2012 Tillman Scholar

John Van Horn

Air Force
Mississippi State University
B.S., Meteorology

“Fulfillment is one of the biggest motivators to me; knowing that I helped someone.”

From an early age, John’s intent to serve as well as his spontaneous curiosity was as big as his smile. When John borrowed his mother’s car at the age of 18 to attend college freshman orientation, it was no surprise, (at least to him), that he would return with a plan to enlist in the military. John’s spontaneity transformed into a concrete commitment to his country the day of 9/11; the day of his first official scheduled meeting with the Air Force recruiter. Subsequently, he opted for a six-year enlistment and left for boot-camp following his mother’s birthday.

John enlisted as a Crew Chief on the C-5 Galaxy aircraft and worked his way up to a special duty assignment of Flying Crew Chief (FCC). As a flight mechanic during C-5 missions, John supported OIF/OEF efforts for two years as an FCC. After his special duty, John was deployed to the Middle East in support of OIF/OEF missions. He received an honorable discharge shortly after returning from the deployment.

John separated from the military in 2008 and moved to NYC to care for his 5-year old nephew while his sister worked long hours as a fashion designer. He then moved to Atlanta, GA to start college in 2009. John transferred to Mississippi State University for meteorology in 2011 and created as many opportunities as possible for himself. A few opportunities included: walking-on to the MSU football team as a punter, leading a weather balloon team for the Memphis, TN NWS, interning with the Hurricane Hunters in 2013 and NBC4 in Washington D.C. in 2014. John was funded by an NOAA research grant for unmanned systems (drones) during his first year of grad school. Grad school research influenced John to realize the potential for drones in our society. Subsequently, he acted on an idea to train veterans in drone technology to use the applications to continue to serve their community. He continues to build his business, Veteran Unmanned Solutions, LLC, around the idea to fund a veteran drone initiative as one of his major footprints in this world.

Learn more about John’s story