Joining military veterans and their spouses from across the nation, three University of Arizona students have been named to the fifth class of Tillman Military Scholars.
The Tillman Military Scholars program is providing the 60 recipients with nearly $1.4 million in scholarship funding in recognition of their service, leadership and high academic performance.
Established by the Pat Tillman Foundation in 2008, the scholars program helps servicemembers and their families complete higher education degree programs. To date, 15 UA students have earned scholarship through the foundation.
The UA recipients are: Felisa (Hervey) Dyrud, a doctoral student in Middle Eastern literature; Adam Ratesic, who is pursuing a medical degree with a focus in rheumatology; and Jose Cervantes, also a medical student. All three of them served in the U.S. Air Force.
"The Tillman Military Scholars program plays a vital role in transitioning veterans into civilian life by fueling their potential as leaders and game changers when they return home," Marie Tillman, the Pat Tillman Foundation's president and co-founder, said in a release announcing the scholars.
"During his life, Pat refused to standby on the sidelines as an athlete and a soldier, and each Tillman Military Scholar embodies the principles of service, learning and action that he lived by everyday," Pat Tillman also noted.
"These men and women are the determined few who stepped forward to lead when duty called. Through their studies in medicine, foreign affairs, urban planning and more, they are building on Pat's legacy of leadership and creating their own to impact and inspire our country for years to come."
Dyrud, who served from 2006-12 in the U.S. Air Force, said she is honored to have been named a recipient, saying she held great respect for Tillman's choice to leave his career as a professional football player to serve in the military.
Currently in Afghanistan, Dyrud has worked with a team to establish the nonprofit organization Civil Vision International, of which she is president. The organization connects citizens in Afghanistan with those in the U.S. to promote international freedom, peace and stability.
"Our vision is to educate, inspire and connect citizens," Dyrud said. "I firmly believe that the future we are fighting for together, not only in military ways but also through education, activism and many other creative means, is worthwhile and possible."
After the UA, Dyrud – a poet who studies Persian literature with a focus on the writings of women in Afghanistan – intends to remain connected in her work with Civil Vision International.
Dyrud's last assignment was serving as the civil society team leader for the International Security Assistance Force Anti-Corruption Task Force in Kabul, Afghanistan. She also published a book, "Hearts for Sale! A Buyer's Guide to Winning in Afghanistan," under the name of Farzana Marie and detailing her experience as a military officer.
"I have a deep sense of the importance of the mission there for which Pat gave his life," said Dyrud, who has been deployed for two years. "It is winnable, it is worth it, and Pat Tillman as well as those still serving deserve all of our respect and support."