By Kat Riddler, Managing Editor
On June 29, Heath McClung, senior, engineering, was named one of two from the University of Missouri System to receive the Pat Tillman Scholars honor. McClung is the second University of Missouri-St. Louis’ student to receive this honor. The scholarship will pay for tuition and textbooks through the end of their academic career.
“The Pat Tillman Scholars program is one of the most prestigious awards for our nation’s student veterans,” said Mun Choi, president of the UM System. “This year, 60 scholars were named from an applicant pool of thousands. As Tillman Scholars, Paul and Heath are representing our nation’s very best, right here in Missouri.”
McClung graduated from Lafayette High School and briefly attended Truman State University before joining the Army. He served three years. During his 2011 deployment to Afghanistan, he suffered injuries that ultimately resulted in the amputation of his left leg. He hopes to obtain a graduate degree in prosthetics and orthotics.
“I think it’s fascinating technology and really rewarding,” said McClung, who is president of the UMSL Student Veteran Association and volunteers with The Mission Continues, the World Pediatric Project, and the American Orthotic and Prosthetic Association. “These are things that help people in their daily lives. Ideally, I want to work either in a practice and treat patients or work for a company helping to design and make the next generation of prosthetics. The Pat Tillman Foundation is helping me achieve this goal.”
The other student to receive the honor was Paul Wade, law, from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Wade graduated from Glenwood High School in Chatham, Illinois, and received his undergraduate degree from Truman State University. In the Army, Wade served in three combat deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Previously, Wade served as vice-president of Mizzou Law Student Veterans Association. He also has participated in the Mizzou Law Veterans Clinic, where law students can practice their legal skills helping veterans with legal issues connected to their service.
“As a veteran, I don’t believe myself to be any better than my civilian classmates, but I recognize that my experiences are drastically different from many other people attending law school,” Wade said. “The Pat Tillman Foundation recognizes the need to have veteran leadership at all levels to bring the unique experiences and perspectives veterans share into the public discourse. Being in the small group of Tillman Scholars allows me to be part of a group of veterans working to make the country and world a better place.”
The Pat Tillman Foundation receives thousands of applications from military veterans and their spouses every year. Scholars are chosen based on “ 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, policy, technology, education and the arts,” according to their website. Only 60 are chosen each year and the scholarship was created after Pat Tillman, an all-star NFL career with the Arizona Cardinals who was called to serve after 9/11, and died in 2004 by friendly fire.