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Nearly 70 World War II veterans still serve their country—on the federal bench

Posted Jun 18, 2014 6:15 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The GI Bill helped several World War II veterans pay for a college education, including service members who went on to become lawyers and then federal judges.

Now, 70 years after D-Day, nearly 70 World War II veterans remain on the federal bench, according to the Third Branch News, published by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

“Although nearly all were eligible to retire on full pay two decades ago,” the story says, “many carry active and sometimes full-time workloads, even in their late 80s and early 90s. They cite their love of the law and a continuing call to service.”

One of the veterans is U.S. District Judge Tom Stagg of Shreveport, Louisiana, who was shot in the chest while serving as an Army Infantry officer. He credits a pocket Bible with slowing the bullet, allowing him to walk 2 miles for medical help.

“I’m very big on duty,” Stagg told Third Branch News. “I was given a duty by President Nixon, and I have done my damnedest to carry it out for the 40 years I’ve been here.”

Another veteran is U.S. District Judge Leonard Wexler of the Eastern District of New York, who received two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart. He told Third Branch News that, before the war, he thought of himself as a good athlete but a poor student. He went to college after the service and learned that he loved learning.

"I had no idea I wanted to be judge, never thought of it, never wanted it,” Wexler said. “It’s amazing how things happen without you expecting them. You’ve just got to go with the flow. ... Life has its crazy turns.”

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