2016 Tillman Scholar

Melissa Thomas

Yale University

“The most important lesson I’ve learned is there are people you can count on and put your trust in.”

Inspired by her first visit to West Point, Melissa was in awe when she saw a group of cadets playing ultimate frisbee when the cannons sounded for reveille and they all stopped in the middle of their game to salute the flag. That moment got Melissa hooked on the discipline, respect, and honor she craved to be part of, instilling in her a lifetime of service to the nation. Following 9/11, Melissa put her medical school plans on hold so she could deploy with her fellow soldiers – learning leadership skills, along with having opportunities that give her confidence, experience, and perspective today. Throughout her service in the military, including two deployments to Iraq and working as a hospital administrator, Melissa learned to stick to her instincts when making unpopular decisions and that there is no substitute for realistic training, but there are people who you can count on that you put your trust in.

While in the process of applying to medical schools as well as starting the process to transition from active duty Army to the reserves, Melissa suddenly lost her husband in an avalanche in late 2014. Being dual military, Melissa and her husband always seemed to be waiting for the next time they would be living together or for the end of another deployment and as a result, were never living in the moment. Melissa’s experiences both in the military and suffering the loss of her husband have made her realize how important relationships are and finding fulfillment in people as opposed to working on the next thing to add to a resume. With aspirations of earning her Medical degree, Melissa is currently undecided on her future specialty but has her sights set on a lifetime commitment to service either by re-joining the Army, working in the Public Health Service or the VA. While in medical school, Melissa is also volunteering at the VA’s Errera Community Care Center and spearheading a research project with the National Center for PTSD Neuroscience Division in West Haven, CT.