2021 Tillman Scholar

Josh Burnes

University of South Florida

“A warrior’s path is one of hardship and sacrifice. Seeking ways to help combat veterans shoulder the burden through their darkest times.”

After high school JB spent time working in emergency care as an EMT. The experience gave him a sense of purpose and responsibility. Seeking greater challenges and to be a part something bigger than himself, he enlisted in the Army and earned his way into the 75th Ranger Regiment where he intended to only serve one enlistment.

A year later, the twin towers were attacked and his life trajectory changed. He continued to serve and eventually went on to Special Forces, serving a total of 14 years with multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. As a senior non-commissioned officer, he understood the importance of an NCO’s role in coaching, teaching, and mentoring other service members to become the best versions of themselves. As a combat veteran, he has experienced firsthand many of the hardships and struggles shared by those who have repeatedly deployed into harm’s way.

After leaving the service, he has volunteered with various veteran causes but noticed that there was a lack of military cultural understanding within the mental health field. He now seeks to bring that experience and NCO skills to helping other veterans within that field. Currently, he is finishing his bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of South Florida and then intends to continue onto a Ph.D. in counseling psychology with a focus on researching and treating combat veteran mental health.