Student Stories

Carlos Gonzalez

J.D., Program on Law and State Government

Carlos Gonzalez

My military background has given me an appreciation of public service and helping others."

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Changing careers and handling challenges is getting to be old hat to Carlos Gonzalez.

The third-year student from the IU Robert H. McKinney School of Law has already become a police officer in Oakland, Calif., done a yearlong tour in Iraq with the U.S. Army reserves, and is assisting in trial work for the Alameda County prosecutor’s office as part of a summer internship.

Next up? He’ll use his skills and knowledge to continue his legal training, one of 58 members of this year’s class of Pat Tillman Military Scholars. Gonzalez, who was born in Nicaragua before his family moved to California, is one of three IU students who were chosen for the Tillman scholarships this year.

His time in the U.S. Army Reserves helped improve his skills in establishing priorities, something that he been useful in his career. And “my military background has given me an appreciation of public service and helping others,” he added.

His service also given him perspective on life and the law, he believes, and reinforced his goal to become a trial lawyer. “It helps me to look at things through different lenses,” Gonzalez said. “It helps me understand the legal perspective, but also to help me understand why things happen.”

The Tillman Military Scholarship means a lot to Gonzalez. Like most of the scholarship candidates, he had heard stories about the man who decided his country was more vital than his NFL career in the wake of the attacks on New York City on Sept. 11, 2001. But meeting Tillman’s widow and his fellow scholarship recipients was a compelling moment for the former policeman.

“I knew he was an amazing person,” Gonzalez said. “He left the NFL to serve his country after 9-11 because it was the right thing to do, and he wanted to make a difference.”

Gonzalez was a soldier in the U.S. Army Reserves and was deployed to Southern Iraq in 2004 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, providing training to the Iraqi police and coordinating hundreds of humanitarian projects as a Civil Affairs solider with the 350th Civil Affairs Command unit.

Gonzales is scheduled to graduate from the McKinney School of Law in May 2015. He was recently selected for the Program on Law and State Government Fellowship, where he will explore creative and aggressive ways to prosecute and dismantle sex trafficking of children.

Even as a law student, Gonzalez finds himself regularly leaning on his Army Reserve experiences.

“I draw on both the good experiences and the bad,” he said. One of the hardest to handle are the life-or-death stakes. “I’ve lost comrades, and that is heart-wrenching. But it also has made me who I am today; I’ve been able to learn lessons from those around me,” he added.

They are lessons he intends to share in his budding law career, where he believes his military background will serve him well.

“Military members are well disciplined,” he said. “That is one of their primary strengths. But one of the things I think helps me -- helps us, really -- is the camaraderie. We don’t have an individual mentality. We learn to work together. We make sure that each person’s success is our success. And it’s amazing to see how teamwork -- people from all walks of life working together -- can make such a difference. That is something I take with me everywhere!”