Marie Tillman, Pat Tillman Military Scholars: Ready to Serve

Lance Corporal Dave Warden. Photo courtesy of the Pat Tillman Foundation website.

Finding Purpose in the Face of Adversity” is a theme personified by the widow of Pat Tillman and by a young Marine who – due to his combat  injuries – must leave the Corps and pursue another career.

Both Marie Tillman and Marine Corps Lance Corporal Dave Warden will discuss how they have overcome adversity and are moving on in life with a mission.

The story of Pat Tillman is known by many. The professional football player gave up his athletic career to join the military after the 9-11 attacks. He died in Afghanistan while serving his country in 2004.

His wife Marie started the Pat Tillman Foundation which offers scholarships to active duty military and veterans at selected universities who carry on his mission of service to others and community.

Warden is still active duty, a Tillman Scholar and studying accounting at the University of South Florida. I talked Warden – who is not a huge football fan – about why he applied for the Tillman Scholarship.

DAVE WARDEN: One of the big things that captured me was going onto the website, the Pat Tillman Foundation, and their biggest thing it wasn’t about the assistance or guidance, it was carrying on Pat’s legacy. And, he made the ultimate sacrifice for his country and his career and his family and it was just being able to fulfill the legacy that he no longer can.

BOBBIE O’BRIEN: So, how do you plan to carry that forward as a Tillman Scholar?

WARDEN: It’s a difficult question to answer, but it’s by doing the right things, by doing what Pat would want done. I never had the opportunity to meet him but just hearing the stories about him, meeting his friends and his family you can kind of get the idea of the individual he is and it’s trying to base my actions and my awareness off of Pat.

O’BRIEN: You’re active duty military.

WARDEN: Yes ma’am.

O’BRIEN: You’re a student, you’re a scholar now as well which means you really have to hit the books.

WARDEN: Yes ma’am.

O’BRIEN: Then on top of that you are charged with recuperating or recovering from your injuries.

WARDEN: I am. It’s been, it’s been tough. This is my second semester back. You know, on Aug. 22nd, 2010, I C-6, my neck. So, I had a broken neck and my lower back I have five disks that are completely gone now. And then some pretty Traumatic Brain Injuries from four explosions recurring in about a four-hour time period. It’s been a lot to recover from in and out of the hospital quite often from Walter Reed to the war hospital in Germany and here at the Haley Center now.

But, it’s getting used to things again. It’s learning you know that a lot was taken from me. My memory is struggling and my focus is wavering, but it’s still there and I’m still determined. And it’s just now I’m having to work harder than ever.

O’BRIEN: Was that part of the Tillman Scholarship, having to write an essay about what you’re working to overcome to be a successful student and person in service to the community?

WARDEN: Yes ma’am, absolutely. And one of their biggest questions is: How are you going to represent this organization and how are you going to be that guy? Again, to carry out Pat’s legacy and what have you done in your past that makes you rate this scholarship or what do you plan to do in your future? That was one of the big questions for them.

O’BRIEN: What are you planning on doing?

WARDEN: I was planning on making a career in the Marine Corps. I went through Officers’ School in 2009 with plans on commissioning and then decided to go on this last deployment instead of taking my commission as an officer. You know, then stuff happens, it’s just moving on and learning my next goal. So right now I’m trying to get hired on with JP Morgan as a financial analyst and personal banker. So, we’ll see how that goes.

OBRIEN: Are you giving up the dream of Officer Candidate’s School?

WARDEN: That’s pretty much gone now with my injuries, it’s, ah, I can’t keep my career in the Marine Corps going. But, you know on another sector, you know I’ve always been one to support and defend so I’m actually looking into forensic accounting with the FBI. So, it will be my next step.

The Southeast Regional Gathering of Tillman Military Scholars is this weekend at the University of South Florida in Tampa. Friday features the discussion, “Finding Purpose in the Face of Adversity,” with Marie Tillman, Warden and other Tillman Scholars at the USF Marshall Student Center. A reception is at 5 p.m., and the program at 7 p.m. in Room 2709.

On Saturday, the Tillman Scholars have planned a community service project at the James A. Haley VA Medical Center. Their focus will be sprucing up the outdoor garden area at the Haley nursing home facility, repainting the gazebo and making other repairs. Sunday will include workshops and attending the Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. the New Orleans Saints football game.

3 Responses

  1. […] looking for someone who has a transformational story, someone like Dave (Warden) who has had something really change his life at a young age and how he’ll be able to move […]

  2. Pat Tillman’s life and memory are living on!

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