08:49 AM

Yarbrough: What Memorial Day means to me as a lawyer, veteran

Jack Yarbrough headshot




Jack Yarbrough is District 9 representive on The Missouri Bar Young Lawyers' Section Council.

Memorial Day is a reminder of the heroic folks in our military who died defending our individual freedoms, economic opportunities, and way of life. When I think of Memorial Day, I think about my deployment in Kandahar, Afghanistan. For me, being discharged from the Army created an identity struggle, something I think all veterans experience on some level when they receive their DD-214 and get discharged. One chapter closed, and it was up to me to write the next one.

Soldiers who don’t make it home never get the chance to write that next chapter. They won’t get to walk across a graduation stage, won’t get married, won’t start a family, won’t start a business … and won’t become lawyers. They all had dreams and aspirations for what they would do after the service. Memorial Day, for me, is about honoring these heroes by living my dreams and being the type of lawyer that someone who didn’t make it home would be proud to know.

That struggle with identity can be similar for new lawyers. To me, being a new lawyer is challenging, and inescapably bouts of self-doubt have come along. But overall, it’s exciting and energizing being a new lawyer and navigating the legal landscape. Our judicial system was here before I arrived, but I believe I can improve it even more by helping my clients achieve justice along the way.

This past year, I’ve been lucky to mentor a teenager who left Kabul in 2021. He told me recently he “hit the jackpot coming to America,” and that phrase stopped me in my tracks. A kid who learned English in two years by watching YouTube videos, who was forced to abruptly leave his home, and who lives in subsidized housing in St. Louis City, told me he hit the jackpot.

This young kid re-emphasized what Memorial Day is all about. It’s about being the best version of myself and continuing to live my dream – by helping even better improve access to and the administration of justice. It’s the most patriotic thing you can do for Memorial Day.