Daniel Sylvester, a 2013 DePaul College of Law graduate, left active military duty in 1999 but his commitment to those who serve our country has endured. This dedication has shaped his law school experience and earned him recognition throughout Illinois as a champion of military veterans.
While juggling the rigors of law school, the 47-year-old Sylvester found time to remain connected to his military roots. He met with College of Law administrators to see how he could work through law school to help veterans. When someone suggested he start an organization, Sylvester founded the Veterans’ Assistance Service Organization (VASO) at the College of Law. It focuses on helping veterans in the Chicago community, with special emphasis on those who are retired or homeless.
Through VASO, Sylvester and other law school volunteers crafted programs and events designed to assist veterans. The Hobbies for Heroes program provides crafts to veterans at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in Chicago. VASO’s Wool for Warriors drives supply socks to Chicago homeless veterans. Its Veterans’ Week event at the College of Law brought together students and guest speakers to discuss the legal needs of veterans and how to meet them.
Sylvester’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. In July 2012, the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs named him Veteran of the Month, an honor given to military veterans who remain active in their communities after leaving the military.
“Daniel Sylvester epitomizes the fact that veterans continue to serve after taking off the uniform,” said Erica Borggren, director of the agency, when she bestowed the honor on Sylvester. “He has made a deep impact on Illinois veterans through his work at DePaul University’s College of Law, consistently advocating on their behalf.”
In April, the bipartisan Serve Illinois Commission on Volunteerism and Community Services celebrated Sylvester’s commitment to veterans with a Governor’s Volunteer Service Award.
A Nebraska native, Sylvester earned a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University in 1988. He joined the U.S. Army that same year and served as an officer. He participated in humanitarian operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina and was part of the Dayton Peace Accords Implantation Forces. Sylvester plans to practice corporate law at the law firm of Holland & Knight after he sits for the Illinois bar exam this summer.
However, it appears his work on behalf of veterans will continue. “I plan to keep working with VASO and the development of a veterans legal clinic at DePaul,” said Sylvester. “I have talked with other DePaul alumni about the possibility of taking VASO to a nonprofit status to create a network of attorneys in Chicago and beyond who are willing to do pro bono work for veterans on all the different legal issues they face.”
Sylvester says his military experience will keep the needs of veterans near and dear to him.
“Being a veteran, I know what it’s like to be out there,” said Sylvester. “My wife is a disabled veteran after her service in Iraq. We give back because it allows us to stay connected and still be part of the military family.”
Written by Valerie Phillips