More than 50 years ago, John Cechman was called to fight for his country in the Vietnam War, earning a Bronze Star for his service.
Today, he fights for his neighbors as a partner and personal injury attorney at Goldstein, Buckley, Cechman, Rice & Purtz, P.A
His military career started at the West Point United States Military Academy in New York where he was recruited to play football from high school in Northumberland, Pennsylvania, where he grew up. It was football, not necessarily the Army, that attracted him to West Point.
“The campus was beautiful, and it was a good education,” he said.
He played for the freshman and junior varsity teams until he failed a European history class and his grade point average dipped below the requirement, forcing him to leave.
“Had I stayed, I would have played on the big Army team,” he said.
He continued his education at New Mexico University, and joined the advanced Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) to help pay for his college expenses.
After Cechman graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics in 1967, he became a second lieutenant in the army, completing Infantry Basic Officer Leader course in Fort Benning, Georgia. He completed Army Intelligence School at Fort Holabird in Baltimore.
It was there that some friends talked to him about practicing law. From Fort Carson, Colorado, he was sent to Quang Tri Province just south of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) in South Vietnam. As Agent in Charge of Military Intelligence, he was stationed with the 1st Brigade 5th Infantry Division from July 1968 to July 1969.
“It was difficult,” he said. “There were good days and bad days. It’s a year I would not want to duplicate. That’s why I think vets who have seen combat don’t ever talk about it. If you haven’t lived through it, you can’t possibly imagine it.”
While he admits his grades in school were not always the best in his younger years, he understood the legal system and considered a future practicing law. He did well on the law school entrance exam and applied to the then-recently established law school at Florida State University (FSU) while still in Vietnam.
“I heard about law from friends in Baltimore,” he said. “I knew I didn’t want to stay in the Army. I had never been to Florida, so I went straight to FSU.”
On a break from law school, he drove to Naples to visit the family of another student. On the way, he stopped in Fort Myers to look into a job that founders of Goldstein, Buckley, Cechman, Rice & Purtz had posted on an FSU bulletin board. He pulled up to the office on his motorcycle and has been representing motorcyclists ever since.
His military medals hang next to a large quilted American flag over his desk: Bronze Star, National Defense Service medal, Vietnam Service medal, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Ribbon, Expert Badge & Auto Rifle Bar, and Marksman Bar & Pistol Bar.
“I tell my sons that the military is a great character builder,” he said. “There are no excuses. You get the job done. Yes sir. No sir. It makes you an overall better person. If I have a case, I’ve got to do it right and on time. It translates not only to the law but any job, any occupation.”
Throughout the year, members of the firm collect clothing and supplies for veterans to be donated through the Cape Coral office of U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.
“A lot of veterans need help, especially since in combat PTSD is a real thing,” Cechman says. “I’m proud of the fact the firm does what it can to assist vets.”
Goldstein, Buckley, Cechman, Rice & Purtz, P.A., has offered professional legal services to Southwest Florida clients since 1962. The firm’s experienced attorneys are board certified by the Florida Bar, and their areas of practice include personal injury and accidents, fall and premises liability, wrongful death, motorcycle and truck accidents, medical malpractice, real estate, commercial litigation, construction law, wills, estate planning and administration, social security law and criminal law. With offices in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Naples, Lehigh Acres and Port Charlotte, attorneys can be reached by calling 239-334-1146 or visiting our Contact Us page.