Patrick Law has patriotism in his blood.
In the Revolutionary War, Law’s ancestors fought alongside fellow patriots for America’s freedom at the Battles of Saratoga. In two-plus centuries since, his family has served in the Civil War, World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War and the Global War on Terrorism.
That legacy lives on through Law who, in the three decades since serving in the first Gulf War, has committed himself to supporting veterans and shaping others like the military shaped him.
Despite the deep family history of service to country, Law admits that patriotism alone wasn’t the driving force in his case. The self-described “horrible student only motivated to have fun” left himself with fewer options than his peers out touring college campuses.
“I had long, hard discussions with my parents,” he said. “And they basically told me ‘Join the military, they’ll get your head right.’”
He chose the Army and, at 19, deployed to Iraq and Saudi Arabia, serving directly for Col. Mary Maier and picking up assignments along the way with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell and other VIPs in the battle space.
While the experience forced Law to mature quickly, it also brought out his natural traits of determination, leadership and selflessness – all of which he channels into his current job far from the battlefields.
Upon stepping back on American soil, Law became a commercial pilot in his native Rochester, New York. A desert parasite he picked up in Iraq, however, impacted his health and forced him to change directions. He joined a young financial services firm and that job brought him to Dallas.
“I struggled mightily transitioning to corporate America, especially moving to [Texas] from New York,” he said. “People would want to be asked about their kids’ soccer game, but I’d want to get down to brass tacks. I didn’t yet have the skills to understand the nuance of civilian culture and communication styles.”
Law said it took a few “rough” years and several more of learning before he became comfortable. As he did, the company’s growth accelerated, leading to its acquisition by U.S. Bank more than a decade ago. Law became one of the bank’s first employees in Texas. “[The bank’s then-president Richard Davis] told me to be bold, be creative and have fun,” he recalled.
Today U.S. Bank has more than 900 employees in the state supporting multiple business areas. In a nod to the opportunity it sees in the market, the bank is hosting its annual senior leadership meeting in Dallas this month.
Law’s full impact, however, goes well beyond the state’s borders.
Just ask Kansas banker Mazie Yewell. When the bank launched a formal mentoring program in 2008, she was paired with Law as an inaugural mentee-mentor. She picked Law’s brain on everything from keeping cash in New Orleans ATMs during Hurricane Katrina to leadership advice from Powell and other military leaders.
“Patrick has such a gift for leading people,” said Yewell, who is now a professional development training program manager. “His military analogies such as ‘leading from the front’ and ‘no person left behind’ have given me different perspective when interacting with others.”
Law, naturally, said he learned more from Yewell than vice versa. (“Everyone deserves a chance to be great,” he recalls her saying.)
“Well if there’s one thing I hope he did learn from me, I hope it is that it’s OK to accept a compliment,” said Yewell, pausing then giving him a chance to do so. “Patrick has a heart as big as Texas.”
As the bank’s headcount grows in Texas, so too does its community impact. Its mortgage group, for example, recently donated $40,000 to renovate the homes of two wounded veterans in Dallas.
The renovation effort was coordinated as part of Proud to Serve, a national employee resource group founded by Law and several other senior-level veteran leaders in 2008. The group helps recruit veterans, provides financial military education resources, donates and renovates homes for wounded veterans, and brings in veterans such as Purple Heart recipient Justin Constantine and Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach to speak at company events.
“We’re trying to create a culture that empowers veterans to go out and make a difference. A lot of people feel a loss of their identity when returning to civilian life,” said Law. “At U.S. Bank, you can keep your ‘can do’ spirit, mission orientation and ability to lead with courage and confidence.”
For advice, Law continues to tap his network and recall lessons from those he served with, including Annette Torrisi, John Garrity, Jose Vazquez, Jeff Blackshaw, Dennis Fangman, Marc Jenkins, Owen McPhillips and Forrest Guess.
In all aspects of Law’s life, the drive to serve is the constant. At home though, Law says, “family is at the center.”
In a family of patriots dating back to the Revolutionary War, however, family and service are perpetually intertwined. Earlier this month, Law’s stepdaughter Berkley graduated from officer candidate school in the U.S. Army.
Inspired and intrigued by Law’s service in the Middle East, she started teaching herself Arabic in high school before studying it en route to an international relations degree from University of San Diego.
“In the military, you have the opportunity to be a part of something that shapes the world around us,” said Berkley. “And in this family, you’re continuing on with a tradition of doing just that.”
Pat Swanson works in public affairs and communications at U.S. Bank. Feature photo taken by Robert Emminger, a freelance photographer and veteran.