Plachta, Murphy honors veterans with new program, awards two scholarships

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LEGAL NEWS PHOTOS BY CYNTHIA PRICE

by Cynthia Price
Legal News

As a relatively new law firm, Plachta, Murphy and Associates could sit back and concentrate on the hard work of building the practice, and leave the community work to those who have been around longer.

But Brian Plachta, Miles Murphy and the others who either practice with or assist them are dedicated to serving above and beyond the call of duty.

Since one of the firm’s specialties is veterans’ law, it should come as no surprise that their latest venture involves giving back to those veterans who gave so much by awarding them scholarships.

This initiative comes on the heels of Plachta, Murphy’s generous on-going offer to the State of Michigan to donate legal services through the state’s entrepreneurial MiSpringboard. This too makes sense in the context of the firm’s business law area of focus.

Now the firm’s Veterans Benefits Practice Group, headed up by Shareholder Miles Murphy, has decided that the best way to honor veterans is to give them a leg up in pursuing their careers. They understand many of the obstacles faced by returning veterans and want to help out.

Murphy said, “These scholarships are one small way for our law firm to thank our veterans for their service to our country.”

He has a long career in business litigation and business/administrative law, and is one of West Michigan’s first certified Veteran’s Association attorneys.

Earlier this year, the inaugural Veterans Scholarship Program got underway, spearheaded by Client Relations Director Jeremy Johnson who contacted universities and colleges, publicized the scholarship to potential recipients through schools and veterans advocacy organizations, and put together a group of experts to review applications.
The initiative mandated that applicants attend a West Michigan college or university, have received an honorable discharge, be Michigan residents, and write a 500-word-or-less essay on the military, how it affected their lives, and what they planned to do after their studies ended.

Members of the review committee included Mike Burri, Commander, Kent County United Veterans Council; Trina Edmonson, Veteran Supports Coordinator, Disability Advocates of Kent County; Jonathan Highman, Admissions Representative, Military & Veteran Services, Davenport University; Janice Holton, Veterans Benefits Coordinator at Grand Rapids Community College; Shelley Irwin, Morning Show Host/Producer WGVU; Carry Roy, Manager of the Kent County Department of Veterans Affairs; Troy Klinge, Army Strong Community Center Coordinator; Daren Young, Program Manager, Veterans Services (VWIP) for Goodwill Industries; and Plachta, Murphy and Associates’ own Martha Wieland, Veterans Benefit Specialist.

They met on Aug. 20 to review the 16 applications received. When all was said and done, there were two clear winners: Simeon Switzer and Desiray Moses.

Switzer served the Michigan Army National Guard from May 2006 to May 2012, as part of the Grand Rapids 125th Infantry Division, and went to Iraq. Later he did a tour of Afghanistan. Switzer says, “Looking back on what I wrote in my essay, I think it was my heart for veterans that probably made me stand out.” He is a senior at Grand Valley State University, seeking a degree in Communications to help him make life better for other vets.

Moses serves in the Army Reserves, and was also deployed to Iraq. She is seeking an early childhood education degree from Western Michigan University, slated for a Dec. 2013 graduation. “Winning did make me feel very special, and helped me with my confidence,” she says. Moses is also a single mother with an 11-month-old.

Plachta’s Jeremy Johnson says, “I’m a veteran myself, as well as a staunch advocate for other vets. But it’s my hope that other businesses and organizations step up and provide more educational resources to the men and women that have served our country.”

Plachta, Murphy attorneys and specialists have more than 100 years of combined experience. The firm has now opened a Holland office, as well as a division called Tax Resolution Specialists, Inc.