2023 Tillman Scholar

Helen Murray

Marine Corps
Arizona State University
B.A., English

“Language is the bridge that connects us, the healer of wounds, and the key to unlocking the potential of others.”

Helen Murray didn’t know what to expect as the first Marine in her family, but it certainly wasn’t learning a language. During her time as a student and leader at the Defense Language Institute, Helen dedicated herself to tutoring those who struggled in the Afghan-Pashto course. Watching the steady improvement of the Marines she tutored gave Helen a passion for educating. In 2021, Helen made quick use of her new language skills when the massive effort to support incoming Afghan evacuees led her to the resettlement camp at Quantico, Virginia, as a translator.

Helen spent months translating for the processing, medical screening, and emergency medical procedures of Afghan refugees. Within weeks of arriving, Helen identified a gap in the services provided: many of the incoming refugees did not understand any English and were ill-prepared for transition to life in America. In addition to her other duties, Helen began by teaching English to a small group of teenagers in the early morning. Her efforts quickly transformed into teaching a class of more than one hundred refugees. 

Following her time at Quantico, Helen was deployed overseas as a signals intelligence analyst.  Throughout the remainder of her military career, Helen would be inspired to take on roles creating technical courses for her job field and teaching students—military and civilian alike. Helen is excited to pursue teaching English as a career because she has seen the power of education and language to affect lives.