Stevens Point native is Tillman Scholar
By Kris Leonhardt
STEVENS POINT – Stevens Point native, Natasha DeLeon, is among the 2022 Tillman Scholars.
Each year, the Pat Tillman Foundation names 60 U.S. service members, veterans, and military spouses to their new class of scholars.
The foundation was created after Pat Tillman’s April 2004 death, while serving his country.
The Arizona Cardinals selected Pat Tillman in the seventh round of the 1998 NFL Draft. He became the team’s starting safety and broke the franchise record for tackles in 2000 with 224.
After the attacks on the World Trade Centers, Tillman put his NFL career on hold to join the U.S. Army.
The day after Sept. 11, 2001, Tillman told journalists “At times like this you stop and think about just how good we have it, what kind of system we live in, and the freedoms we are allowed. A lot of my family has gone and fought in wars and I really haven’t done a (expletive) thing.”
“We knew, from the outset of the Pat Tillman Foundation that we would work to ‘carry forward Pat’s legacy’…but what did that mean? Over time, with (Tillman’s wife) Marie’s leadership, we recognized the need for positive change and that Pat strove to make a strong difference through service, scholarship, humble leadership, and impact. The Tillman Scholars Program reflects these values,” said Alex Garwood, a founding board member, the first executive director for the foundation, and Pat’s friend.
“As we state in our Impact Report: ‘Our foundation’s commitment is to work alongside our Tillman Scholars to fulfill Pat’s legacy of inspiring people to become better leaders, developing ideas and solutions that result in positive change.We don’t exist to reward service members and military spouses with scholarship money; we exist to grow a generation of leaders who embrace intellectual curiosity, act selflessly, and lead through action to transform their communities and the world.’
“Our program, and more importantly, the Tillman Scholars like Natasha, demonstrate these characteristics and live them.”
DeLeon was born and raised in Stevens Point and left at age 18, in 2012, to serve in the Marine Corps. She served until 2017.
“I achieved the rank of sergeant during my time. I deployed for 11 months to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. My job was to deploy and redeploy Marines to and back from overseas locations. My husband has been in the active duty Marine Corps for 18.5 years. He is a gunnery sergeant, and we were stationed in Bogota, Colombia, until last week. We now live in San Diego, CA. My husband will retire when I am 15 months into law school,” she explained
“I am extremely honored to receive this award, and feel thankful beyond measure. My husband is still active duty in the Marine Corps and so being awarded the Tillman scholarship means that I get to focus on school while not having to stress about covering my tuition and child care costs for our two daughters.
“Aside from the obvious financial benefit, I feel extremely grateful to become part of the Tillman community.”
“I’m amazed each year just how incredible these men and women are…I’m constantly baffled, blown away and shocked that there are folks of this caliber around. I’m not, however, surprised that Pat brings them forward, provides a platform, and helps unite them in their common cause… making the world a better place through positive action,” Garwood added.
“Each and every interaction I’m fortunate to have with a Tillman Scholar furthers my learned belief that they are making a positive impact.”