Guest Blogger: Tiffany Johnson, Tillman Military Scholar Class 3, University of Michigan-Flint
On Friday, October 26, 2012, 15 Tillman Military Scholars (TMS) converged in my hometown of Flint, Michigan to build group unity, network and perform community service. Flint is not the ideal community you think of when people discuss regional gatherings of any kind. It has received a gauntlet of negative media because of its violent crime, depressed economy, high unemployment rate and an even higher rate of poverty. However, Flint is slowly on the rebound and I was happy to be able to share its revitalization with my fellow TMS. We took them to one new local hangout in the redeveloped downtown area and spent some time on campus at the University of Michigan-Flint. If Flint were the “city on a hill”, the University of Michigan-Flint would definitely be the shining jewel at the hilltop. UM-Flint has experienced significant growth during and what many called have called ‘the hardest economic times Flint has ever had to endure’. Chancellor Ruth Person and the University of Michigan-Flint are dedicated to providing the very best support to student Veterans.
On Saturday, we performed community service at Carriage Town Ministries (CTM), a local community service agency that has been providing free food, shelter and clothing to individuals and families in need since 1950. Words can’t express the level gratitude I have for my fellow TMS who took time out of their busy lives to come to my city and serve my community members who need it most. On the surface it would appear that the group of TMS had no solid connection to those they were helping; only a couple of us had historical ties to the Flint community. Yet as I sat in the van as we pulled away from the parking lot of CTM, it struck me that this service opportunity was about more than physical community connections.
It was about strengthening the human spirit of a community who would walk into CTM the next day for services. The actions of the TMS were an honest reflection of their integrity and selflessness. It spoke volumes of the impact that military servicemembers stand to make beyond their military service requirements. It is at THAT moment, riding away in that van, that I felt we collectively embodied the legacy of Pat Tillman and I was most proud to be a Tillman Military Scholar and a part of this unique community.