Meet Marc Sendra ’25L, Former Religious Affairs Specialist for the U.S. Army Before law school, Marc Sendra helped look after the mental and spiritual well-being of 500 soldiers as a Religious Affairs Specialist.
Marc Sendra ‘25L is originally from Orlando, FL and attended the University of Central Florida for his undergraduate degree. Prior to his educational experience, he served in the U.S. Army as a Religious Affairs Specialist from 2015-2019 in the 82nd Airborne Division located in Fort Bragg, NC. Post military career, Marc was an EMT in Florida while he pursuing an undergraduate degree in Political Science–Pre-Law. Outside of class, Marc enjoys going to the gym, attending stand-up comedy events, and going on hikes with his wife and two dogs.
Provide some information about your military career prior to law school?
I served as a Religious Affairs Specialist (often known as a Chaplain’s Assistant) and had three primary responsibilities. First, my chaplain and I were responsible for the overall mental and spiritual well-being of about 500 soldiers. We provided counseling to soldiers and suicide prevention training. We were also responsible for ensuring that the spiritual needs of soldiers were met regardless of religious affiliation. I took part in drafting memos for religious accommodations, providing marital assistance events, and assisting single soldiers away from home. Second, I was responsible for advising the commanding officer of my unit on the organic spiritual and mental health of our soldiers, including information regarding religious activities within the area of a deployed environment. Finally, the Geneva Convention prohibits the chaplain from being armed while in a deployed environment. This means that his chaplain’s assistant would act as armed security for the chaplain if we were in a hostile environment and received contact from opposing forces.
How did being a first-generation college graduate shape your decision to pursue law school?
Being a first-generation college graduate came after being a first-generation high school graduate amongst an immediate family of five, while being the youngest. My family seemed to be plagued with a generational curse of being unable to make it past a certain point in education. I grew up very differently from my siblings with my father as a single parent. Additional circumstances primarily influenced by my father pushed me to pursue a higher education. After graduating high school, I knew I wanted to pursue graduate school before I even started my undergraduate degree. While in the military, I developed a great appreciation for Constitutional Law, more specifically the First Amendment, because of my responsibilities as Religious Affairs Specialist. My job’s daily activities often revolved around advocating for First Amendment religious rights to ensure those rights were always met through either direct confrontation or through my unit’s standard operational procedures. My commitment to law school came after reading the book “Gideons Trumpet: How one man, a poor prisoner, took his case to the Supreme Court–and changed the law of the United States” by Anthony Lewis. I first read this book during a joint training exercise while sitting in the back of a Humvee wearing body armor in the blistering wet and hot weather in the middle of the woods in Fort Polk, Louisiana. My initial reason for bringing the book to this exercise was the lack of access to technology and cell phones. Never did I think that reading such a short book would soon shape the next chapter of my life.
What was your main reason for choosing W&L Law?
I chose W&L Law because of its reputation for being a high-quality law school. Admission to W&L Law meant so much to me that I applied binding early decision, fully ready to commit. While law school generally has a competitive environment, Washington and Lee offered something different. When I went to the admitted student open house, I confirmed that W&L Law did not promote a cutthroat environment. Instead, it was one of cooperation, cohesion, and teamwork among law professors and law students to ensure that everyone has a successful career. I have never been in an environment in academia where everyone is so willing to help one another. During my freshman year at a local community college, right after my military career, my algebra college professor emphasized that no one gets through college alone and that working together was imperative for academic success. Those words have stuck with me and played a crucial role in why I chose W&L Law to pursue my legal career.
How did you find out about W&L Law?
I found out about W&L Law through numerous channels—email being one of the main ways they connected with me. In their communication, they emphasized their veterans on campus and the student organization for veteran advocates. No other law school had reached out to me and mentioned anything about being a veteran. Additionally, I researched the top law schools that I believed would be the right fit for me, and W&L Law was at the top.
How has your past work experience prepared you for law school?
My past work experiences played a major role in preparing me for law school. Joining the military, specifically relating to my exact job, was like getting thrown to the wolves—or often referred to as “sinking or swimming.” Fortunately, I had amazing mentors who guided me and taught me how to swim amidst the stress and chaos. My experiences allowed me to perform in the most stressful environments of my life, building endurance for stress and high-volume work by meeting the proper expectations of those above me. On many occasions in the military—about two times a year—I had to work 45 days straight from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. in the middle of the woods with no showers or technological communications. This experience alone helped me throughout my undergrad experience and has continued to help me in coming into my first year at law school. “Grit,” as emphasized during the first week of orientation in law school, was something that I developed physically in the military and am now transitioning into using in an intellectually demanding environment. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity and learning experiences the military has afforded me. Seeing those experiences, skills, and habits come to life in law school is a pleasant sight. I would not trade my past experiences, good or bad, because if we were not for them, I would not be a first-year law student at one of the best law schools in the nation.