6 Tillman Scholars With Incredible Backgrounds

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In this Dec. 20, 1998, file photo, Arizona Cardinals safety Pat Tillman celebrates after tackling New Orleans Saints running back Lamar Smith for a loss in the third quarter of an NFL football game in Tempe, Ariz.
AP Photo by Roy Dabner

The Pat Tillman Foundation was created in memory of its namesake, an elite pro-football player who walked away from the NFL in the name of selfless service and was killed in action in Afghanistan in April 2004. Founded that same year, the Pat Tillman Foundation invests in military members, veterans, and spouses, uniting some of the best talent and leadership in the military community to continue their service. Over more than a decade, the foundation has invested more than $12 million in academic support and selected over 400 Tillman Scholars at more 100 institutions.


The Tillman Scholars program, which annually awards scholarships to 60 military veterans and spouses, is accepting applications now until March 1. The scholarship is more than a gift, it’s an investment in excellence and an opportunity to become part of a community of game-changers. Apply here, and read on to learn about six kickass accomplishments of the Tillman Scholars.

RELATED: Meet the Pat Tillman Foundation’s 2015 scholar class »

Worked in mission management at SpaceX. Tillman Scholar George Sondecker worked in mission management at SpaceX while attending business school, combining his aerospace engineering experience in the Air Force with a business education to help SpaceX customers launch spacecraft. George’s ultimate goals are to develop ways to lower launch costs — one of the greatest obstacles to space exploration — and work to develop space-based internet.

Served as a flight surgeon and medical mishap investigator. While serving as a Navy flight surgeon, Tillman Scholar Sarah-Blythe Ballard led medical mishap investigations for more than 20 incidents around the world analyzing, investigating, and reporting on accident prevention. Through her work, Sarah-Blythe developed a passion for aviation safety and innovative responses to disasters. While pursuing a doctorate degree in Global Disease Epidemiology and Control, she subsequently deployed as a civilian to develop air ambulance protocols in Liberia related to the Ebola outbreak. After completing her doctorate, she intends to return to the Navy to serve remote tropical populations with her extensive medical training and credentials.

Traveled by motorcycle from South Africa to Cairo. Tillman Scholar Erik Mirandette took a leave of absence from the Air Force Academy and set out on an adventure of a lifetime with his younger brother Alex — a motor bike expedition from South Africa to Egypt. At the end of their adventure in Cairo, a suicide bomber detonated in a marketplace. Erik was severely injured and his brother was tragically killed. After more than 30 surgeries, Erik returned to the Air Force Academy and spent the next six years leading counterintelligence teams. Erik is now pursuing an MBA focusing on entrepreneurship and innovation, and hopes to build a community of veteran entrepreneurs in regions of conflict.

Became the first African American class president at West Point. After growing up in Shreveport, Louisiana, as one of three brothers, Tillman Scholar Adrian Perkins was accepted to West Point where he served as the captain of the track team and became the first African-American cadet elected as class president in the history of West Point. Excelling as a soldier, Adrian began to see how lessons he learned during his military service could apply to communities in need. Now pursuing a law degree, Adrian intends to return to public service in Shreveport, using his law degree and legal training to solve complex urban and economic problems facing his hometown.

Worked as a fisherman in the Bering Sea. After a stint of homelessness, Tillman Scholar Josh Tarsky spent two years in the Bering Sea as a fisherman in some of the most treacherous waters in the world. Josh then enrolled in community college before matriculating into a theater program at Yale University. The events of September 11th led Josh to enlist in the Army after graduating. As a medic in Afghanistan, Josh realized that the causes of war often have roots in economic imbalances that stem from a lack of education. He earned his Master’s in Education and began teaching English. Now, Josh is working toward his law degree, taking night classes while he continues to teach high school, in an effort to directly influence systemic change through policy improvements.

Served as a doula. A devoted Marine Corps active-duty spouse, Tillman Scholar Lisa Rich homeschooled four children while their families endured deployments, military travel, and moves. After her experience of being alone during childbirth, Lisa became a trained doula to help other women give birth, sometimes in the absence of their partners. Lisa is now pursuing a master’s degree as a certified nurse midwife. As a midwife, she helps mothers and families have safe, compassionate, and evidence-based birth options. Eventually, Lisa hopes to open a birth center that serves at-risk populations, and to participate in international birth work.

Army and Air Force Exchange Service officials are warning soldiers and military families to be aware of scammers using the Exchange's logo.

In a news release Wednesday, Exchange officials said scammers using the name "Exchange Inc." have "fooled" soldiers and airmen to broker the sale of used cars, trucks, motorcycles, boats and boat engines.

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KABUL (Reuters) - The Islamic State (IS) militant group claimed responsibility on Sunday for a suicide blast at a wedding reception in Afghanistan that killed 63 people, underlining the dangers the country faces even if the Taliban agrees a pact with the United States.

The Saturday night attack came as the Taliban and the United States try to negotiate an agreement on the withdrawal of U.S. forces in exchange for a Taliban commitment on security and peace talks with Afghanistan's U.S.-backed government.

Islamic State fighters, who first appeared in Afghanistan in 2014 and have since made inroads in the east and north, are not involved in the talks. They are battling government and U.S.-led international forces and the Taliban.

The group, in a statement on the messaging website Telegram, claimed responsibility for the attack at a west Kabul wedding hall in a minority Shi'ite neighborhood, saying its bomber had been able to infiltrate the reception and detonate his explosives in the crowd of "infidels".

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U.S. Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Brian Kimball

Editor's Note: This article by Oriana Pawlyk originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

Calling aviation geeks in New York City: The British are coming.

In their first visit to the United States since 2008, the Royal Air Force "Red Arrows" will perform an aerial demonstration next week over the Hudson River, according to an Air Force news release. F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, the Air Force Thunderbirds and Navy Blue Angels demonstration teams will also be part of the show.

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U.S. Air National Guard/Staff Sgt. Michelle Y. Alvarez-Rea

Frances and Efrain Santiago, natives of Puerto Rico, wanted to show their support last month for protesters back home seeking to oust the island's governor.

The couple flew the flag of Puerto Rico on the garage of their Kissimmee home. It ticked off the homeowners association.

Someone from the Rolling Hills Estates Homeowners Association left a letter at their home, citing a "flag violation" and warning: "Please rectify the listed violation or you may incur a fine."

Frances Santiago, 38, an Army veteran, demanded to know why.

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Todd Rosenberg/AP

A West Point graduate received a waiver from the U.S. Army to sign with the Philadelphia Eagles on Friday, and play in the NFL while serving as an active-duty soldier.

The waiver for 2nd Lt. Brett Toth was first reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter, who said that Toth signed a three-year deal with the Eagles. Toth graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 2018.

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