Sept. 25, 2018 - Whether it was serving nearly eight years as a logistics officer in the Marine Corps or currently coaching soccer for the Afghanistan women's national team, service has been a central aspect in the life of Haley Carter.
Carter, a part-time 2L student at the University of Houston Law Center, is building upon that theme as the chair of Mayor Sylvester Turner's Commission Against Gun Violence, which was formed earlier this year.
"There's a gun violence epidemic that's tearing across our nation," Carter said. "School safety is an important driver for us on the commission but it's beyond that. You want to prevent tragedies like Parkland and Santa Fe from happening, but ultimately it has to be a much more holistic approach to preventing firearms and gun violence.
"In the City of Houston and Harris County, there is violence committed with firearms in a multitude of different areas. Whether it's suicide, domestic violence, or gang or drug-related violence. It's a public health issue."
Carter completed her undergraduate education at the U.S. Naval Academy, where she played collegiate soccer as a goalkeeper. Afterward she was commissioned as an officer in the Marine Corps, where she served two tours of duty in Iraq. She was then transferred to Hawaii and worked for the Department of Defense's POW/MIA accounting agency. Her duties included excavating the remains of missing U.S. service members in locations like Cambodia, South Korea, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.
"I truly had some adventures in the Marines," Carter said. "I did some amazing things and I met some incredible people. I went to breathtaking places. I lost friends and I was in stressful environments.
"The military just gave me the perspective to be able to take a step back and prioritize things, and realize that it's not a life or death situation. It gave me endurance and made me used to working long hours and putting in quality work. That's definitely helping me right now."
Throughout her tenure in the military, Carter remained close to the sport of soccer. In between deployments she played with the U.S. Armed Forces women's team and played semi-professionally when she was stationed in Hawaii.
With the founding of the National Women's Soccer League and the Houston Dash, an opportunity for Carter to resume her playing career presented itself. She would spend three seasons with the team and started the "Haley's Heroes" program that honors women service members and veterans.
"I knew they would need more than two goalkeepers," Carter said. "I came to open tryouts and was invited back the next day. I was invited back to preseason camp and was invited back every day after that for the next three seasons. It was a crazy experience."
With her playing days behind her, Carter is using her knowledge of the game to mentor younger players as an assistant coach with Afghanistan's women's national soccer team. For Carter, her role is less focused on tactics and strategy and is instead geared toward empowering the players.
"It's really more about giving these women opportunities to pursue their dreams," Carter said. "It's bigger than just the game. Coaching this team is much more about human rights, women's rights, equality and the opportunity to participate in a game than it is about the game itself.
"We've had players who have gone to school and become doctors and have avoided being married at a young age. There's just this confidence to go out and pursue their dreams and it just comes from playing sports."
Carter serves as the Business Transformation and Process Improvement Lead at Exterran, a company that sells oil and gas production equipment, natural gas compression, produced water treatment solutions and gas processing and treating. While Carter is unsure of what area of law she will specialize in, the exercise of attending law school has been beneficial for her.
"All I know is whatever I do, I'm going to use my law degree to benefit the community," Carter said. "I'm not sure if I will practice law, but I love being involved in business and law school has changed how I think about things. I can see things from multiple perspectives. I can't walk anywhere without seeing a tort. The experience has really helped me put new lenses on and see the world differently."