One of the NFL's primary military partners is the Pat Tillman Foundation, an organization dedicated to supporting educational opportunities for veterans and their families.
In 2002, Pat Tillman walked away from a $3.6 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals to enlist in the U.S. Army. Following his death in April 2004, while serving with the U.S. Army's 75th Ranger Regiment in Afghanistan, his family and friends established the Pat Tillman Foundation. Created to honor Pat's legacy, by inspiring others to create their own, the mission of the Pat Tillman Foundation is to invest in military veterans and their spouses through educational scholarships; building a diverse community of leaders committed to service to others.
Inspired by Pat's attributes of leadership, passion for education and spirit of service, the Foundation annually awards scholarships through the Tillman Military Scholars program. In 2010, the NFL and Pat Tillman Foundation established the NFL-Tillman Military Scholar award to annually honor an individual who exemplifies Pat's enduring legacy of service. The Tillman Military Scholars program provides financial support which covers direct study-related expenses such as tuition and books, as well as other basic needs such as housing and childcare and is available to veterans, those currently serving in the Military and military spouses.
Sergeant First Class Blake Schroedter of Newton, Illinois, has been selected as the 2013 NFL-Tillman Military Scholar. The Chicago Bears will recognize Sgt. 1st Class Schroedter at their Salute to Service game on Nov 10. Schroedter is currently pursuing a Doctorate of Clinical Psychology at The Adler School of Professional Psychology in Chicago. Upon completion of his degree he intends to continue to serve in the Illinois Army National Guard as a clinical psychologist, focusing on veterans returning home from combat.
"My time with the Army gave me the chance to acknowledge adversity in my own life and it inspired a new mission to help fellow veterans returning home from war," said Sgt. 1st Class Schroedter.
While serving in the Army, Schroedter deployed overseas twice, first to Iraq and then to Afghanistan. Once he returned from Iraq he realized that while the physical battle of war was over, a new psychological battle had begun for him. After working toward an understanding of the issues that sparked upon his return, he deployed again to Afghanistan as part of a training team. As he processed the differences between his deployments, he began to research doctoral programs in the clinical psychology field, leading him to his current course of study.
"My experiences with war and my own struggles re-integrating back into society offer me a unique perception of problems from the opposite end of the table that may be more difficult for some non-military psychologists to comprehend," said Schroedter. "I believe that it will be this understanding that will allow me to offer treatment and develop veteran focused programs, making me an asset to not only veterans but the field of psychology."
In 2014, as a result of last year's Salute to Service campaign fundraising and partnership with the NFL, the Tillman Foundation will be able to fund an additional 15 educational scholarships, bringing the total to 75 scholars awarded annually.
For more information on the Pat Tillman Foundation please visit: www.pattillmanfoundation.org.