Scholars can and must be warriors.
By Frank Mackoul • JBA member
After graduating law school at the University of Florida and being sworn into The Florida Bar, I took a path less traveled. I heard my country’s call and joined the U.S. Marine Corps.
I originally intended to serve as a judge advocate general, but despite having no flying experience, I accepted an appointment to flight school. I earned Wings of Gold and was designated Naval Aviator #26,045.
After flight school, I was sent to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California. I completed two combat tours of duty in Iraq, flew more than 100 combat missions as an assault helicopter pilot and earned two Air Medals.
I was then sent to Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, as a flight instructor where I taught advanced aerodynamics to naval flight students and was named Flight Instructor of the Year. Afterward, I came back home to Jacksonville to settle down, raise a family and return to the practice of law.
When I was commissioned as an officer, I took the following oath:
I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.
When I took that oath, my focus was on foreign enemies to the Constitution. But in the time since I laid down the sword and picked up the pen, my focus has shifted to domestic enemies to the Constitution.
Flying combat missions and practicing law might appear to not have anything in common, but soldiers serve by defending those who cannot defend themselves; in that same spirit, attorneys serve by advocating for those who cannot advocate for themselves.
As attorneys, we took an oath to support the Constitution of the United States and the State of Florida. When we advocate for our clients and practice law the right way, we defend the Constitution by keeping the third branch of government strong and in so doing, we maintain the delicate balance of power envisioned by the Founding Fathers.
By defending the Constitution, we preserve the greatest gift our nation has made to humankind, the idea of a government of the people, by the people and for the people.
I ask this Veterans Day that we, as attorneys, honor the sacrifices made by our military by rededicating ourselves to our own defense of the Constitution through the ethical, professional and tireless practice of the law.
The society that separates its scholars from its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting by fools.
— Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War
Frank Mackoul II is a Marine Corps veteran and attorney with the Office of the Public Defender in Jacksonville.