On Saturday, September 11, Marie Tillman had the opportunity to serve alongside First Lady Michelle Obama in Washington, D.C. Below is the blog Marie wrote, that was published on HuffingtonPost.com that day.
Serving On September 11
This September 11, I’ll be serving alongside First Lady Michelle Obama and the team from Mission Serve, renovating a veterans’ retirement community in Virginia.
September 11 has a lot of meaning for all of us, and I’m not an exception. That day started me on my path to service.
Nine years ago this Saturday, I returned from an early morning run to find my then-fiancÃ©, Pat, sitting on the couch, transfixed by the image on television.
As the World Trade Center Towers came crashing down, life for most Americans drastically changed. Flags went up overnight, and even in Phoenix, Arizona — far removed from any perceived danger — people walked around dazed and unsure.
But Pat didn’t stay unsure long. He took that day’s helplessness and transformed it into a desire to serve — and by the next spring he had enlisted in the Army.
Pat was pretty passionate about whatever he did, and that passion had a way of rubbing off on those who loved him. After he died, I started the Pat Tillman Foundation to do what he had done — take a horrible tragedy and somehow turn it into something good.
At the Foundation, we invest in veterans and their families through education and a commitment to continued service. Based on the challenges experienced by military families and the increased need for resources, we created the Tillman Military Scholars program. This program helps remove the barriers to getting an education by providing scholarships that cover not only direct expenses such as tuition, fees and books, but also other needs like housing and child care. The Pat Tillman Foundation celebrates the power, possibility and devotion of every veteran and military family member.
I am honored to spend Saturday giving back to the veteran community and I’m especially honored to serve with Mrs. Obama. She’s made such a commitment both to military families and to service. Her activism and energy inspire all of us to really ask what more we can each be doing to help in our own communities, and to support those families who are bearing such a heavy burden and who do it — amazingly — without ever complaining.
Countless lives changed in that instant nine years ago. In the memory of those who passed that day, I hope you’ll join me and others across the country in following Pat’s example, and continue to transform tragedy into hope.