Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Honoring Technical Sergeant Jackie Larsen

An extremely rewarding aspect of my military career was the chance to work with very talented and very dedicated people. I was constantly amazed (and I continue to be amazed) by the legal talent serving in the Armed Forces. All the services set the bar high for attorney accessions, and the quality of legal work shows. But all of this legal talent would not amount to the proverbial hill of beans without the backbone of any legal practice; the paralegal.

Military paralegals are some of the most intelligent, competent, and professional Airman, Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, or Coasties. They take their professions (both legal and military) seriously. They work hard at their job, and they work hard at keeping the attorneys in line. When I was a young JAG, fresh from the civilian world, it was the NCO paralegals in my office who took me under their wing and taught me how to be an officer. It is through paralegals that I learned about leadership, compassion, integrity, and professionalism. As with most of the military, in the JAG-world, the NCO Corps is truly the backbone of the service.

All this is a rather lengthy lead-in for the purpose of this post: honoring a paralegal I did not have the opportunity to meet, but who seems to represent the best of all the paralegals I've known; Technical Sergeant Jackie L. Larsen. TSgt Larsen passed away last month from illness while deployed to Iraq. In a tribute written by Lt Col Pete Teller, her staff judge advocate, she is described as a "tough and competent NCO" who could "reach out and touch others with gentleness and compassion." She was a mentor to the younger paralegals. She wasn't "flashy," she saw what needed doing and did it. For example, Lt Col Teller describes how TSgt Larsen deployed in the place of a young NCO, with a young family, who had deployed a year earlier and who was married to another Airman who had deployed twice in the past 18 months. TSgt Larsen volunteered to take the place of the young wife and mother to allow that family a little more time at home. That was just one example of her selfless service. Lt Col Teller calls TSgt Larsen a "hero" for the way she looked after those she considered "her folks." According to Lt Col Teller, like many NCOs and paralegals, TSgt Larsen had a tough exterior, but underneath was a heart filled with "fierce dedication and compassion."

It appears to me that TSgt Larsen was a quality paralegal and a great person. I'd like to join the rest of the Air Force Judge Advocate Corps in honoring her memory.

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