When the policy was eliminated Sept. 20, it became clear immediately that recruiters looking for young lawyers to staff the services' Judge Advocate General Corps would no longer have to meet with students in the conference room of a bank across the street from the picturesque campus along the White River.
"The fact that we have welcomed them back so soon after the policy was lifted is evidence of the point we've made along, which is that our position has never been anti-military; it's anti-discrimination," said Greg Johnson, another law professor and longtime campus leader on the issue.
The Marines are famous for going in first, but this time it will be JAG recruiters from the Army who come to campus on Oct. 14, followed by Marine representatives on Oct. 26.
Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen Lainez said in an email that recruiters' job is to promote the military to students as "a great opportunity to further their education, gain a marketable skill, become independent, and serve their country. Most students do not know individuals who have served in the military, and wouldn't otherwise be exposed to the opportunities the military can offer."
Several students interviewed at the school Monday said they were fine with recruiters coming to campus; two of the eight questioned said they might be interested in talking to the recruiters.
"I'm glad to see it, personally," said Ellick Clark, 29, a second-year student from Iron Station, N.C. "I've considered a career with the JAG Corps after graduating."
Manning says one inspiration for her was Shirley Jefferson, the law school's associate dean for student affairs. A native of Selma, Ala., Jefferson, 58, said she was 11 when she joined Martin Luther King Jr.'s historic march from Selma to Montgomery and was a member of the class that desegregated Selma High School.
Both Manning and Jefferson said they saw parallels in their struggles.
Jefferson recalled from her childhood her father telling her she couldn't have an ice cream cone because the shop they were passing was whites-only.
"All I wanted was an ice cream cone," she said. "All she (Manning) wanted was to be herself."
When they got to South Royalton and Vermont Law School, Jefferson in 1982 and Manning in 2003, "We were accepted for who we were, no matter our color or sexual orientation. We could be ourselves," Jefferson said.
"South Royalton is my Selma, Ala.," Manning said. "Big things start in little, bitty towns."
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