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    Better Late Than Never

    Better Late Than Never

    Photo By Billie Suttles | 223rd Officer Basic Course student 1st Lt. Darin Doak is pictured in the library of...... read more read more

    CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA, UNITED STATES

    04.17.2024

    Story by Jane Lee 

    The Judge Advocate General's Legal Center and School

    CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – What motivates a lawyer pushing 50 to join the military? It’s rather rare for a seasoned attorney who has built a thriving private practice over the years to voluntarily decide to start right back at the very beginning … placing themselves once again among the rank and file who are most likely in their twenties. “I am here, solely, to serve,” explained 1st Lt. Darin Doak. “Rank, pay, advancement is almost meaningless to me.”

    Doak’s grandfather, Francesco Belcastro, served as an Alpini (the Italian Army’s specialist mountain infantry) during WWI. After immigrating to the U.S. in the 1930’s, Belcastro worked in the coal mines, then as a hospital janitor. Inspired by his family hero, Doak initially scratched his itch to serve by joining the Tennessee State Guard. “That got me hooked,” said Doak. “And provided some reassurance that my desire to serve was more than superficial.

    “A Soldier in the state guard, who had retired from many years of active Army service advised me to ‘take EVERY opportunity the Army gives you … do EVERYTHING they offer … you’ll never get another chance.’”

    With his two older daughters Hailey and Sydney on their way to the University of Tennessee Knoxville, and his youngest son Austin now old enough to better manage any potential separation, Doak decided to take his mentor’s advice. But the Tennessee Army National Guard flat-out rejected Doak’s first application because he was too old. Mind you, the maximum age is 44 and Doak applied at 48. Undeterred, Doak applied again. Turns out the second time is the charm for this self-proclaimed troublemaker who grew up exploring the backwoods of Illinois with his trusty Daisy Red Ryder BB gun by his side. That’s how the high school senior voted “most likely to be incarcerated” turned lawyer found himself a 223rd Officer Basic Course student at The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School.

    With age, comes perspective and humility. “We are only ‘old’ in the military; everywhere else, 50 is the new 30,” said Doak. “I will likely never be a major. Anyone who outranks me, has more military experience. Period. I welcome their comments and constructive criticisms, regardless of age. I am thankful the Army has given me a chance.”

    Doak is not letting anything get in the way of this opportunity for a “second” career. “Physically, I have found that I am able to meet standards. And in many cases, I am in better shape than the younger Soldiers,” added Doak. “I won’t get another chance. As such, I am open to whatever comes my way.”

    Improvise, adapt and overcome. This Generation Z service member said the old military adage is helping him bridge the gap with his Millennial classmates. “I find that the fresh from law school Soldiers have much different social engagement mechanisms: less communication, less eye contact, less comfortable with casual greetings. I’m an introvert, but still operate face-to-face, and prefer collaboration.

    “Also, younger Soldiers are MUCH more naturally intuitive with technology and software. I find technology is productive, not recreational.”

    It’s exactly that knack for building good old fashioned personal connections that has served Doak well in his solo practice. Even though he moved to Tennessee in search of better schools for his children a decade ago, Doak still represents long-time clients back in his hometown of Freeport, Illinois. “I like making my clients a cup of coffee and chatting in the conference room. At this point, the practice of law is less about money, fame, advancement, and more about helping people, and enjoying the time together.”

    Doak has already sacrificed when it comes to military service. “My mom is 88 now and has dementia. She was on hospice when I left for DCC (direct commission course at Fort Moore),” said Doak. “I said ‘goodbye,’ before coming here.”

    Like mother, like son. The one thing Doak will not compromise on, is family. “My mom’s primary life focus, was her three kids,” said Doak. “The one constant is my commitment to being the best father in the world to my kids – particularly my son since he is still at home. Any Army commitments and opportunities will need to be weighed against their effect on parenting time.”

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 04.17.2024
    Date Posted: 04.17.2024 11:15
    Story ID: 468621
    Location: CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA, US

    Web Views: 52
    Downloads: 0

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