Opinion Columns & Blogs

He served in the Army, now he’s being of legal service to veterans in Georgia

MCT

To commemorate this year’s Veterans Day, I’d like to tell you about one of our graduates. He’s the model of a leader, one who does so by serving his fellow veterans.

Jason Peden probably had collegiate ambitions. But he put them aside, serving our country as an aircraft structural repairer in the U.S. Army for six years, from 2006 to 2012. Shortly thereafter, he enrolled at LaGrange College.

Unless you knew him well, you’d never guessed he was in the U.S. Army. He was quite humble, though eager to learn and lead. He could be counted upon to help with conference presentations, attend Hallock Lectures at Columbus State University while helping with talks and even playing an active role in our Model United Nations, managing local high schools through our crisis simulations and role playing countries.

He probably never bargained for so much math, and so little CNN vs. Fox News style arguments past each other. But that’s how we teach political science at LaGrange College, with an emphasis on researching theories, constructing hypotheses, data collection and statistics. But he took it on like any challenge. He was one of the researchers who statistically analyzed media bias via newspaper endorsements, article slants and which candidates received more coverage and better press.

After graduation, and marrying a local lass, he joined the University of Georgia to work as an administrative specialist with the university’s law school. But we press our students to do more than just get a job. We want them to lead, and find ways to serve others. And that is exactly what he did.

Currently, Mr. Peden is the school’s administrative Veterans Legal Clinic, assisting former members of the armed services. He helps veterans from Augusta, Athens, Atlanta, and anywhere in between, thanks to that great program established by respected law professor Alexander W. Scherr.

Peden and his fellow law employees “will work directly with veterans and their dependents to ensure access to benefits and services, especially for those with mental or physical disabilities resulting from their time in the military.” He also works with the Guide Dog Foundation and America’s VetDogs (www.vetdogs.org), training assistance dogs for veterans and the visually impaired.

But that’s not all. He also works the Wilbanks Child Endangerment and Sexual Exploitation Clinic, helping with legal administrative support, as well as budget management. And if there’s a group needing as much help as veterans in the legal world, it’s victims of modern-day human trafficking operations.

Jason Peden didn’t just learn it all with us. Through LaGrange College, he was able to do internships, with Markette Baker’s Troup County Solicitor Office, as well as with the office of U.S. Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) via the Capitol Hill Internship Program.

Peden is hardly the only veteran, current or former, in attendance at LaGrange College. If working in Washington, the courts or in the service of fellow veterans in the legal world really appeals to you, or if you’re looking to do more than just earn a salary after graduation, ask us how we can help you help others.

John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Georgia. He can be reached at jtures@lagrange.edu. His Twitter account is JohnTures2.

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