Lawyer answers call of duty - Family man who never stopped being Marine doing what feels right
Rocky Mountain News
January 6, 2006 Author/Byline: James B. Meadow, Rocky Mountain News | Photographer: Evan Semon/Rocky Mountain News| Page: 20A | Section: News
A funny look marches across Bob Marshall's face when he is asked the question whose answer would be so obvious if only the person asking it were a Marine. Of course, if the person asking were a Marine, then the question wouldn't even be asked.
"When someone asks the question, we - me and other Marines - don't know why they're asking it," says Marshall. "And I really can't tell you why. But if you were a Marine, you'd already know."
The question is why would Marshall - a lawyer hitting his stride at a lofty international law firm, a husband, a father, a son - want to serve in Iraq?
And the answer that Marshall, 36, is struggling to articulate is really quite simple: He is most emphatically a Marine - not an ex-Marine.
Sure, he left the service in 2003 after 12 years as an officer, but even then, "I almost threw up when I handed in my resignation. I was sick to my stomach about doing it. I still loved the Marine Corps."
Which is possibly why he immediately volunteered for a reserve commission. Didn't have to. Wanted to.
All that stuff about Marines and semper fi, always faithful? It's secular gospel for Marshall, an Evergreen native whose college education was funded by the Marines, whose law school education was furthered by the Marines, whose marriage came about in part because he was a Marine.
"Most Marines would want to go. The Marine Corps, they're real loyal, they stay with you," says Marshall, indicating that as far as he's concerned the loyalty thing is a two-way street.
Ditto for Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, the law firm for which Marshall has worked the past two years. When it came to the attention of partner George Curtis that one of Gibson Dunn's own was heading to Iraq, he brought the matter to the attention of higher-ups at the firm's California headquarters. The result was a response that, according to Marshall, has been "beyond understanding, beyond fantastic."
For the bulk of Marshall's tour of active duty in Iraq, the law firm will make up the difference between his Marine pay and his regular salary.
"Bob is very valuable to us," says Curtis. "We want him back - it's that simple."
Marshall is currently entrenched in the going phase of his tour. On Sunday, he reported to the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif., for an intensive two- month training regimen. Even though his skills as a lawyer will more than likely result in him working in "detention (facility) operations and rear-area security," he still will be serving in what is arguably the most volatile, most dangerous country in the world.
Not that he professes to have any fear about serving in Iraq.
"What they always say about the Marines is true," he says. "The fear of letting your comrades down overcomes any other fear you might feel."
He also wants to scale down. With a slightly embarrassed grin, he admits his time as a civilian made him a bit "fat and happy." The resultant 30-pound weight gain has been almost completely pared away, and Marshall hopes his competitive edge - he was an undersized offensive guard for the Evergreen High School Cougars until he broke a shoulder his junior year - will level the playing field with most of his younger Marine colleagues.
After training, Marshall's unit (1st Battalion, 14th Marines) will head to Iraq for seven months.
The move comes just as Curtis thought he had finally broken the young lawyer of two vexing habits.
"When Bob came here he had this continuing tendency to call me 'sir,' " laughs Curtis, adding that it took months for Marshall to call him by his given name.
In addition, "he would stand up whenever I entered his office," recalls Curtis. "I wouldn't walk into his office just because I didn't want to have him stand up. I would stand out in the hall and talk with him."
With a laugh of his own, Marshall acknowledges all this, pointing out that "in the Marine Corps, any human person in a position of authority is 'sir.' "
Marshall also concedes that his reflexive politesse and respect may have been equally unappreciated by some of the firm's other higher-ups.
"Any female in a position of authority was 'ma'am,' period," he says. "But I realized that some of the female partners my age might not like being called 'ma'am.' "
Although Marshall says he's managed to conform to the more casual atmosphere of Gibson Dunn (although it took a while for him to stop wearing suits and ties every day), he does add, "In the heat of battle, it will still be 'sir' and 'ma'am.' I just can't help that."
Not that he makes any apologies for the Marine culture. It was the Marines who stuck with him after he broke that shoulder playing football - making good on their promise to fund his ride through Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., with an ROTC scholarship.
After he graduated from Georgetown in 1991, Marshall spent six months at the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Va., and emerged as a second lieutenant. Over the years, he served in places as exotic sounding as Iwakuni, Japan, and Utapao Air Base in Thailand, and as prosaic sounding as Millington, Tenn.
By the time he arrived at the latter, he was married, having met and courted his wife Kularb during his three-month deployment in Thailand. A daughter, Analise, came along in 1995.
By 1997, he was starting law school with the Marines' cooperation. When he graduated from Colgate in 2001, he remained in the Corps for three more years until, for reasons he still claims mystify him, he felt it was time to stop being a major in the Marines and start being an attorney in civvies.
He spent a year clerking for a federal judge in London, Ky., a town of 6,000 that he grew to love. But his eye was always turned toward his home state - "It was Shangri-la to my daughter," he says.
He interviewed at several Denver law firms, but one in particular seemed to be a good fit.
He joined the firm in 2003 and aside from those reflexive "sirs" and "ma'ams" and that jack-in-the-box springing out of his chair, he was fingers to the glove of Gibson Dunn.
Now Marshall puts all that aside. He gets ready to move into harm's way - to show his gratitude, his allegiance, his loyalty. In short, he gets ready to actively become what he's never stopped being: a U.S. Marine.
No questions asked.
Ready Reserve facts
Upon resigning their regular commission in the Marine Corps, officers who have fulfilled their time commitment to the Corps may elect to accept an Individual Ready Reserve commission.
In normal circumstances, the officer will not be called to duty unless the country - or the Corps - is facing dire circumstances.
An officer in the Ready Reserve does not usually participate in monthly drills. That officer may not, in fact, have any prescribed duties. Officers are not compensated unless called upon to serve again.
Officers do not have to wait to be called to active duty, however. Instead, they may volunteer for a unit that is being called up. This was the case with Bob Marshall, who sought to join a unit that he was confident would be deployed to Iraq.
The time that an officer may remain in the Ready Reserve varies, depending on the officer's age (65 is usually a mandatory retirement age, though not always) and the prevailing needs of the Corps.
As of December 2005, there were nearly 3,300 officers in the Ready Reserve.