CORRECTIONS: *Shawn Lee was deployed to Baghdad from 2007 to 2009. An earlier version of this article listed an incorrect year. **Christopher Greca is an enlisted member of the Army. An earlier version of this article mischaracterized his rank.
*COLUMBIA — When Shawn Lee was deployed to Baghdad from 2007 to 2009, his first battalion sergeant major taught him everything he needed to know about true leadership and service.
Now an MU law student, Lee introduced his former sergeant, Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher Greca, as the first speaker for the new MU Veterans Clinic. The Wednesday afternoon event celebrated the clinic's opening this month at the Hulston Hall Courtroom.
**Greca, whose rank is the highest for an enlisted soldier in the U.S. Army Forces Command, said the American public is obliged to help the many veterans who struggle when returning to civilian life.
"Little clinics like this one make veterans understand that they are not forgotten about," Greca said before his speech. "The legal advice is just a small percentage; what it's really showing is that people care."
The clinic is staffed by six MU law students who receive class credit for their work. Law School attorneys supervise the students as they help veterans who were denied disability benefits or did not receive as much as they expected.
The clinic held its first class this week and has received mid-Missouri cases as well as referrals from the Veterans Pro Bono Consortium Program in Washington, D.C., said Angela Drake, supervising attorney and instructor at the MU clinic.
"We really operate like a mini-law firm," Drake said. "We plan to reach out to local service officers, so as many local veterans as possible know that we’re here to step in with legal abilities."
Greca, a 28-year veteran, said major changes lie ahead for U.S. armed forces in size and structure.
"We’re going to get smaller, and as we get smaller, more people will transition out of the Army, and they will be your neighbors," Greca said. "They’re not looking for handouts, just opportunities."
MU law student and veteran Daniel Hartman, who attended the event, said he was one of the first to support creating the clinic.
"When you leave the service, there are so many challenges," said Hartman, who said he led a 40-soldier infantry platoon in Baghdad from 2007 to 2008. "Some have bills that piled up, others wrestle with substance abuse, and so many need legal help and don’t know where to turn. This clinic is able to assist those veterans who come on hard times."
Lee, who plans to take the clinic course in the summer, said Greca’s visit was a huge opportunity for future leaders at the Law School to learn about those they serve.
"We may only be able to address a few cases per year," Lee said. "But, we’re creating lawyers with a passion to go out and make significant changes."
Veterans Clinic inquiries may be directed to Angela Drake at 882-7630 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.