Tribute to William K. Suter
on Jul 12, 2013 at 1:25 pm
Bill Suter and I served together for over twenty-five years in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. Often we worked in the same office, and during my tour as Judge Advocate General he was the Deputy Judge Advocate General. Many tributes can and will be given to Bill. He is as intelligent, efficient, hardworking, and thoughtful as any attorney I have ever worked with. And I am sure all of these talents will be written about by others in various and more eloquent ways. However, he is also one of the most caring and decent men I have known. He showed this every day in how he always looked at the human element of an issue.
Many instances of this come to mind, but there is one that illustrates. In the early seventies I was in the Pentagon as Chief of Personnel Plans and Planning for the Corps, and Bill was the Deputy. Congress had passed the Military Justice Act of 1968, which greatly increased the number of Army lawyers. Bill and I were responsible for the recruitment and training of some three hundred new Judge Advocates. Given the Viet Nam War and the times, it was extremely challenging to meet our numbers. However we did, but occasionally with strange results. We had just started a new group, which had been sworn in and assigned to training at the Judge Advocate General’s School when one of the new recruits called for an appointment. When he came to see us, he told us that he was so nervous he continually cut himself shaving and was going to bleed to death. It became clear he was young and immature and was not going to “make it.” My thought was to put him into the Military Personnel system, where he would be separated under conditions that would wreck his future as an attorney. But Bill intervened. He said, “Hugh, let’s discharge him here rather than through normal channels.” I hesitated, asking “can we do that?” Bill responded, “It’s the right thing to do.” Remembering that the Army Personnel Command handled discharges, I took a piece of paper and wrote on it by hand: “Lieutenant . . . . is discharged this date under Honorable Conditions.” We told the officer to take the paper to the Army Personnel office over in Alexandria. About an hour later I got a call from Army Personnel and was asked whether I had sent the officer over and whether the paper he had was authentic. I said it was. They sent him for a physical, and he was discharged within a week.
Some years later the same officer, a successful attorney, came by the Pentagon to thank me. I told him that he shouldn’t thank me: “Thank Bill.” I can attest that there are scores of people who have been helped by Bill in their careers or personal life. A better legacy you cannot leave.