Denver Bar Association
November 2013
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Private Hansen

by David Erickson

Private Hansen


hile still in high school, a group of us joined the Marine Corps. We had been friends for many years, through school, sports and everything in between.

We shipped out shortly after graduation. Boot camp was in San Diego at the Marine Corp Recruit Depot. Upon arrival we were issued green military fatigues; black leather combat boots, and a metal pail filled with personal hygiene items such as a toothbrush, soap, comb, shaving gear and towels. Then, the newly formed platoon was marched to its new home—a steel Quonset hut among a row of identical huts adjoining a gigantic asphalt parade field to the east called The Grinder. To the west was an obstacle course with a series of daunting pits and walls.

Directly across from our barracks was a smaller Quonset hut—the duty hut of the drill instructors. About 15 feet in front of the duty hut was a 4-by-4 wooden post, about four feet high, with a flat board nailed to the top. On top of the board was a small wooden block that was to be used to pound the board.

The instructions were to pound the block on the post three times, announcing your arrival at the duty hut. A request then must be made to enter the duty hut: "Sir, Private Erickson, requests permission to enter the duty hut, Sir." If granted, you entered, took three steps forward, made an abrupt left face and stood at attention before the single desk—whether anyone was behind it or not. You then requested: "Sir, Private Erickson requests permission to speak, Sir." If the permission to speak was granted, then the communication could begin while still standing at attention. Every phrase spoken by the recruit during this procedure had to begin and end with the "Sir."

Nearly 20 years passed since that experience, and I am now living and working in downtown Denver.

On a recent warm day, I left the office at noon to walk to lunch with two co-workers. We headed a block or so south, then turned west at Sixteenth.

On that corner was a street preacher holding a well-worn bible above his head. "Jesus Saves!" he shouted. "Come to the Lord. I used to live away from the Lord but then came home. I saw the light. Praise be the Lord." He was wearing green military fatigues. As we passed by, I noticed that he was about my age, had clear blue eyes and the name "HANSEN" sewn above the upper left pocket of his jacket.

Although the conversation at the restaurant was pleasant, I soon began to drift away from it. There was something about the street preacher that bothered me. His face was distinctive—and familiar.

He was short, perhaps 5´5? and slender. His bow-legs were accentuated by the camouflage fatigues tucked into his spit-shined combat boots. This unexpected sighting spurred my memory. One of the recruits in our platoon at the Marine Corp Recruit Depot was named Hansen, Private Hansen. He also was short, slightly built and distinctively bow-legged with clear blue eyes. Due to his small size, he struggled with the obstacle course and our long runs on The Grinder, carrying guns under the blistering hot sun. Thus, he received harsher attention from the drill instructors.

He once got mixed up on the correct procedure for entering the duty hut and the drill instructors refused him permission to enter until he got it right. After he was inside, he got mixed up again and the drill instructors took him by the seat of the pants and the collar of his shirt and threw him out the front door onto the sidewalk. Could this be our Private Hansen from San Diego, now in Denver? I needed to find out.

I told my friends at lunch that I had to check on something and I’d be right back. I went outside and headed down to the corner where Hansen had been preaching. He was gone. I looked up and down the adjoining streets but there was no sign of him. I never saw him again. D


David L. Erickson was honorably discharged from the Marines due to an injury. He spent the next few years doing odd jobs—like working at a car wash—before enrolling in college. He received a B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from Western New England College and a J.D. degree in Law from the University of Denver. He is currently an attorney in Denver, as well as the CBA Historian. He can be reached at


Veterans Day is Monday, Nov. 11

Attend our Veterans Day Event

Honor those who served our country by attending the Veterans Day lecture and reception, from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 11, presented by the Colorado Bar Association and the Military & Veterans’ Affairs Section of the CBA. Wheeler Trigg O’Donnell will host the event at 370 17th St., Suite 4500.

The lecture “Home and Abroad: A JAG Perspective,” by Major Keith A. Robinson, will begin at 4:30 p.m. Robinson has served in the Army for over 28 years and holds the rank of Major. He currently serves as the Staff Judge Advocate for the Colorado National Guard and is the chief legal and ethics advisor to the Adjutant General of the Colorado and his staff. As a JAG officer, Robinson also served as a Trial Counsel, Administrative Law OIC, Legal Assistance Attorney and Operational Law Attorney. He deployed to New Orleans in 2005 in response to Hurricane Katrina, and has also been involved in several National Guard response operations. Robinson deployed to Iraq in 2006-2007 with the Colorado Army National Guard in support of Operation Iraqi. Robinson will discuss his experiences as a JAG officer and the practice of law in both domestic civil support and overseas combat operations.
Following the lecture will be a reception at 5:30 p.m. RSVP to either or both events by Nov. 6 to or (303) 244-1979.

Get Involved with Military
& Veterans’ Affairs Year-Round

The Colorado Bar Association offers several options for attorneys looking to get involved with military and veterans’ affairs. Colorado Lawyers for Colorado Veterans was established in 2011 under Mark Fogg’s presidency. The group holds monthly clinics in Denver (and periodic clinics in Boulder, Colorado Springs, Craig, Fort Collins and Grand Junction), in which veterans can meet with volunteer attorneys for free legal advice. The next Denver clinics are Nov. 12 and Dec. 10.

More than 109 veteran cases have been assigned to attorney volunteers either pro bono or at a reduced rate. The CBA also receives a large number of calls and referrals from other veteran organizations, asking us to match veterans with volunteer attorneys. Therefore, “a database of CBA lawyers has been established so that people who cannot attend a local clinic will have access to lawyers who are willing to handle issues on either a pro bono or a modest means basis,” said Chuck Turner, CBA Executive Director. “Having so many of our members raise their hands is truly gratifying.”
We currently have more than 215 attorney volunteers in Colorado. Join them today! Contact Carolyn Gravit at to get involved.

CBA members can also join the Military & Veterans’ Affairs Section, which now oversees Colorado Lawyers for Colorado Veterans. John Vaught is the Chair and Jennifer Hayden is the Vice Chair. They serve the pro bono and related needs of returning veterans and active duty military members of our community. To join the section, email


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