Attorney Spotlight Part 12: Stefanie Pupkiewicz-Busch

From time to time this newsfeed will include a closer look at our attorneys. The posts will be on topics not necessarily about the law but about what is personally important to our attorneys outside the office. This is the twelfth installment of our spotlight as we feature a personal story from Attorney Stefanie Pupkiewicz-Busch. Thank you Stefanie for sharing this with us!

The early days of September, waiting for fall to break the Carolina heat, brings back memories of a time I would prefer not to repeat, but which shaped me fundamentally. A younger version of myself gripping an M-16 tight as I marched, seemingly for unrelenting hours, across a parade deck in Parris Island, South Carolina. A pattern intermittently broken by a perceived error sending all sixty of us to a sand pit to roll ourselves around in for a few minutes doing sit ups, pushups, or some other exercise before returning to the drill sweatier and sandier than before.

LCpl Pupkiewicz leaving a helicopter landing zone, a little queasy after flying through the mountainous landscape, to document a school construction project in the rural Philippines which had been hit with several landslides.

Joining the Marines was by far the best choice I ever made, and boot camp was the necessary step to earn that title and get into the fleet. I walked through a door, firmly gripping that new Eagle, Globe, and Anchor, into a different world than I could have anticipated. I moved to the other side of the world to take pictures and write newspaper stories. I rode C-130s, the ubiquitous cargo plane with the rotors on the wings, and CH-46s, the dual rotor helicopter, within a month of arriving, which was awesome. It was not, however, the life changing experiences that would leave an indelible mark on me.

That would be the humanitarian and disaster relief operations in Cambodia and the Philippines. I documented the medical and dental relief operations in a Buddhist temple and watched in awe as a woman’s face changed with a pair of glasses that allowed her for the first time to focus and see the faces of her children. In Manila, I rode a convoy delivering

Marine and Armed Forces of the Philippines drive through Manila’s flood ravaged barangays to deliver food rations. (Official Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl Stefanie Pupkiewicz)

rations after back-to-back typhoons had struck the city, all the while people crowded the streets cheering the Marines and the U.S. like we were rock stars.

The Marines is an interesting cross section of society which is united at its heart by that shared desire, which may have dwindled to varying degrees depending on how long you’ve been in, to be a Marine. You may not like all of them but that common desire feels something like kinship. Of course, this is calculated; instilling that sense of kinship is an essential element in Marine Corps doctrine that allows units to be an effective fighting force, but it still gives me a warm feeling every time I see the Marine Corps emblem.

Ever up for challenging myself, I had finished my bachelor’s degree at the same time as my enlistment. I actually took my midterms while in Cambodia and sent them in alongside my photo packages over the satellite communication link I set up on the side of the temple. So, I left the Marines to start law school.

Four and half years later, I found myself in Montgomery, Alabama, trying hard not to laugh at Air Force Officer Training. It’s a different world from my Corps, but one that let me experience a breadth of legal issues, from the how of targeting terrorists for air strikes to a man literally shooting himself in the foot to get out of a physical fitness test, and find my very unexpected love of trusts and estates.

As Captain Pupkiewicz (L), she only got to pose in front of helicopters.

As a Judge Advocate, I advised thousands of people going through terrible things like abusive marriages and amazing things like securing guardianship of a younger sibling, it curated compassion and a drive to ease some of the burden that they carried.

My desire in military service was always a desire to help people. It was my motivation in law school, and it is my motivation in my practice today. Wills were the unexpected mechanism that helped provide people with peace of mind and a reassurance when they went into perilous situations. It also provided an opportunity to laugh at a scary possibility an eighteen year old should give his PlayStation to his roommate or his brother, or it was a Pararescueman insisting on a Viking funeral, it allowed them to confront and process the reality before them.

Additionally, I do really enjoy rules and regulations, because I get to figure out how to do what I want within their constraints: it’s a fun puzzle. Tax is my new regimented system, and I am really enjoying learning the nuances of navigation within it.

Read more about Stefanie and her professional bio HERE.