2011 Tillman Scholar

Ashley Paintner

University of Washington

“I find a lot of growth when I give back to people. Those are the moments that define my life.”

Sitting on a flight to Iraq on her 19th birthday, Ashley was still in shock. The National Guard unit she joined two years before was deploying for the first time in 25 years. She had enlisted to travel and give back to her community-but never anticipated how serving overseas would change her life.

Concerned about the lack of positive impact her unit was having for Iraqis, Ashley took action. She started a project that delivered over 500 backpacks to the Iraqi schools most affected by the war.

Returning home, that action-oriented spirit didn’t change. “I saw a lack of mental health treatment for veterans. I had friends who were suicidal call the VA and be given a 6-month wait. That really drove me to the mental health focus on my career.”

Ashley hopes that eventually, as a non-profit civil legal aide lawyer, she will help to make mental health services more accessible to veterans and low incomes Americans.