Westport is filled with lawyers. We’ve got corporate attorneys, courtroom litigators, and enough tax guys to make Apple envious.
Westport also is filled with Brown University graduates. Many are doing typical Brunonian things: making indie films, deconstructing semiotics, writing blogs.
It’s rare to find a Staples and Brown grad who makes a career as a military lawyer. But Lieutenant Geoffrey T. Gillespie, JAG Corps, US Navy, is a rare — and remarkable — Westporter .
His parents — both lawyers — raised him to believe that public service is a great and honorable career.
At Brown Gillespie majored in public policy and American institutions. Early on, he set a goal of joining the JAG Corps — the military’s legal arm. “I thought it was a good, substantive way to serve my country,” he recalls.
A couple of weeks into his sophomore year, 2 planes slammed into the World Trade Center; another hit the Pentagon. His motivation grew.
After graduation in 2004, Gillespie taught severe special needs education at a residential school in Massachusetts. He then entered New England School of Law — and applied to the Navy JAG Corps. He was accepted in spring 0f 2008.
He passed his bar exam, and was assigned to officer development school in Newport, Rhode Island. That’s where he completed naval justice training too. His 1st tour of duty, in 2010, was San Diego.
Gillespie assisted servicemembers with legal needs — writing wills, handling tenant and credit disputes, and the like. He then did criminal defense work for courts-martial — everything from minor theft to sexual assault crimes.
“It’s very rewarding to participate in the military justice system,” Gillespie says. He is both an attorney and an officer, given plenty of responsibility and earning valuable leadership experience.
A year ago, he deployed to Afghanistan. He can’t talk much about his work there, beyond saying he was a legal advisor in the area of detention operations, and participated in training missions.
His year there was “incredibly rewarding, both professionally and personally.” Days were long, but everyone worked “extremely hard, in a real team effort. There was a total commitment to the mission.” Gillespie calls it “the fulfillment of the hopes I had, to make a material, positive impact in an area important to the United States.”
During long days in Afghanistan, Gillespie was sustained by thoughts of Westport. “Being from a town like this motivated me even when I was tired,” he says.
“Westport gave me a reason to remember what we’re fighting for — hometowns, families, people. That’s why I serve.”
Gillespie returned home in April. After a stop in Westport, he’s temporarily assigned to the Naval Justice School in San Diego.
Next month, Gillespie transfers to Okinawa. He’ll serve as legal advisor for the installation commander.
Gillespie hopes to make the Navy JAG Corps his full career. He’s had many jobs, and enjoyed everything he’s done so far. He looks forward to added responsibilities, passing on what he knows to new JAGs, and continuing to improve the Corps’ services.
The only hesitation in Gillespie’s voice comes when I tell him this story will run on Memorial Day.
“I’m not a veteran,” he says. “I haven’t done as much as many other people. Can you please be sure to say I’m proud to support everyone who sacrifices much more than I do?”