Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) joined the William & Mary Law School community and members of the Puller family on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, to celebrate the naming of the Lewis B. Puller, Jr. Veterans Benefits Clinic at the Law School. Lewis B. Puller, Jr. (1945-1994) received an undergraduate degree from William & Mary in 1967 and a J.D. in 1974. He was an attorney, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, and an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps.
News outlets that published stories about the clinic's naming included AOL News, the Associated Press, the Chicago Tribune, the Daily Press, MSNBC, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, USA Today, the Virginian-Pilot, and the Washington Examiner.
"I want to thank the Law School for being willing to establish this clinic ... and trying to make sure that we've got folks who can help veterans and their families through this [benefits] process, I commend all," Warner told the crowd.
"You are naming this clinic after a real American hero."
Puller joined the Marines after graduating from college. He was sent to Vietnam as a second lieutenant in 1968, where he was badly wounded when he tripped a booby-trapped Howitzer round. In 1991, he told the story of his life in a book titled "Fortunate Son." For his writing, he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1992 for autobiography/biography.
Members of the Puller family in attendance included his widow Linda Todd "Toddy" Puller, who represents the 36th district in the Senate of Virginia.
"I really do want to thank you for naming this clinic in [Lewis'] memory. I know he would certainly appreciate it," she said. "Vietnam veterans were not exactly welcomed home with a parade ... Many of the people going to get services at the clinic are Vietnam veterans. It's better late than never that they are getting the help they need.
"I know that the people coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq may not now know the complete extent of how much they will need the help of this clinic. As the years go by, perhaps their injuries will bother them more, especially the psychological ones. So this is going to be a very, very welcome thing."
The Veterans Benefits Clinic accepted its first clients in January 2009. William & Mary law students working under the supervision of Adjunct Law Professors and former JAG officers Stacey-Rae Simcox and Mark D. Matthews help veterans with their claims for benefits while students and faculty at Virginia Commonwealth University's Center for Psychological Services and Development provide assessment, counseling and referrals to veterans in need of those services.
The clinic's work is made possible, in part, by the support of the Jessie Ball duPont Fund and members of the William & Mary Law School Class of 1974, many of whom were in attendance Thursday.
"With the work of this clinic we not only honor the contributions of our nation's veterans but we help reaffirm our nation's commitment to provide them with the essential support that they were promised and that they have earned through their military service," said William & Mary Law School Dean Davison Douglas. "It is our great privilege today to fulfill a dream that began here two years ago, the naming of our clinic after one of the Law School's most beloved and respected graduates, Lewis B. Puller, Jr."