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It’s a time-honored tradition for the president of the United States to offer personal Christmas greetings to military service members. This year, Chief Petty Officer David Weiss, a student on leave from The John Marshall Law School in Chicago, was one of just two Coast Guard members selected to speak with President Barack Obama on Christmas Day.
"It was a privilege and an honor to speak with the commander in chief," Weiss said. "The president has a million important things to do—that he took the time to speak with service members all over the globe speaks volumes."
Having grown up in Valparaiso, Ind., Weiss joined the United States Coast Guard shortly after high school and continued in the Coast Guard Reserves. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Northeastern Illinois University and enrolled at John Marshall. His first orders for active duty in Afghanistan came in October 2012. At that point, he was forced to withdraw from classes.
"The president laughed when I thanked him for my activation orders—thereby saving me from law school finals. I told the president that (once graduated) I would like to advocate on behalf of veterans, and talked with him about John Marshall’s Veterans Legal Support Center & Clinic (VLSC) and the free legal assistance we provide to veterans there.”
Professor Brian Clauss, VLSC director, said that while some students who work in the clinic are veterans, Weiss is the first student called to active duty during the school year. "The staff and students are all anxious to hear news from David,” Clauss said. “Having a student deploy is like having one of your own children deploy. You worry about him and hope and pray for his safe return.”
Steven M. Novak, a supervising attorney in the clinic said Weiss is a very hard-working student who started a chapter of Student Veterans of America at John Marshall and has been recognized by the North Suburban Bar Association for his work.
“He does all this while raising a young child and meeting his Reserve obligations,” Novak said.
When he returns to civilian status later this year he’ll be "spending time with my little boy and family; they are my main priority. Then, getting back to school, getting back to work in the veterans clinic, and passing the bar. I'm anxious to find a job advocating for veterans.”
Weiss said that having the opportunity to speak with the president was a privilege and an honor: "He was just a friendly, regular guy—who happens to be the leader of the free world."
Weiss is scheduled to return from Afghanistan and complete his studies at John Marshall in fall 2013.