Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts on motherhood in the legal profession, in partnership with our friends at MothersEsquire. Welcome Dawn Gile back to our pages. Click here if you’d like to donate to MothersEsquire.
The change of season this fall feels symbolic to my family and me as we transition to new chapters in our lives. My husband has been serving active duty in the Army for the past 23 years, although he has begun the retirement process, with a retirement date by next year. Veterans Day has given us an opportunity to reflect on his many years of proud service.
I first met my husband nearly 15 years ago, with our marriage following soon thereafter. At the time, I was a newly licensed attorney in Illinois, and therefore, a move to Maryland, where he was stationed, required another bar exam if I wanted to continue practicing law. We are fortunate among military families, however, in that he has been able to remain stationed in Maryland for the majority of his service. That geographic stability — practically unheard of for military families — has also meant career stability for me in that I have been able to develop my legal practice as a litigator in Maryland.
The years, nonetheless, have not been without their challenges due to frequent overseas deployments and other absences for military assignments. Our first child, now 11 years old, bore the greatest burden as her early years were ups and downs of tearful goodbyes and joyful reunions. We also weathered the one constant in military life: that you could never count on anything. Planning for a vacation? Canceled. Growing your family? Be sure to thread the needle on the expected due date to ensure your spouse will be home for the delivery.
Sorting out childcare also fell squarely on my shoulders given we, like many military families, lack that aunt, grandparent, cousin, or uncle in the area to help. I was committed, however, to continue working as my legal career — one that I worked so hard to obtain — was important to me. There were many months of his absences where it felt like I was barely keeping my head above water, with dinners often consisting of a bowl of cereal or saltine crackers eaten over the kitchen sink after our girls were in bed.
Despite the challenges, I cannot imagine any other path for our family. My husband is the epitome of a soldier, not just in his courage, patriotism, and commitment to the mission, but also by the quiet humility with which he has served our country over the past few decades. I never thought I would ever marry a soldier, but I have been so grateful and proud to have been part of his world of brave and selfless men and women of our Armed Forces. Let’s face it: he also has the coolest job ever to discuss at career day at our daughters’ school. (Apparently telling elementary kids about your job as a lawyer is just not as exciting as his stories of jumping out of airplanes, eating MREs, and being awarded various medals and ribbons.)
Indeed, being a military family has become a large part of our identity and the imminent transition to civilian life, although exciting, feels bittersweet in some ways. I am excited for new opportunities ahead as he assesses his career options post-military, and I have no doubt that he will chart a career path of continued service. In fact, his military career inspired my own commitment to public service as I recently made the decision to run for Maryland’s state legislature. Although this decision added yet another plate to my delicate balancing act of work and family, I felt compelled to continue my advocacy for military families and veterans and to ensure that we have good people in office, at all levels of leadership, who are making the right decisions for this important community.
This Veterans Day, I am so incredibly thankful for my husband and for our nation’s many veterans who have, without hesitation, courageously answered the call to preserve and defend our country. I am also grateful for the military spouses quietly serving on the homefront, who tuck their children in bed after tearful deployment goodbyes and then eat crackers for dinner over the kitchen sink. Thank you.
Dawn Gile is a licensed attorney with an active litigation practice, in addition to being an Army wife and mom of three girls. Dawn currently serves as immediate past president for Military Spouse JD Network, after having served on its Board of Directors for the last several years. Dawn is also a partner with MacDonald Law Group, LLC, where her practice focuses on complex civil litigation defense. A graduate of Loyola University Chicago School of Law and Rockford University, Dawn is admitted to practice law in Illinois, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. She enjoys spending time with her family at their home in Maryland and volunteering in her community. Dawn is a candidate for the Maryland Senate in District 33. More information about Dawn and her campaign can be found at her website: www.dawngile.com.