2010 Tillman Scholar

Joel Van Brunt

Marine Corps
Harvard University
M.A., Political Science

Initially, Joel joined the Naval Reserve Officer Training program at Northwestern University to help pay for school. But soon, the idea of service caught hold of Joel and he was hooked. He decided to serve something higher than himself. He received a commission in the Marine Corps after graduating with an Electrical Engineering degree and worked hard to finish flight school at the top of his class.   

All of this happened prior to 9/11. Joel had no idea that the majority of his active duty time would be spent supporting warriors on the ground in Al Anbar Province, Iraq as a cobra attack helicopter pilot. Joel’s experiences in combat left an indelible mark on him and he returned to the US with an intense desire to serve others and protect our American values.

After leaving active duty, Joel continued to serve in the Marine Reserves while taking time to  pursue some creative endeavors in Los Angeles. Eventually, the lure of service brought Joel, and his new wife, to Cambridge MA where Joel attended the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. While at Harvard, Joel served on a congressional campaign staff and as the President of the Christian Fellowship.  

Joel currently serves as the Chief Operating Officer for Paradise Helicopters, a fast growing helicopter company in Hawaii that serves customers from all over the world. In this role, Joel strives to be the best servant leader he can for his company and his community.