Sunday, January 23, 2011

What did you do this Sunday morning?

I am an attorney who practices in New Hampshire in the harbor city of Portsmouth.  Most days I am a business and bankruptcy lawyer. 

About an hour's drive north of my home is the armed forces reserve center in Londonderry, New Hampshire. It was an easy drive there this morning when I left at 6:30 a.m.  Few people were travelling, with the temperature hovering around zero and the snow piled several feet high in drifts from recent snow storms. Along with some other volunteers, I travelled there to be part of the "Military Pro Bono" Project.  The Project was coordinated by Chantell Wheeler, Assistant Pro Bono Coordinator from the NH Bar Association, to provide legal counsel.

Approximately 88 men and women, Marine Reserves, are preparing to deploy soon to Afghanistan.  One of the things they must face in preparing for active duty is the potential of their death.  In so doing, they need the services of legal counsel to draft their wills, powers of attorney, and "living wills" with health care proxies.

At 8 a.m. this morning the reservists were patiently lined up in the hall outside the room where we set up temporary stations, plugging in our lap top computers, portable printers and other equipment to meet with them.  One by one, the volunteer attorneys processed the documents. 

Most of the Marine Reserves were from Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.  None of them looked older than twenty-five years of age.  One was from Utah.  At the end of my shift, the last Will & Testament I witnessed was prepared for a young man who recently finished at Harvard.

There wasn't a grumble from any of the reserves.  Polite. Disciplined.  Focused.  Focused on answering the questions to draft the documents they came to complete:  "Who will be guardian to your children if you die?" "Whom do you trust to make your medical decisions if your become incapacitated?" "Do you understand the disclosure statement I have given you so that we can prepare the Durable Power of Attorney for health care decisions?" "Do you have any assets?" "Where would you like them to go?"  "What are your wishes on burial arrangements."

One of the attorneys I met there, Bob, said the last time he worked the Project, all of the reservists returned, and only one was wounded in active duty.

As each one of these brave young men and women left, they extended a firm hand shake and genuinely said, "Thank you." No, I said, Thank YOU.

1 New Hampshire Ave, Suite 125
Pease International Tradeport
Portsmouth, NH 03857
Phone: 1-603-766-4933
Fax 1-603-292-5207
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