Friday, October 17, 2014

Executive Director's Message: Honoring The Sacrifice Of Fellow Countrymen

By John F. Kynes

Speaking at the Hillsborough County Bar Association’s September membership luncheon on Sept. 11 ― the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorists attacks ― U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Dixie A. Morrow posed a poignant question to those in attendance: “Are we worthy of the sacrifices so many of our countrymen made 13 years ago and every year since?”

In her keynote remarks, Gen. Morrow, commander of the Air Force Legal Operations Agency, reflected on the meaning of 9/11, especially for Florida’s legal community. She also shared her experiences serving in Kabul, Afghanistan, from 2011 to 2013, where she was responsible for establishing a fair and functioning legal system in that war-torn country.

Gen. Morrow said that after many years of war, Afghanistan’s legal system, like much of the country itself, was in “complete and utter shambles.” She added it was vital to establish a legal system in Afghanistan that is “perceived to be fair” by the Afghan people themselves.

This is no small task in a country where, historically, warlords have ruled with an iron fist, Gen. Morrow said.

“However flawed our [legal] system is, our 225 years of constitutional law is the envy of people around the world who have endured centuries of something less,” Gen. Morrow said.

Although progress has been slow in bringing about change, she said, there also have been some successes, particularly for Afghan women. She noted that 13 years ago Afghan girls were not allowed to attend school, whereas today young girls are getting an education, and women have greater opportunities in business and even in the military.

“We know that 13 years is a grain of sand in the hourglass when considering the course of human history,” Gen. Morrow said.

A graduate of the University of Florida Law School, Gen. Morrow said she was “humbled” to be back in Tampa where she began her military career as a staff judge advocate at MacDill Air Force Base.

During her remarks, Gen. Morrow took time to recognize and thank for their service a group of lawyers from U.S. Central Command and the Air Force’s 6th Air Mobility Wing at MacDill Air Force Base who were special guests of the HCBA at the luncheon. Gen. Morrow also recognized Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Gregory P. Holder, a retired colonel who spent 29 years in the Air Force and Air Force Reserves. Holder was recently honored by the Pentagon with the Office of the Secretary of Defense Medal for Exceptional Public Service for his role as state chairman of the Employer Support of the Florida Army National Guard and Reserve.

In addition, Gen. Morrow praised the effort to assist the local military community through the work of the HCBA’s reconstituted Military & Veterans Affairs Committee. This HCBA committee is chaired by Bob Nader, a former HCBA president, and the committee’s military liaison is Lt. Col. Chris Brown, the top military lawyer at MacDill’s 6th Air Mobility Wing.

“While the practice of law is our vocation, how we use our vocation to uplift and encourage others counts for something,” Gen. Morrow said.

Concluding her remarks, Gen. Morrow encouraged the luncheon attendees to support efforts that remind people around the globe about the importance of the rule in law in our society.

Said Gen. Morrow: “Every member of the legal profession should do what we can to protect the freedoms that our laws grant to us. Are we worthy of the sacrifices of 9/11 - The rule of law matters. We know it. And it is up to us to make us worthy of that sacrifice.”

See you around the Chet.