GLENDALE -- Karen Gallagher is one of several Tillman Scholars who plan to attend Pat Tillman Military Appreciation Night at Gila River Arena on March 31 when the Coyotes take on the NHL-leading Washington Capitals.
"I'm so excited," said Gallagher, who was named a Tillman Scholar in May of 2016. "It's an opportunity for me to sit in the company of military members and other Tillman scholars, and I'm also excited to be there as the Coyotes recognize the military, and Pat Tillman, and the Tillman Scholar program. I'm thrilled they will educate the hockey community, and those not familiar with Pat's Run, about the Tillman Scholar program and what it represents. I can't wait to be a part of it."
Founded in 2004, the Pat Tillman Foundation invests in military veterans and their spouses through academic scholarships - building a diverse community of leaders committed to service to others. The scholars chosen show extraordinary academic and leadership potential, a true sense of vocation, and a deep commitment to create positive change through their work in the fields of medicine, law, business, education and the arts.
To date, 460 people have been named Tillman Scholars.
Pat Tillman, of course, is a beloved member of the Arizona community who put his NFL career with the Arizona Cardinals on hold to serve his country in the military in the wake of the attacks of 9/11. After Pat was killed in action in 2004, his family and friends founded the Pat Tillman Foundation with a $1.25 million pledge to Arizona State University to create the Tillman Scholars-ASU Leadership Through Action™ program at the W. P. Carey School of Business. In 2008, the board of directors, led by Pat's wife Marie Tillman, refocused the mission of the foundation to support veterans and spouses through educational scholarships, tools and a support network. Every year, 60 new visionary Tillman Military Scholars are added to the community who build on Pat's legacy, principles and commitment to service.
Inspired by a newspaper article about women in the military, Gallagher enlisted in the Army soon after graduating from high school in Fullerton, Calif. Once trained, she was deployed to the Middle East as a Chemical Operations Specialist as part of Operation Desert Shield/Storm. After the Gulf War, she returned to the United States, finished her military enlistment, and then earned her Bachelor's and Master's degrees in speech language pathology at the University of Washington. An Arizona resident since 2006, she's currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Speech and Hearing Science, with a research focus on the effects of mild Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI) and other service-related conditions on cognition in military veterans, especially those entering college.
"I was shocked to be selected as a Tillman Scholar," Gallagher said. "I remember looking through all the past scholar bios and telling my family 'I feel honored to be a finalist, but there's no way I'm going to be chosen to sit among these amazing community leaders.'"
Gallagher said she's proud to call herself a Tillman Scholar, and that she would have pursued becoming one even if no scholarship funds were offered. It's more about being connected to Pat's legacy than receiving money for college, she said.
"Pat's legacy speaks to me on so many levels," Gallagher said. "This was a man who stood up for people. He stood up for beliefs. He went against the grain for the right things and for the right reasons without ever thinking about how it looked to others, or what others might think. I am so honored to be part of the Pat Tillman Scholars program."
Gallagher enjoys attending Coyotes games and loves the sport of hockey.
"The pace of a hockey game, you can't beat it," Gallagher said. "And it's just so exciting because every score means something. Plus the environment is so loud and fun and exciting. I can't wait for the game on the 31st."
NOTE: The first 10,000 fans in attendance will receive a Coyotes camo themed bandana courtesy of USAA and Pepsi. Additionally, $5.42 of every ticket purchased through the following link: Arizonacoyotes.com/Tillman (use promo code: TILLMAN) will benefit the Tillman Foundation.