by Maria Campbell

Dear MSJDN Founders:

When I showed up at a networking BBQ last September, I hid in the hotel bathroom for 20 minutes.

My husband and I had moved to Ft. Campbell less than a week before, and after making a cold contact to the local bar association, I was invited to a networking BBQ. I thought, “A long summer dress and jean jacket will do, right?”

On the day of the event, I showed up, ready to befriend and stand by the friendliest face I could find. I was terrified. But as I scanned the area, I instantly noticed the men and women in business suits. (Apparently, business casual is a California thing.) Frantic, I walked up to the check-in booth, grabbed my name tag, and darted in the opposite direction—anywhere but there.

I took shelter at the nearby hotel ladies’ room. How, I wondered, did I find myself in such an awkward place in this foreign city? I had driven 52 miles to attend this BBQ, and after a mini-panic attack I decided I’d stay for at least as long as it took me to drive there. I ended up leaving the event with five business cards because people were intrigued by my story as a milspouse attorney new to the city. One of those business cards eventually turned into my dream job at a dream firm.

I share my story because it was only made possible by the trailblazers and do-gooders of MSJDN who paved the way. This Founder’s Day, I wanted to say thank you. MSJDN, thank you for creating this community and doing—and continuing to do— the hard work it takes to pass the milspouse licensing rule.

If it wasn’t for MSJDN, today, 9 months after moving to Ft. Campbell, at best I would barely be getting bar results back. If it wasn’t for MSJDN, I wouldn’t have found the courage to walk back out at the networking event. The MSJDN community has reminded me time and again that I do have something to offer. If it wasn’t for MSJDN, I’d likely be unemployed or have left the legal field entirely. The same day I attended the networking event, I researched job openings as an Uber driver and Starbucks barista.

I recently attended an event held at the Tennessee Supreme Court to commemorate the state’s adoption of the milspouse licensing rule. It’s difficult to put into words what this celebration meant to me and the other milspouse attorneys who were lucky enough to attend, and I wish each of you could have been there.

All five justices of the Tennessee Supreme Court and 53 members of the 101st Airborne Division and 5th Special Forces Group showed up for this event. The justices were dressed in their black robes and the military in their dress blues, outfits which are normally saved for special occasions. In their official capacity, the leaders of the two separate and distinct communities came together to acknowledge us and tell us that they stood in solidarity with us.

It’s been a long road and there’s more work to be done, but MSJDN Founders, you did this. Thank you.

Ever Grateful,

MSJDN-er paying it forward