuwait. We will be there one week, and then leave from there and go into Baghdad. My first deployment was in April of 2004 and I returned March of 2005.

Q: What made you stop being a lawyer to become a soldier?

A: I have not stopped being a lawyer. The Army Guard to which I am assigned realized my profession was unique and allowed me to come back to Denver and try two cases. I tried one beginning Dec. 3, and my last trial commenced Dec. 17. I have had more time to work on the cases than I otherwise would have since I have no more new cases. I am a soldier because the unit I signed up with after 9/11 was an Army infantry unit. I am a squad leader with control over nine soldiers. Our job will be force protection, performing patrols in Baghdad, participating in raids and convoy escort.

Q: How has your family been during your transition?

A: My family has been amazing. They all support me, and even though they miss me, they understand that I am doing what I believe is important. If not for them, I could not do this.

Q: You have done the ultimate community service. Why is it important for legal professionals to give back to the community?

A: I know many lawyers who give back to the community. I have practiced for almost 25 years and most lawyers I know help those who are in need. I know many lawyers who modify fees to an almost nonexistent amount so the client can have representation. I know lawyers who volunteer to be poll watchers and soccer coaches, and lawyers who participate in the various bar association programs to help poor people handle various issues. I believe many people go into the legal profession to help people, so it is natural for lawyers to be involved in their community. I am proud to be part of such a giving profession.

Q: What does it mean to you to fight for your country?

A: For me, to put on the uniform of an American soldier is an honor. I watch the sacrifice the young men and women make daily, and to be part of this effort is something special. My soliders and I went through some things together that brought us very close. There is absolutely nothing that I would not do for them. The bond that is generated by living together, working together, playing together and going on missions together is one that is hard to describe, unless you have been a part of something like this yourself.

Q: What’s more fulfilling: being a lawyer or being a soldier?

A: At this time of my life, I enjoy being a soldier more than being a lawyer. Being around the young men and women in the service gives me an incredible energy that I do not think I would otherwise have. I like the responsibility of being responsible for performance of the mission at the squad level. Finally, I believe my maturity helps me keep my head in sometimes tumultuous situations, and that will keep my guys safer.

Q: How has practicing law helped with being a better soldier?

A: Practicing law has helped me be a better soldier in that my legal training has had application on various missions. I believe if I wear the uniform of the American Soldier and carry an automatic weapon, I have a special responsibility to act with integrity and use my weapon according to the rules of engagement. I think I have a unique understanding of the rules that guide our use of force. In addition, during the first tour, I used concepts we learned in law school such as "notice" and "reasonable force" in relation to self-defense.

Being a soldier also has helped me in my legal profession, as being a soldier is very meticulous and requires an enormous amount of attention to detail. Things that used to bother or worry me as a lawyer, such as how a judge may react to something, do not bother me as much. If we make a mistake in the legal profession, very rarely does physical harm occur to someone, but if we make a mistake in the soldier profession, it could cost someone their life.

Q: What have you learned from your time in Iraq?

A: I have learned that the U.S. is a blessed country and we strive to be a force for good in the world. I watched soldiers who lost very close friends in combat treat captured enemy combatants appropriately and professionally, even though the detainees were responsible for the deaths of their friends. I am proud of the soldiers’ commitment to adhering to the rules of war. I also learned the Iraqis basically want the same things we want: security, a chance to have their children grow up and prosper, and a future.

Q: What are you most proud of from your time of service?

A: I am most proud of being able to keep up with the younger soldiers and to provide them with some stability. My fire team suffered no casualties while I was a fire team leader. I am hopeful my squad will also make it back with no casualities.


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