A local veteran’s story of service
Retired Navy Captain, Jeffrey Wagoner, was born in Oregon but spent most of his childhood in what he considers his home town, Clinton, Missouri. His parents were the adventurous type and moved to Oregon shortly after they were married, kind of a “grass is greener” thing. His father raced cars, but he always kept his day job driving logging trucks. His mother worked as a secretary for the FBI right out of high school in Washington DC.
“I recall in elementary school, writing an essay about my parents and stating that my father was a race car driver and my mother worked for the FBI. Needless to say, my mother was called in to discuss my wild imagination. The funny thing is that it was all true.”
In Clinton, their family ran a hog farm. Captain Wagoner has great memories of growing up on a farm, “I remember as part of my chores, driving a full sized tractor and a Ford dump truck when I was only 10 years old.” Sadly, they lost the farm in 1977, so his dad took a job working construction, but died in an accident a few months later.
As a single mother of four children, his mother worked as a secretary at the county courthouse, and the children worked as well. “ My first real job was at my uncle’s gas station, Beebe’s DX, when I was 13.” Captain Wagoner recalls. “My grandfather had a mechanic’s shop next door where I spent a lot of time as well.” He feels lucky to have grown up in a small town like Clinton where he had a lot of people looking out for him. The whole town became much like an extended family. Teachers, coaches, scouting leaders, and friends’ parents cared and supported him in extraordinary ways.
After graduating in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri, Captain Wagoner hoped to attend law school; he applied to only one. He says, “ I had convinced myself I would get accepted, and that I would also receive a full ride scholarship. I may have had a shortage of cash, but no shortage of ego.” The scholarship fell through, and he found himself back home in Clinton, MO. That summer, the movie “Top Gun” was popular, and as he left the theatre he wondered if flying jets for the Navy could be a solution to his current situation.
With absolutely no flying experience and a college degree that in no way prepared him in for a military career, he drove to Kansas City and applied to be an aviator. At that time, many other people his age were trying to do the same thing. He credits being an Eagle Scout for setting him apart from much of his competition. “Being an Eagle Scout not only looked good on my application, but more importantly, scouting instilled in me a sense of service that is important in serving successfully in the military.”
Captain Wagoner got his commission through Aviation Officer Candidate School (AOCS), Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida and remained there for flight school. “There was no “Maverick” or “Iceman” in the real Naval aviation.” Captain Wagoner remembers, “ My call sign (nickname) was ‘Cheese’. You got your call sign for doing something stupid or embarrassing or both.”
After 6 years active duty, Captain Wagoner served as a drilling reservist for 17 years. Both provided a variety in missions, including cruising from San Diego around Cape Horn at the tip of South America to Virginia on an aircraft carrier that needed to be overhauled. Flying 43 missions in the Persian Gulf and serving as a lead planner for international security forces during the 2004 Athens Olympics, each offered opportunities to visit many ports of call including Rio de Janeiro and Hong Kong. The military offered life lessons; attention to detail, accepting responsibility for one’s actions and service to others are some that stand out to him.
Today Captain Wagoner’s life is reflective of passions and interests formed throughout his past. He and his wife, Pilar, met when her father, a Spanish Air Force Officer, was stationed at the same base in San Diego. They’ve been married 22 years and have three children. Alex is a junior at Mizzou, Max is a junior at Blue Valley Northwest, and Sofia will be in second grade in the fall. “With two overly-protective brother’s, I suspect she won’t have a date until she’s in her mid-20’s.”
A love of cars handed down from his father and grandfather influenced him to open the Kansas City Automotive Museum, the only one of its kind in the area. “I’ll only take credit for getting the museum started, because there are a lot of people who have worked hard and donated generously to make it a reality.” He went on to complete his law degree, eventually starting his own practice, WM Law, dealing with bankruptcy and estate planning. “I believe the experience of losing our farm led me to the bankruptcy practice.” explained Captain Wagoner. “Both practice areas of estate planning and bankruptcy focus on service to others and provide a sense that your life’s work is helpful and important to others.”
By design, a very high percentage of the attorneys at WM Law are veterans or have a close connection to the military. “The attention to detail, ethics and commitment to service learned in the military are carried over to the culture of the law firm,” says Wagoner.
Captain Wagoner is a wonderful example of the type of people that have been and continue to be the fabric of our nation. His dedication to his country and service to others, make him a true asset to our community.
WM Law can be found at www.kansascityestateplanner.com and www.kansascitybankruptcy.com as well as on Facebook and other social media. Their initial consultations are always free, and most of their work is done on a flat fee basis quoted upfront at that initial consultation. They offer payment plans to help ease the burden of attorney fees.