The “best decision” of Hector Emilio Corea’s life was hugely unpopular. “My family strongly opposed it,” he says of joining the U.S. Army while a high school junior. “It was scary for them, which I understand. I just wanted to be part of something bigger than myself.”
While friends back home in Wichita worked typical teenage jobs and partied during the summer of 2009 before senior year, Corea ’17 braved the blistering heat of basic training in Oklahoma. “Full combat gear was like an oven,” he recalls. “But that experience planted the values I try to live by today: discipline, honor, integrity.”
Staff Sergeant Corea started out as an Army mechanic, but eventually coveted something different. In 2013, he became a public affairs specialist, developing news stories and taking photographs.
“You become a liaison between the Army and the public, between the Army and the media, and between commanders and their troops,” Corea explains. “I really enjoyed telling soldiers’ stories.” And when he tells those stories to friends at Berkeley Law? “Many of them had never met anyone who’s in the military,” he says. “It’s nice to shatter some preconceptions about what type of person signs up.”
His background also provides fresh insights in class. One day in Criminal Law, while students discussed a case in which a weapon had been illegally modified, Corea noted that he owns the same weapon—and described details relevant to the case.
Every day, he wakes up around 5:30 a.m. and tackles myriad responsibilities. This past school year, Corea served as treasurer of the La Raza Law Students Association, associate editor of the Berkeley La Raza Law Journal, and co-president of the East Bay Dreamers Clinic, which helps undocumented youth in local high schools. He is also a member of the California Law Review and the First Generation Professionals student group.
“In the Army, you have to do a lot of things really fast and really well,” says Corea, who continues his Army Reserve training one weekend a month. “While law school requires a different kind of juggling, everything still comes down to discipline and motivation.”
The first in his family to join the military, graduate from college, or attend law school, Corea will work this summer in DLA Piper’s litigation department. “My parents crossed the border in the trunks of cars and managed to build lives for themselves,” he says. “I’m so grateful for the opportunities this country has given our family. They’re a big reason why I joined the Army and continue to push myself.”