Why I Care - John McCarrick
John McCarrick is Chair of the Directors and Officers Group. His bio is available here.
Grateful Nation Montana, Inc. is a Montana-based charity providing college support for children of Montana soldiers killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. In 2007, my good friend and industry colleague David Bell and I were having a conversation about the extraordinary sacrifices being made by our military men and women in highly-dangerous war zones like Iraq and Afghanistan. In particular, it struck both of us – as family men with children – that the very real potential of being killed in combat would have lifelong implications for the children of those fallen warriors. After doing some research, we learned that the death of a soldier-parent reduced the likelihood that children would complete a college education. We decided then and there to see if we could change that dynamic for the better by creating a charity designed to both support a path to higher education and to provide financial resources to smooth that path. David and I both had long-standing ties to Montana, and so we decided to focus our efforts there.
I have always found “boots on the ground” philanthropic work to be more satisfying than simply writing checks to worthy causes. Also, smaller philanthropic efforts allow money and efforts to be deployed in a focused, efficient way, with faster, more demonstrable results. It’s easier for me to ask for money from friends and colleagues if I can provide first-person witness to the need and to the results. And while delivering needed funds to a worthy project like Grateful Nation is satisfying, it absolutely pales in comparison to the experience of meeting the families of fallen Montana soldiers, and sharing their experiences and futures. I am just in awe at the resilience and focus on others these families consistently demonstrate. We are so fortunate as a country for what these military families contribute to our nation – both in terms of the sacrifices they have made and the wonderful, thoughtful people they are. How could we not be a grateful nation?
In many areas of the practice of law, we lawyers function in the abstract – far removed from the day-to-day experiences of other people. My involvement in projects like Grateful Nation Montana provides a direct, emotional and practical connection to the families Grateful Nation seeks to assist, and if that experience helps me to become a better human being and citizen, I believe it will also help me become a better lawyer. The practice of law in the context of private practice is a service profession; being of service to others – whether paying or pro bono clients – contemplates an expectation that our focus be directed toward the needs of the client, and not simply the provision of abstract, technical legal work.
What makes Grateful Nation Montana unique is the twin focus on: (1) interacting with families of fallen Montana soldiers to encourage and mentor children towards a Montana college education, and (2) providing scholarship funds to supplement military benefits and other scholarships in providing a full, four-year paid college scholarship at the University of Montana. If we make available college scholarship money but leave it up to the Grateful Nation families and children to find their own way to a college experience, we’ve missed an important piece of the equation.