Through two wars men and women from across Texas have helped reshape Iraq. From the front lines to the courtrooms, with bullets and ballpoint pens, Texas attorneys have taken great risks to restore some measure of freedom to that country. Below we profile three such heroes, Bill Gameros, Brad Clark and Brian Farlow
Published in 2004 Texas Rising Stars magazine
By Dwight Hobbes on June 23, 2004
A Scout Earns the Ultimate Merit Badge
Here’s advice to any attorney who’s planning to go head to head in the courtroom with Dallas attorney Bill Gameros: don’t even think about trying to use scare tactics to unnerve him. He is, after all, a guy who faced down the elite Republican Guard army of Saddam Hussein and never had a fear.
“It sounds cocky,” he says, “but please don’t take it that way. I wasn’t ever scared. I had four years of training at West Point, another four years of active duty and then a half-year of training in the desert. Was I concerned for my troops? Yes. But scared, no. We had trained and trained and trained for that day.”
Gameros and his scouts were part of the lead brigade for the 24th Infantry Division during Desert Storm in the first Gulf War in 1990. His unit’s job was to protect Saudi Arabia and perform reconnaissance missions. He was sent to Iraq two weeks before the ground war began, to hide in the desert and check on the strength and movements of the enemy forces. As almost the first offensive of the war, his battalion struck at the enemy at night, completely surprising them.
“They had no idea we were coming,” Gameros says. “They had no time to prepare because as soon as we were in contact with them, they were under attack. There was just nothing they could do at that point; they had already been outmaneuvered. Their military effort just collapsed and they surrendered en masse.”
Gameros says he is proud of the several scouts from his platoon who received awards for valor after the war. Prod him a bit and he’ll own up that he himself was the recipient of a Bronze Star Medal.
Gameros garnered a bit of fame recalling his service in the Middle East on the Discovery Channel documentary “Inside the Killbox: Fighting the Gulf War.” The show, which includes an analysis of his unit’s mission, originally aired more than three years ago and still pops up every once in a while, prompting some unexpected phone calls.
“People I haven’t heard from in years will call me and tell me they saw me on TV last night,” he says.
If it’s hard to strike fear into Gameros, irritating him is simple if — like his friends — you know his obsession: blimps.
“When they want to tease me, they say, ‘Oh, the humanity,’” Gameros says.
The infamous Hindenburg phrase is a not-so-subtle jab at the attorney’s unique interest, which has yielded a collection of blimp memorabilia (beer mugs with floating zeppelins, a gaggle of Christmas ornaments and antique toys) and Gameros’ stories of flying the Monster.com and Winstar.com blimps in the Dallas area. Most of the time, however, Gameros concentrates on subjects closer to earth, namely commercial litigation at the Dallasbased Hoge, Carter, Holmes and Gameros. Gameros, 39, recently argued in front of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in a life insurance case where he represented a mortgage servicing company. He has also represented 70 plaintiffs, many of whom are retirees, in a suit against an oil and gas promoter that allegedly mismanaged its finances, causing the investors to lose money.
Gameros also serves as the vice chairman of the Dallas Subcommittee of the Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee for the Supreme Court of Texas — try saying that three times fast — where he chases Texans who are lawyering without a license. One memorable case involved a man, accused of holding himself out to be a lawyer, who thought Gameros was a secret foreign agent because his Texas bar number begins with 007. The man, who is a Republic of Texas supporter, also accused Gameros of committing murder in the future, allegedly through his connections with INTERPOL, the International Criminal Police Organization.
“Obviously one of the most bizarre cases I’ve ever had,” Gameros says. He eventually secured a judgment and, recently, a bench warrant was issued for the outlaw’s arrest.
Following the war, Gameros earned his M.B.A. and law degrees from Cornell University and began practicing law in 1996. Gameros wound up staying in Dallas after interning for a federal judge there. He left Lynn, Tillotson & Pinker to found his current firm in June 2002.
The blimpiac lives in the Dallas area with his 6-month-old daughter, Zoë, and wife, Kathy, who beneficently allowed a blimp-shaped groom’s cake at their wedding.
And while his friends may tease him with a carefully crafted Hindenburg joke, Gameros remains unashamed of his unusual fascination.
“Anybody flying a blimp in Dallas, give me a call. I’d love to
go,” he says.
Sleeping in a Palace Ain’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be
Talk about culture shock. One day Brad Clark is working as a litigator at Mills Shirley in Houston and going home to his wife and two kids. The next he is mobilized and bunking down in one of Saddam Hussein’s former palaces in Iraq. Such is the life of a lawyer in the Army Reserve.
Clark was called up in the spring of 2003, four months after being hired at the firm. In typical soldierly demeanor, Clark plays down the impact of having to leave his family. “We had already gone through the mental ‘oh shit’ drill,” Clark says. “They do what they can to prepare you, and we had a plan for it.”
In Baghdad just two weeks after the city fell to American forces, Clark worked in a variety of capacities. These were law jobs, to be sure, but nothing resembling anything Clark might have been prepared for by law school. He was, for example, part of a team that sought justice for the families of those victims of the Hussein regime that quite literally were uncovered when American troops began exhuming mass graves. The scale and scope of the oppression made helping individual victims frustrating for the Brazos County prosecutor. “You just knew there wasn’t a lot to do to help them,” he says. “You can’t try 35 years of abuse as individual cases.”
Addressing the property confiscation committed by the Hussein regime took a lot of Clark’s time. He helped wade through 30 years of unjust property seizures, reallocating ownership when possible. “If someone senior in the regime wanted property, they would have the owners arrested,” Clark says of Iraq’s old version of foreclosure. “Then, under torture, the owners would be forced to sign over the property rights.”
He advised the ministry coordination wing of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance and handled all manner of foreign lawsuits that had accrued against the Iraqi government under the Hussein regime. “You’d have to solve the little problems you don’t think about when the government is working,” he says. “We worked 90- to 100-hour weeks.”
Still, Clark was a soldier, and as such he performed plenty of non-legal work. Besides coordinating mass-grave assessments and weeding Baathist party members out of the government work force, Clark provided the security detail for the first employee meeting at the Ministry of Planning. He also broke up fights when Iraqi employees were waiting in line to get paid, and chased looters out of buildings.
While Clark admits he was fortunate to work on broader, bureaucracy-oriented issues, the simmering chaos of a governmental vacuum took some adjustment. Gunfire was constant when he first rolled into the city. The green safety zone was bombed repeatedly during Ramadan. He was in the Al-Rashid Hotel when it sustained a rocket attack during Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz’s visit. At one point during his stay in Iraq, Clark moved into one of Saddam’s palaces. “It sounds great,” he says, “but basically it was just a dorm with marble floors and ornate chandeliers.”
Even for a man who spends his professional life in a courtroom, where proceedings can feel like an eternity, the rebuilding process in Iraq was maddeningly slow for Clark. “You could see everybody was working hard to move their pieces forward,” he says. “It’s just not at a pace you wanted.”
Clark has taken the whole experience in stride; he’s been gradually readjusting to American life since returning to the States in December. He is currently stationed at the Pentagon, and will return home soon.
“It generally wasn’t too stressful,” he says, somewhat surprisingly, of his stint in Iraq. “Proof, I guess, that you can get used to anything.” Everybody put in long hours, he says, and the hard work kept him from worrying about the dangers. “On the security side, it was something you thought about, but didn’t really worry about … at least over the things you couldn’t control, such as the mortar and rocket attacks,” he says.
Clark believes the Iraqi people appreciate the efforts of U.S. troops. “A lot of people felt good just to be able to talk about [the Hussein oppressions],” he says. “They had a hope that something good could happen, but they weren’t sure what that was going to be.”
A Logistics Magician Helps Inspire Doonesbury
Before taking on legal battles for clients of the Elrod law firm in the courtroom, Brian A. Farlow took on a fight for his country. And, during Desert Storm, he got a pretty good idea firsthand why, weapons of mass destruction or no, homeboy Saddam had to go.
From January to May 1991, U.S. Army 1st Lieutenant Farlow of 4-32 Armor, First Brigade, 3rd Armor Division oversaw vital supplies to the military and supervised the care and feeding of 11,000 Iraqi refugees. He planned and implemented logistical operations for a combat tank battalion during its campaign against the Iraqi Republican Guards.
“There was a lot riding on my decisions,” Farlow recounts. “We operated close to the front.” M1A1 tanks carry about 32 shells and if they’re out of ammunition, they’d better not be out of gas, too. Because then you have a 60-ton sitting duck containing a crew that is S.O.L. in the face of the enemy. “The less time spent [re-equipping], the less vulnerable you are. If I can’t get the food, fuel and ammunition to the tanks on time, bad things are gonna happen to these guys. I would literally rather have been injured or killed myself than be responsible for it happening to one of the soldiers who depended on me.”
Farlow wasn’t uprooted and sent off from everyday life. He was already in uniform and got the call while stationed in Kirchgoens, Germany. Still, the transition was nothing to take lightly.
Near the town of Safwan, roughly on the border between Kuwait and Iraq, Farlow, in addition to supporting active combat, ran a refugee camp that provided humanitarian aid. The camp was visited by Garry Trudeau, who subsequently based a series of Doonesbury installments on his observation there. Farlow notes that the camp served “mainly Iraqis fleeing the brutality Saddam Hussein was inflicting on his own population.” “What struck me generally across the board is they are a proud people,” he adds. “Those who were from Egypt were proud to be Egyptian. Those from Jordan were proud to be Jordanian. They all [felt strongly about] their heritage.”
Which didn’t mean these folks necessarily looked down their noses at America. “I didn’t find any anti-American resentment,” Farlow says. “Most of them were happy to have us there. Most of them, very obviously, wanted us to overthrow Saddam. These were, of course, the refugees that were fleeing him, so that’s not surprising.” He adds, “I do think they were sort of puzzled. We had all this force there, they could see that by the tanks just within their little area [at the site], but we didn’t go ahead and invade Iraq. They didn’t really understand that.”
One aspect that particularly struck Farlow was observing the soldiers under his command turn on a dime, leaving weeks of conducting hostile ground operations to helping people salvage their lives. “They did a great job. We’re a tank unit. We’re not formally trained for civilian aid.” But they rounded up the necessities, from food, medical supplies and housing to diapers and formula.
He also saw some Iraqi men forced to adapt to a world where women held rank above them. In fact, they took orders from female officers just like they did from male officers. Farlow explains: “There were lines for everything. Men would expect to be able to cut in. Sometimes there’d be problems over that. You have female lieutenants who say, ‘You stop’ and ‘You go’ and Arab men would be like, ‘You’re a woman and I’m not listening to you.’”
At a decade’s distance, Farlow sees the experience as a worthwhile undertaking. “Service in the military is a great opportunity,” he says. “It’s paid off for me a lot in terms of getting confidence from the chance to lead.” He says it also afforded him an appreciation of the men and women who, as rank and file, lay it on the line.
Farlow, who earned 10 decorations, including the Bronze Star Medal, seriously considered a military career. After Safwan, though, he was near the end of this hitch and the Army was getting smaller, looking for volunteers to cut short their tour of duty. Farlow resigned his commission and, remembering he’d aced constitutional law at West Point, opted to make the most of his talent and skills.
“I’ve given some thought about how my experiences may have affected my life or practice. Being part of a team tasked with a difficult and dangerous mission permitted me to understand the concept of ‘mission first’ — the idea that the mission is more important than an individual’s personal safety or comfort. In the practice of law, especially litigation, I often find that many clients need their attorney, on occasion, to provide a ‘mission-first’ level of service.
“In the end, I believe my ability to cope with mission-first situations leads to higher job satisfaction than you’ll find in most associates. Of course, my ability to be flexible in my day-to-day balancing of my work and personal life is largely attributable to my wife, Jennifer — an exceptional woman of character, love and devotion — and my daughters, Francesca and Lillia.
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