A Veterans Day Tribute Featuring Elena Escamilla '81

Captain Elena Escamilla '81, USN, Retired

Thank You to Our Veterans!

Alumna Captain Elena Escamilla '81, JAGC, USN, Ret. shares how The Summit prepared her for a life of service.

By Tanya Leach

Elena Escamilla credits The Summit for fostering many of the things she holds close to her heart, including faith and her desire to serve others.

She grew up as the Northern Kentucky daughter of immigrants from Spain who chose to send their kids to The Summit because of its reputation for academic excellence and its faith-based values.

As a Summit lifer, she remembers not only the school Masses in the chapel but also the school’s mission to fully share the gifts God gave her.

“I think Summit did provide me with the desire to serve,” says Escamilla, who went on to become a Navy captain, “and that if you have talents, you need to use those talents for a bigger purpose than you. There’s not a more noble thing than to serve your country. The opportunities that you find are endless.”

That desire began in high school, where she embraced everything The Summit had to offer.

“The good thing about Summit was it gave you lots of opportunities to figure out what your likes and dislikes were and allowed you to excel,” she says. “I had no idea that it was unusual to be able to play various sports, including tennis, track and cheerleading, and be on student council. It was pretty amazing. Those opportunities helped me develop leadership and time management skills that I took with me.”

She went on to play tennis in college and study political science at Northern Kentucky University. She received her Juris Doctorate from Salmon P. Chase College of Law. She thanks The Summit for her academic scholarship to both.

She began practicing law as a member of the Navy Judge Advocate General Corps after law school. She also was selected as a member of the all-Navy tennis team, which competes against other branches of the armed forces. She ultimately transferred to the Naval Reserves, retiring as a Navy Captain in 2010. Her Navy career took her to many duty stations, including Orlando, Washington, Miami and Bahrain.

She says something she learned at The Summit has always stuck with her: the feeling that hard work and dedication would allow her to get wherever she needed to go.

“You never know where your life is going to lead you,” she says. “But if you have a bigger purpose in life, and you want to help others and serve, I think that your potential is limitless.”

During her active duty and reserve naval career, she served as a prosecutor, defense counsel, legal assistance attorney and as a staff judge advocate. In addition, she assisted in international law matters ranging from enforcement measures relating to violations of United Nations resolutions against Iraq and oil spill contingency plans.

The Navy Reserve traditionally requires service of at least one weekend a month and two weeks a year, allowing service members to work a full-time job as well. While in the Reserves, her day job was as a trial attorney for the U.S. Trustee’s Program office in Orlando, a component of the Department of Justice. From 1992 to 2019, she was responsible for promoting the integrity and efficiency of the bankruptcy system.

“I was very lucky not to get recalled to any combat zones,” she said. “Sometimes, it’s the luck of the draw. You go where you are told to go. The closest I got was spending my annual training in Bahrain, and that’s a pretty good place to be. I have the utmost admiration and respect for those who serve in combat zones.”

Today, she’s taking a break from the law and is back to something she discovered with the late Coach Diego Esquibel at The Summit.

“I am back to my first love: I am playing tennis a lot,” she says. “I am on five different teams, and I’m going to Nationals in Arizona. So now, it’s just a matter of trying to keep my body healthy. I also live with my 91-year-old mom. So we’re both helping each other out.”

She’s also active in ministries at St. James Cathedral in Orlando and has a renewed sense of faith.

“Summit put seeds in me that took a long while to ferment,” she says. “I’m actually very religious now. I discovered more about my faith as I matured. I found the beauty that exists with the Catholic faith.”

Check out more alumni who have served in the military.

Check out members of our Summit Community who have dedicated their lives to service.