Stephen Valentine who leads N.C. Central University’s Veterans Law Clinic, comes from a family who has a “long line of military history.” His uncles served in World War ll, and his father enlisted in the Korean conflict.
Valentine says his initial plan was to play basketball, but that changed after his arrival at Morehouse University.
“I wasn’t happy where I was, so I joined the army,” he said.
This decision resulted in Valentine’s biggest accomplishment: completing basic training in 1989 and joining the United States Army.
Valentine said that his time in the military was initially “uneventful,” but that changed on 9/11. He served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, which led to the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime. Valentine earned a bronze star with the 3rd infantry division task force.
“Once you join the military, you raise your right hand and promise to support and defend the constitution,” he said. “I count it as a privilege to serve our country.”
An epiphany came to Valentine while he was an officer in Iraq. After seeing “fellow Americans fall on the field of battle,” he realized that “tomorrow wasn’t promised.”
When he returned to the states, he wanted to fulfill his dream of graduating from law school, which he did at NCCU. After passing the bar, Valentine became a member of the Judge Advocate General Corps.
The JAG Corps operates in all the major branches and is the largest law firm in America. A member like Valentine has the opportunity to serve as a defense attorney, prosecutor, among many others in the military.
Another highlight for Valentine was when he was named Director of NCCU’s Veterans Law Clinic. “I’m glad to have an opportunity to make an impact,” he said. “I’m glad to be back.”
The Veterans Law Clinic was the first of its kind in North Carolina. They serve low-income veterans who need assistance in getting their benefits and entitlements. They provide service to individuals in North Carolina at this regional office and with the Board of Veterans Appeals.
While he’s director, Valentine said that he “envisions” an expansion of the clinic’s services to accommodate the mental health of veterans.
“It would be a force multiplier to the work that we do.”
As NCCU celebrates Veterans Day, Valentine has come full circle, serving veterans on campus and the larger Durham community.