2014 Tillman Scholar
Having a grandfather who served in World War II, father who served in Vietnam, and brother who served in Iraq where he became disabled, Jamal always knew he would follow this family tradition of service before self. During the initial stages of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Jamal was in college at the University of Florida. He was always perplexed by the way so many able-bodied military-aged men were extremely adamant about going to war and hawkish in their views, but were never willing to serve themselves.
Knowing his family’s legacy of service, and not wanting to be one of those individuals, he knew his time would eventually come to answer the call to serve. In his first year of graduate school at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, he enlisted as a private first class in the Marine Corps reserves, while simultaneously completing his Master’s degree and working at Amherst College. After graduation, he then went on active duty as an officer.
Jamal found his experience in Afghanistan both life changing and humbling. Serving as an enlisted Marine, then being selected as an officer to serve those same Marines as their leader was the most daunting responsibility he had ever accepted. The experience became a way for him to repay his country for the enormous opportunities it had provided him. His tour of duty with fellow Marines in Afghanistan helped him realize how fortunate he was and motivated him to make a difference in his home state of Florida.