Pat Tillman Foundation can’t fulfill its mission to empower military veterans and their spouses without the generosity of our supporters across the country. Nationwide, over 400 Tillman Scholars are striving to impact our country and communities through their studies in medicine, law, business, policy, science, education and the arts. Every “Tillman Tuesday,” we are committed to highlighting the individual impact of a Tillman Scholar, focusing on their success in school, career and community—all thanks to your support. This week we connected with 2011 Tillman Scholar Joshua Faucett who is a graduate of New York University with a Nursing degree, currently working in the Brain Tumor Center at Presbyterian Hospital. Learn more about why Joshua chose a career in Nursing and what he plans to do next in order to help others.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO JOIN THE MILITARY?
“In 2004 I was about to finish up my online Master’s degree while working for a local fire department in Fort Worth, Texas. Around the same time, a friend of mine who was serving in the National Guard and was also a police officer for us, was called up to serve in Iraq. For years he and his wife had been trying to conceive and they had kept having setbacks and finally got pregnant and while everything was going great with the pregnancy, he was called to Iraq. I remember sitting at the fire station and a group of us were complaining how the city was going to make us pay for the cable bill at the firehouse and it dawned on me how petty we were becoming. Meanwhile I was thinking how my friend is getting sent to Iraq and going to miss the birth of his child while we’re complaining. A couple of weeks later I spoke with a recruiter.
Joining the military was never going to be a career move for me but I also knew our country was at war and we needed more people to step up and join. I signed on the dotted line in 2004 and negotiated a deal with the Army in which they would let me finish my MBA. It also gave me some time to get my finances in order and marry my wife four days before I left for boot camp on May 5, 2005. When I came home from four months of basic training I was stationed two hours from where I grew up in Fort Hood, Texas.”
DURING YOUR TIME IN THE SERVICE, HOW MANY TIMES DID YOU DEPLOY AND WHAT WAS YOUR ROLE?
“I served two deployments. The first I served as a gunner on a Bradley Fighting vehicle before serving the last four months of the tour as an operations NCO (Non-commissioned Officer). The first 11 months were spent in combat operations as an Infantryman completing over 300 missions. I then transitioned to being the only guy in the networks so we could all get home. I basically became the Operations NCO (Human Resources) and returned home as a Sergeant.”
HOW LONG DID YOU SERVE AND WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO LEAVE THE MILITARY?
“I served for five years, nine months and five days. I joined the military with the intention of doing one enlistment. I had my sights set on going to school so I got out after my second tour and I had already applied and been accepted to several universities, knowing I was going to pursue a Nursing degree. I was enrolled at the University of Austin, Texas (where I lived) but during my time in Iraq my wife said, ‘when you get out, one of my dreams has always been to live in New York’ (where her mother grew up). As a result, I applied to NYU but didn’t think I would get in but when I checked back they had told me I had been accepted and could start school September 5. Within the course of about three weeks we sold two cars, all of our furniture and packed what was left in a U-Haul and drove up to New York so I could start school.”
HOW DID YOU LEARN ABOUT THE TILLMAN SCHOLARSHIP?
“When I was in nursing school at NYU I had a friend who served in the same unit as Pat but at a different time. One day we were sitting around talking about our Army days and he had mentioned how he knew some guys that were friends with Pat and one thing led to another and I came across the Pat Tillman Foundation online. Through my research, I learned alot about the foundation and what it stood for and inspired me to apply.”
WHEN YOU WERE SELECTED AS A TILLMAN SCHOLAR IN 2011, WHAT DID THE MAGNITUDE OF CARRYING FORWARD PAT’S LEGACY MEAN TO YOU?
“I remember when people were told school would be paid for through the GI Bill and then a cap was placed on it for people like me who were attending expensive schools like NYU. All of a sudden we were in trouble and I was looking to transfer out of NYU because I didn’t know if I was going to be able to financially complete my schooling. I have a lot of faith in things that are meant to be will be, and as things were getting pretty dire, along came the Pat Tillman Foundation. The opportunity to finish my degree gave me another lifeline. What it meant to me was that putting a lot of faith in God and the things that are meant to be will work out how they’re supposed to.
I feel the reason Pat was so successful was because he never allowed himself to be outworked and he didn’t live the superstar NFL life that we see a lot of – there’s nothing wrong with that, but Pat never let anything go to his head and always paid it forward. Every decision that I try to make regarding the line of work I was going into and what I wanted to do and how I approach my patients on a day to day basis is all based on the fact that you can approach people in a way as a ‘big shot expert’ in the room or you can approach them as a partner with care. If you look at how Pat lived his life, I don’t see him as being someone who says ‘it’s my way or the highway’, it’s more about being a partner and being there for them. That’s how I try to carry forward his legacy.”
HOW DO YOU APPLY THE PRINCIPLES YOU LEARNED ABOUT PAT TO YOUR EVERYDAY LIFE WORKING AS A NURSE?
“Right now I primarily work with brain tumor patients where their prognosis is pretty poor. Generally when I see the patients they’ve probably seen their last Christmas or Hanukkah. Keeping that in mind in my approach, you’re going to work your butt off and not let their prognosis stop you. After working hard and trying to make sure they have everything they need, at the end of the day the changes are typically not substantial. As a representative of the Pat Tillman Foundation I always want to make sure no one out works me.”
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE A CAREER IN NURSING?
“When I came out of the Army in 2010 it was the height of the recession so I had to make a decision at that point on not only what’s best for me but what’s best for my family from a career standpoint. At the same time, when I left the Army I had some nagging injuries that I put off since my first deployment and dealt with several doctors and nurses and recall the politeness of them before and after my surgeries. The nurses were kind enough just to make sure everything was taken care of and I thought, ‘this is something I could do.’ Their bedside manners meant enough to me that I thought I could pursue the same career and have that type of care for patients.”
HAVING BEEN A FIREMAN, YOU FELT YOU STILL WEREN’T DOING ENOUGH. WHAT DID YOU LEARN ABOUT YOURSELF THROUGHOUT YOUR MILITARY SERVICE?
“The main thing I learned is that going into the military I was more prone to procrastinate and complain when there was a problem. After my time in the military you learn very quickly from day one that nobody cares or wants to hear about your complaining – it’s all about solutions. One of the first things an NCO said to me was, ‘don’t come here with problems, come here with solutions,’ and that stuck with me. The Army taught me that it doesn’t make sense to waste energy looking back or worrying about your current conditions when you have the power to improve upon it. I don’t think that prior to joining the Army I could have been the person that not only had been in the role as a Nurse but also have the ability to look someone in the eye and say, ‘your condition is dire but we’re not going to stop fighting.’”
ASIDE FROM THE FINANCIAL SUPPORT, WHAT HAS THE TILLMAN SCHOLARSHIP ENABLED YOU TO DO THAT YOU MAY NOT HAVE OTHERWISE HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO DO?
“The Tillman scholarship has enabled me to do what I am now, serving the community as a Nurse. Had the scholarship not come along at the exact time that it did, there’s a very high chance that I would not have finished school and probably would have been delayed by a year or more. I don’t know where I’d be without the support of the foundation and the scholarship. It was a huge lifesaver for me as a veteran student.”
HOW HAS BEING SELECTED AS A TILLMAN SCHOLAR INFLUENCED YOU?
“It’s very easy when you first get out of the military to feel like you don’t really know what your new identity is. Part of being a Tillman Scholar helps define that identity in a lot of ways. When you’re a member of the military, you’re held to a certain standard on how you conduct yourself and participate in society but when you get out, none of that really applies anymore and you’re a veteran. Being a Tillman Scholar, above all else, defines the foundation. I look at each class every year and I see these incredible people that are awe-inspiring and being part of the Tillman Scholar community makes me want to be awe-inspiring as well.”
HOW MANY TIMES HAVE YOU BEEN CALLED A ‘MURSE’ (male nurse) AND HAVE YOU HAD ANY WEIRD REACTIONS FROM PATIENTS WHEN YOU WALK INTO THEIR ROOM?
“I’m a 6’4”, 300 pound male nurse and have found myself in several situations where I’ve had interesting reactions from patients. I remember one of my first patients who was Spanish-speaking and in her mid-60’s, was here from the Dominican Republic and she was very conservative and traditional. That day I had one of the Spanish-speaking medical assistants come in and introduce me and during one of our visits she said, ‘I need to use the restroom.’ She had just had major pelvic surgery and needed to get out of bed and she walked over and got the bedpan and I’ll never forget the look on her face when she realized I was going to be in the room while this was happening. By the end of the night, after the third or fourth time she had to do this it became second nature and I could tell she understood that I was a nurse. A nurse is a nurse, there’s no such thing as a male nurse. In the military, 80% of the nurses are male and in today’s civilian society 15% are male and 85% are female.”
WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU AS FAR AS YOUR CAREER GOALS?
“I’ve been a Nurse Practitioner since December 2014 and have been working in the Brain Tumor Center at Presbyterian Hospital for about a year. This September I’ll be starting the Doctorate of Nursing program at Columbia University and my dissertation will be focused on recent healthcare disparities within the VA and how we can use evidence-based strategies to overcome the obstacles and getting veterans in the door at the VA in a timely manner.”