RALEIGH, N.C. — Retired Army Col. Kirk G. Warner was honored recently when the Raleigh News & Observer featured him as Tar Heel of the Week.
The headline on June 6 read: “Lawyer Kirk Warner fighting for veterans.”
The son of the late Paul and Millie Warner and a 1976 Greenville High School graduate, he is a partner in the law firm of Smith, Anderson, Blount, Dorsett, Mitchell and Jernigan, L.L.P.
The article focused on Warner’s military career.
According to that information, he served as a legal adviser to three chairmen of the joint chiefs of staff and was among the first judge advocate generals on the ground during the invasion of Iraq. He now chairs the North Carolina Bar Association”s Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, which focuses on helping veterans.
Warner attributes his success to his family.
“Any success I have mustered is because of my parents and grandparents (Paul Warner Sr.), growing up on a dairy farm and in Greenville where teachers and coaches cared and hard work was the norm,” he communicated to The Daily Advocate.”
He is also chairman of the North Carolina March of Dimes and vice-chairman of the USO of North Carolina.
“I also commanded or served a the staff judge advocate of several major Army commands, and I am also very proud to one of the founders of the Buckeye Leadership Fellows Program at Ohio State a few years ago with the CEO of Iridium and the current FCC chairman,” Warner said.
His wife, Diane, is vice president of Nautilus Hyosung. They have no children, just a yellow lab named Woody.
“I would be completely remiss if I did not give full credit for any success I have encountered to my 33 years of marriage to my wonderful wife and her support and encouragement from her co-pilot’s seat,” added Warner.
The Tar Heel article reported Warner was into his 40s when he went to Iraq, where he helped set up a court system “in a time of utter chaos.” And then it was told of the time, after the fall of Baghdad in 2003, that he was part of a team of Army lawyers who scoped out prison buildings, flew onto ships to prosecute Persian Gulf pirates, and helped reunite families with bodies, or body parts with corpses. Even in his position, new horrors awaited him at every turn.
It explained that Warner knew then that these soldiers would need a lot of help when they got home, and, since he retired from the Army Reserve in 2013, he’s given much of his time and his considerable influence to do just that.
“As founding chair of the N.C. Bar Association’s Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, Warner has devoted his time and contacts to helping the many veterans of recent wars to re-establish themselves in their communities by offering all kinds of legal support,” the article read. “He’s helped educate attorneys about how post-traumatic stress disorder might be affecting their clients, and has worked with judges to create diversion programs for veterans who commit minor offenses. He speaks widely on the challenges facing these veterans, from finding housing to getting medical treatment.”
Information in that article also noted that unsure of his future, Warner majored in zoology at Ohio State University with a specialty in birds, an interest he developed on a bird-watching trip from Texas to Alaska that he took with an aunt when he was in fifth grade.
Also, his family had a history of military service going back to the Civil War. When Warner went to college, he joined the ROTC. Once out of college, he went to law school at Duke University, and soon put his scientific background to work as an attorney representing businesses in product liability lawsuits.
Warner’s military service, the story indicated, involved working on legal teams first on bases in the U.S. and later in Kuwait and Iraq. Among his duties was to preside over the tribunals that determine whether a captured fighter should be considered a prisoner of war.
When he returned from serving abroad, he spent more than three years at the Pentagon as an adviser on military strategy and policy.
“Throughout his service, Warner was struck by the young men who were serving in such a surreal and violent place, only to be suddenly returned to civilian life,” the feature read.
Warner has also been engaged in community work. He is vice president of the local USO chapter, and will soon take over as head of the Raleigh Rotary Club. For 30 years, he officiated more than 600 high school football games.
“Much of his attention goes to training, in particular helping lawyers and judges in civilian courts to recognize and understand post-traumatic stress disorder, which is often a factor when veterans are struggling,” the article stated. “One of Warner’s key roles has been to help establish a diversion program for veterans who commit minor crimes, particularly when their crime can be related to their service.”
He is also working to expand programs for homeless veterans, including granting them priority status in public housing, it was noted, with the hopes of seeing the thousands of attorneys in the association reach more veterans, and tackle more issues, from helping veterans find employment to making sure they receive the benefits they deserve.
Warner said he enjoys academia and is pursuing his fifth degree…an MBA with a focus on bio-sciences that he says will help in some of his cases.
One of his brothers, Alex, the oldest of three and a local chiropractor, still lives in Greenville, and he’s proud of Kirk’s achievements.
“Sure, I’m proud of him when he does what he does,” Alex said. “Kirk and another GHS graduate Gary Loxley were colonels in the judge advocate corps.”