October 21, 2009
Andrew Kinard ’12 had been in Iraq just six weeks when his U.S. Marines unit, on foot patrol in the Al Anbar province, was ambushed. Kinard was standing atop a 155 mm artillery shell when it detonated; he required 67 blood transfusions that first day and went into cardiac arrest several times. When he awoke from a coma a month later in a naval hospital in Maryland, Kinard learned he’d lost both his legs.
A 2005 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Kinard spent seven months recovering. One day, during his physical therapy at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, a visitor struck up a conversation and asked about his career plans; Kinard said he was considering law school. The visitor, it turned out, was Jim Haynes ’83, general counsel to the Department of Defense, and soon Kinard was interning for Haynes at the DOD’s Office of Legislative Counsel.
Kinard [photo right], who’d made many friends in D.C., seriously considered Georgetown Law. But Harvard presented opportunities he couldn’t turn down, he says. The 1L experience reminds him of his first year at the Naval Academy, including the bond that develops among students thrown together into a new environment. That bond is strongest, perhaps, with three other 1Ls, recent military veterans who served in the war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan: John Doyle ’12; Elliott Neal ’12 and Eric Powell ’12.
Compared to the demands of their military experience, they’re finding the pressure of law school not so bad. “It’s very relaxing,” jokes Neal, who served as an Army Lieutenant in Afghanistan and is now a Captain in the Army Reserve. “I tell people that after the Army, it’s like Club Med. I’m not getting woken up at 6 a.m. by reveille.”
The vets bring a different perspective to class, as in the recent discussion (in a criminal law course) on the use of deadly force by police. “I brought up that I have training in that domestically and internationally, and that there are different rules in each about when to use deadly force,” says Powell, who joined the Navy in 2005 after graduating Harvard, because, “I really respect and admire people [in the military].”
The others, who had similar motivations for their service, have found HLS very receptive. Kinard, a native of Spartanburg, S.C., whose tuition is covered by the Veteran’s Administration, says, “It’s completely 180 degrees from what I thought. It really is a testimony to the HLS administration and what they want this school to be.”
Powell and Doyle are participating in the new Yellow Ribbon Program, in which the federal government matches contributions made by schools to pay for the education of eligible veterans. HLS is contributing the maximum amount, which covers the full cost of tuition and fees. “I can’t imagine something HLS could do after that fact to make me think it’s not a welcoming place for veterans,” says Doyle, who grew up in Wisconsin and worked shoeing horses before enlisting in 2005, graduating from the Army’s Airborne School and serving in the elite Special Forces, which specialize in unconventional warfare and foreign internal defense, among other missions. (Foreign internal defense includes working with the indigenous forces and the incumbent government against insurgencies.)
Doyle [Photo left] trained the United Arab Emirate counterterrorist forces, then spent a year in northern Iraq. “The overriding goal was not just to get a specific mission done but to get it done through Iraqi forces so they could learn how to do those things on their own,” explains Doyle, who after the Army spent a year in Colorado skiing and climbing, and is interested in returning to Iraq to work in commercial development of the country.
The cultural differences were often striking. “We were out in the middle of the desert one day, and you couldn’t see anything on any horizon, just sand in every direction,” recalls Doyle, who says he speaks “functional” Arabic. “We were driving along and saw an Iraqi guy in the middle of the desert, raking the sand. Of course you have to stop—it’s suspicious. Plus we were just dying to know how he got out there and what he was doing. We asked what he was doing in the middle of the desert raking sand. He said he was preparing the ground so that when Allah saw fit to bring the rain, something could grow there. Wild.” Doyle says he’s settled quickly into life at HLS, including joining a group of dog owners trying to get Somerville to provide off-leash hours for dogs in some of the city parks.
Neal, who grew up in a tiny town in Missouri, jokes that he was accepted to Harvard College “because they have geographic affirmative action: they needed a few good hicks, and I fit the bill.” A graduate of the Army's Airborne and Ranger schools, Neal did ROTC as an undergraduate and now is an instructor in the same ROTC program, at MIT. “I was taught by guys who’d led men in Iraq and Afghanistan. It seemed so gripping, I thought, ‘That’s what I want to do,’” says Neal, who was accepted to HLS for the class of ’08 but received a four-year deferral so he could fulfill his military obligation.
In 2007, Neal [Photo left] served eight months as company executive officer in the Korengal Valley, one of the most conflict-ridden areas of Afghanistan. “In military terms, my company was ‘in contact’ with the enemy every day, so it was a little stressful,” he says. He also served in Jalalabed as a civil affairs officer for the region, assisting in building the infrastructure of Afghanistan, and considered staying in the military instead of matriculating at HLS. “It was the most engaging time of my life. I cannot imagine a civilian job that could be so engaging, except maybe as an entrepreneur,” says Neal, who is funding his education partially through the GI Bill and calls himself “an open book” as far as his career plans.
Powell [Photo right] was drawn to the Navy because of its approach to leadership and management. Boot camp was exactly like the movie Full Metal Jacket, he says, “demanding in ways I hadn’t been challenged before.” Assigned to intelligence work, his first overseas deployment was to Bahrain with the Fifth Fleet, where he led a team that provided intelligence to U.S. and coalition forces. He then served on the USS NIMITZ, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier with 5,000 Sailors and Marines based out of San Diego, where, as tactical action officer, he reported directly to the Captain for defense of the ship. During Powell’s 30 months with the NIMITZ, which carried aircraft, missiles and other weapons, it was deployed to the Arabian Gulf for Iraq and Afghanistan missions and to the Western Pacific.
Powell, who’s interested in national security issues and counter-terrorism, doesn’t find the 1L year overwhelming. As for being cold-called in class, he says, “It was not long ago that the Captain on the NIMITZ would cold-call me and base a serious decision on my answer.”
Kinard, who doesn’t know his career plans yet, says he’s making the most of the opportunity: “I come here everyday saying, ‘I’m not entitled to anything because of my service, my disability, my background.’”
-- Elaine McArdle