Veterans Day is a yearly reminder to celebrate and pay tribute to those who have proudly served in the U.S. Armed Forces. Meet some of our Rutgers Law veterans who have served our nation and who continue to serve.
Travis Collins '26
In 2011, Travis Collins reached a crossroads in his professional life: he left his job as a paralegal to become a personal trainer, and it just wasn’t working out as he expected. “I had a bunch of friends in the military who were career officers, and they became role models for me,” he recalls. “The military was a good way to hit the reset button and reevaluate my priorities. I enlisted in the spring of 2011, and it was the best decision I’ve ever made.”
Today, Collins serves part-time in the NJ Army National Guard as a combat medic and plans to continue to serve until his contract expires in 2027. He’s currently a sergeant, assigned to the 1-114th Infantry Battalion’s Headquarters Company in Woodbury, New Jersey, where he helps run medical training classes, oversees supply, and provides general administrative support. Rutgers Law School was a natural next step. “I did my undergrad at Rutgers,” he says. “It’s close to my home and work, and Rutgers has a great policy of working with state and federal military education benefits.”
Collins began his law school journey in Newark with 15 years of experience working as a litigation paralegal but, as a second-year night student finishing his required 1L courses, his area of academic focus is yet to be determined. “I’m hoping to run across something different from my day job that really sparks my interest,” he says. What he does know is that he wants to direct commission as a Judge Advocate General (JAG) on a reserve basis with the New Jersey Army National Guard after graduation, and give back to the program that introduced him to a career in law. “I want to become an adjunct instructor at Raritan Valley Community College in their paralegal studies program,” he says. “I found that program by accident when I was 20 years old, and it changed my life. I want to give back to the place that nudged me onto a path I could be proud of.”
In the meantime, Collins is focusing on the task in front of him. “Being a night student with a full-time job and part-time military obligations definitely requires some creative time management,” he says, “but the self-discipline I’ve learned in the military has been key in being able balance it all and do well.”
Chris D’Alessandro ‘18
In the early 1990s, Chris D’Alessandro ‘18 enlisted in the military, completed his service, and embarked on a career in law enforcement. Over the years, he rose through the ranks as a parole officer in his hometown of Clifton, New Jersey and, by all accounts, was comfortable in the life he built for himself. But on a September morning in 2001, everything changed. “In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, I decided I no longer wanted to sit on the sidelines,” he says. “I had been out of the military for 12 years when I re-enlisted in the New Jersey Army National Guard.” D’Alessandro went on to serve two deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, and ultimately retired from the Parole Board in 2015 as a lieutenant. He held a bachelor’s degree in law enforcement, master’s degree in human resources, and an Ed.S. in higher education leadership, and was ready for his next chapter.
“At that point, I was wavering between getting my doctorate and entering academia, or pursuing a JD degree and becoming an attorney,” D’Alessandro says. “Ultimately, my experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan convinced me that I would be more fulfilled with a hands-on career in the law, where I could help people directly.” He chose Rutgers Law School in Camden because, as a member of the New Jersey National Guard, his degree would be tuition-free; however, he was also attracted to the institution’s history of activism, which aligned with his commitment to on-the-ground engagement. Upon graduation, he accepted a fellowship position at Rutgers Law Associates (RLA) under the mentorship of Professor Andrew Rothman and hit the ground running.
“RLA fellows are thrown into the arena on day one,” says D’Alessandro. “I was able to represent and get justice for real clients and learn valuable skills in a fast-paced environment.” At the conclusion of the fellowship, he joined with two other fellows, Keith Peterson ’18 and Linwood Donelson ’16, to found Donelson, D’Alessandro & Peterson, a small firm located in Woodbury, New Jersey. Four years later, the firm is a success. “Starting your own law firm is an adventure and an ongoing learning process,” he says. “I learned in the military to never give up and to always search for a creative solution. That was a valuable lesson I utilized often in law school and still do today as a partner in my firm.”
Casey Perrelli ‘25
Casey Perrelli may come from a military family—her father was in the U.S. Marine Corps and both of her grandfathers served in the U.S. Army—but she didn’t explore the military for herself until she was a sophomore in high school. When she was offered an Army ROTC scholarship to Seton Hall University, she realized she could have the best of both worlds. “I could have the ‘normal’ college experience I wanted,” she says, “while also getting to explore a military career and develop the leadership skills I need to succeed.”
In 2020, Perrelli graduated with dual degrees in economics and diplomacy and international relations and accepted a position with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in its Manhattan field office. “I gained experience working with federal prosecutors, helping agents prepare for trial, and issuing subpoenas,” she says. “It solidified my interest in a legal career, which aligns with my goal of serving my community.” She arrived at Rutgers Law School in Newark with an interest in criminal law and is now the co-chair of the Criminal Law Society, but she’s keeping an open mind as far as where her path may lead. As it turns out, Perrelli is exploring commercial litigation and has already accepted a summer associate position at Connell Foley LLC.
Through it all, Perrelli has relied on lessons she learned while serving in the military. On a practical level, the Army prepared her for courtroom pressures. “I’m used to briefing generals and colonels, and it’s not that different from arguing in front of a judge,” she says. “Some of my classes focused on oral advocacy, and I already felt comfortable doing that because of my experience in the Army.” More broadly, the Army prepared her for juggling her time in the New Jersey National Guard with her status as a law student. “Discipline and time management have been critical lessons that have served me well in law school,” she explains. “Being able to hold myself accountable and not make excuses is important.”
Christian Rodriguez ‘24
When he graduated high school, Christian Rodriguez had the opportunity to follow his father’s footsteps and work in construction. Instead, he decided to chart his own path. “I wanted to join the military, specifically the Navy, because it was a good opportunity to see the world and allowed me to afford to go to school after my service,” he says. Rodriguez spent four years in active duty, including a deployment in 2015 on the USS Gonzalez. After a stint as an undesignated seaman (“this means I basically floated around without a job, doing the grunt work,” he quips), Rodriguez worked his way up to become a boatswain’s mate, responsible for driving the ship, supervising ship maintenance, at-sea refueling, managing helicopter operations, and more. His service took him to Israel, Portugal, Canada, Yemen, and Greece, and he even got to drive a Destroyer through the Suez Canal.
When Rodriguez was ready to leave the military, he didn’t necessarily plan on going to law school because he wasn’t familiar with the legal field or how to break in. “I spoke to a few friends who didn’t think I could do it,” he says, “and I took that as a personal challenge.” He chose Rutgers Law School in Camden because he was impressed with the staff and faculty attention he received, even as a pre-law student. “It spoke volumes of the school,” he says.
As a third-year law student, Rodriguez plans to clerk after graduation; beyond that, he’s keeping his options open. Currently, he’s most interested in criminal law, commercial and business litigation, and employment law. “Being in the military before attending law school acclimated me to the professionalism required of lawyers, so networking was never a problem as a result,” he says. “It’s more difficult to network in the military because, although you trauma bond with groups of people over the strenuous nature and volume of work you’re all doing, at the end of the day, you all have different interests and goals. It’s more natural to network as a law student because we all share similar interests and career goals. Networking in those military settings taught me that if you can get someone to crack a smile or chuckle, you have the opportunity to bond with that person.”