2023 Tillman Scholar

Zachary McKenna

Marine Corps
George Washington University
B.S., Nursing

“Mothers tell their stories of birth for the rest of their lives. As a midwife, I will help make that a story of their power.”

With a deep appreciation for his country and the sacrifices of those before him, Zach knew from a young age he would serve his country. After the attacks of 9/11, that commitment was cemented. The nation was calling, and Zach would answer by becoming a Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey pilot. During his nine years of active-duty service, he flew throughout southeast Asia.

 In 2015, while deployed on the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, he supported humanitarian operations in the Northern Mariana Islands. There, Saipan was hit with the worst typhoon in 30 years, leaving thousands without power or water. The emotional effect of helping those calling in need was overwhelming. Later, the passion to answer those calls of need would take an unexpected route after he returned from deployment. Many of his colleagues began growing their families and sharing their birth stories. Those stories were heartbreaking, unempowering, and traumatic. 

With both, a yearning to improve a families’ birth story and the spare time he could allocate between military duties, he became a certified doula with Doulas of North America International (DONA). He experienced firsthand the positive emotional, physical, psychological, and sociological effects that a team could provide when backed by evidenced-based research. At George Washington University, Zach is continuing his journey by pursuing his undergraduate nursing degree. His training and passion have empowered him to make an impact across underserved communities where the need is greatest, and as a veteran, serving those in need is a familiar role.