Ellie Morales Receives Military & Veterans Law Section Award

Ellie MoralesEllie, a woman with curly blond hair, wears a blue blouse and black jacket. of Wake Forest University School of Law is the fourth recipient of the Kirk Warner Award for Distinguished Service to the Military and Veterans. The award is presented by the Military & Veterans Law Section of the North Carolina Bar Association.

Morales, who serves as Assistant Clinical Professor of Law and Director of Veterans Legal Clinic, received the award during a special ceremony at the law school on May 30.

“The award is truly a reflection of the Wake Law Veterans Legal Clinic students’ hard work and their dedication and perseverance to represent service members who need legal representation,” Morales said. “The students are putting legal theory into practice and implementing Wake Forest’s motto, Pro Humanitate.” 

Just as the motto translates into English as “for humanity,” Morales has devoted her career to serving her country and its citizens at home and abroad.

“Professor Morales,” as denoted on the law school’s website, “joined the Army Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps in 2010, upon graduation from Wake Forest School of Law. During her time on active duty, she served as a legal assistance attorney, criminal prosecutor, and administrative law attorney. Professor Morales also deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan, where she served as an operational law attorney in support of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and U.S. forces.”

“In 2015,” her bio continues, “Professor Morales transitioned to the Army Reserves where she currently serves as an Army JAG in the rank of Major. In 2018, Professor Morales was awarded the General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award, an honor that is presented to fewer than 30 Army junior officers each year. She has most recently worked as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Department of Justice for five years. In that role, she was awarded the Department of Justice Director’s Award for Superior Performance as a criminal Assistant U.S. Attorney in 2019.”

Morales is also a previous recipient of the Meritorious Service Medal (2020), the Army Commendation Medal (2015), the Bronze Star (2014) and the Army Achievement Medal (2012), in addition to numerous other service recognitions.

As a member of the Military & Veterans Law Section, Morales is grateful for the opportunity to work alongside attorneys who share in her commitment to serving those who have served.

“The section does incredibly important and necessary work,” Morales said, “particularly in light of the large population of active duty and reserve service members as well as veterans who live in North Carolina. It is vital that the NCBA have a section that serves the needs of this population, and I am grateful I get to be part of it.”

The Kirk Warner Award, as so aptly described by Military & Veterans Law Section Chair Chris Stevens, “seeks to recognize special individuals who have dedicated their own time both in service to the United States, and also in service to others who have served.”

Morales, he added, is a most deserving recipient.

“The Veterans Legal Clinic trains law students on legal theory and practice by providing critical assistance to low-income former service members who need representation and advocacy to correct injustices in their military records,” Stevens stated in coverage also appearing on the law school website. “With Ellie as Director, the clinic has seen numerous successes, including a recent noteworthy case where the clinic represented a Korean War soldier in not only restoring his veteran status through a discharge upgrade from Dishonorable to Honorable, but also in obtaining the Purple Heart and Combat Infantryman Badge he earned on the battlefield in Korea over 70 years ago.

“It is incredible work and service like this that make it hard to envision a more fitting recipient, as it is clear that Ellie’s life and career are the embodiment of what this award is about.”

Morales is a 2007 graduate of Davidson College, where she was recognized as the Distinguished Military Graduate and received the George C. Marshall Award, signifying the top cadet in each ROTC battalion, and the Roberts Athletic Award, which is presented annually to one senior for outstanding dedication to athletics.

Previous recipients of the Kirk Warner Award for Distinguished Service to the Military and Veterans include its namesake, who received the first award in 2018, Matthew Wilcut (2020) and John W. Brooker (2022).

Russell Rawlings is director of external affairs and communications for the North Carolina Bar Association.