2019 Tillman Scholar

Keri Mills

Military Spouse
Appalachian School of Law

“When plagued by grief, I chose to harness my loss and use it as a driving force to overcome and prevail.”

In August of 2011, Keri’s husband was killed in action along with 29 fellow Americans and a working dog when their helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan. This life-changing moment took her from being a wife of Special Operations Chief Stephen “Matt” Mills to a single mother and widow. The months after her husband’s death were tumultuous and challenging and Keri sought guidance and direction as her life plans had been detrimentally altered. Conversations with fellow widows within the community followed, and Keri realized that there was a universal need for guidance in estate planning. There was just one large hurdle, Keri had not earned a college degree. This is where her journey began.

Keri had decided to attend law school so she could give back to the Special Operations community that had carried her through the depths of her darkest days. Her goal is to educate Gold Star Families and service members in estate planning, ensuring that should tragedy strike, the required documents and knowledge have been appropriately allocated, thus taking the burden off of the surviving family members.

Keri worked her way to an acceptance to the University of Virginia and graduated in the spring of 2018 with highest distinguished honors. Currently, she is a first-year law student at the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, Virginia where she and her nine-year-old son reside, as she chases her dream of becoming a licensed attorney.