Yellow Ribbon Series: Ralph H. Kohlmann
Marine and Widener Law graduate enjoys a distinguished career as a JAG attorney.
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Defending the Constitution
Stephen Starr

A proud participant in the Yellow Ribbon GI Bill Program, Widener Law is committed to providing a positive learning environment to the dedicated service members of the United States armed forces. The Yellow Ribbon series highlights the students, faculty, and programs that connect the Widener Law community with the brave veterans who have served their country so admirably.

“I am interested in constitutional law. As a member of the military, I swore to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. By practicing in constitutional law, I feel I can continue that oath,” says Marine Corps Captain Stephen A. Starr of his legal interests.

A native of Philadelphia, Stephen joined the Marine Corps following graduation from Abington Senior High School in 1989. After completing recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina and basic infantry training at the School of Infantry, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, he was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines. In August of 1990, he deployed to Saudi Arabia to participate in Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. During his early years in the Marine Corps, Stephen attended numerous military schools including Army Airborne School, Marksmanship Instructors Course, Combat Squad Leaders Course, Helicopter/Rope Suspension Training course, and the Marine Corps Scout Sniper School. Following two deployments to Okinawa and a little over a month in Somalia as part of Operation Restore Hope, he served as a Marksmanship Instructor at Camp Pendleton, where he trained over 450 Marines in basic and advanced marksmanship techniques.

Accepted into the Marine Corps Enlisted Commissioning Education Program, he attended the University of Utah and earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Management and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant. After training at the Navy Supply Corps School in Athens, Georgia, he served as Supply Accounting Division and the Squadron Support Division OIC at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, California. He attended the Naval Post Graduate School, Monterey, California and earned his MBA with an emphasis in government contracting, and in October of 2004, he was promoted to the rank of Captain. He has deployed to Iraq three times for a total of 16 months serving as a contracting officer, and his awards and decorations include the Navy Commendation Medal, Navy Achievement Medal, Good Conduct Medal (third award), and the Combat Action Ribbon.

Now retired after 21 years of service, Captain Starr came to Widener Law’s Harrisburg campus in part because of the atmosphere created by the willingness of the faculty to engage with their students. “I like the dedication of the professors. The professors at Widener really care about their students and they go out of their way to provide assistance out of the classroom,” he says.

Captain Starr has found his military training and experience to be a boon to his pursuit of a legal education, saying, “The military has taught me that I can accomplish anything I put my mind to. The military has also taught me discipline, and the importance of accomplishing the mission, which means that you never quit no matter what obstacles are in front of you.”

He encourages other veterans interested in law school to “learn about all the benefits they rate as a veteran.” He adds, “I would also tell them to prepare as best they can before attending.”

Of the Post 911 Veterans Education Assistance Act of 2008, he says, “I think the Post 911 GI Bill is a great thing because service members sacrifice more than you know for the country, and giving back to those service members is always greatly appreciated. I particularly like the Yellow Ribbon program. It’s an added ‘thank you’ that is also greatly appreciated.”