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, nearly 350 Tillman Scholars are striving to impact our country and communities through their studies in medicine, law, business, policy, technology, 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.
In this week’s Tillman Tuesday we catch up with scholar Rich (Blake) Moore from our first class of Tillman Scholars. A proud Marine and Army veterans as well as recent newlywed, Rich calls Baltimore home. Since 2012, he has been stationed in Seattle and bases throughout the South, and this week will begin a three-year assignment to Germany. Rich and fellow Tillman Scholars started a non-profit organization called The 6th Branch whose mission is to utilize the leadership and organizational skills of military veterans to execute community service initiatives at the local level.
What made you decide to join the service?
“It was a big coincidence. In 1999, a friend of mine asked me for a ride to the recruiter’s office so he could join the Navy. While I was sitting there waiting for him, I was convinced by a Marine recruiter to join the Marine’s. We left the office with him not joining the Navy and me joining the Marines.”
How long have you been serving and have you deployed?
“I was in the Marines for four-and-a-half years then got out for nine years because I thought the war was over. I felt like I wanted to see what else was out there for curiosity sake. I then joined the Army in 2011 and reported to active duty in 2012, serving as a Clinical Psychologist. Overall, I deployed in 2003 as an infantryman with the Marine Corps during the first invasion in Iraq, and then spent my deployment to Afghanistan in 2014 as a Psychologist.”
What did you learn about yourself through your deployments?
“My deployment in 2003 was a pretty crazy experience. Throughout it I learned I had some mental and physical challenges that were put to the test.”
How did you learn about the Tillman Scholar program and how did you make the decision to apply?
“I just came across it while I was sitting at a computer in Florida where I was stationed. My GI Bill wasn’t cut and the Pat Tillman Foundation was just launching the scholar program. I happened to come across it on a pdf document. I applied online without having any prior knowledge because it was so brand new.”
What was your reaction when you received the call you had been selected as part of the inaugural class of Tillman Scholars?
“I was ecstatic! The original Program Director Hunter Riley left a ten minute voice mail message on my phone and I didn’t really understand it at first, but was super excited. I called him back and there was a whole group of people on the other end of the call. I was relieved I was getting some help for school and the more I was learning about the foundation, it was super cool to be part of.”
What has being a Tillman Scholar allowed you to accomplish that you feel you may have not otherwise received the opportunity to do?
“In 2010, myself and other Tillman Scholars were able to start a non-profit organization called The 6th Branch (T6B). It started when I saw the Pat Tillman Foundation had a blog post from another Tillman Scholar who was trying to save a VFW post in Baltimore. We met and started coming up with the ideas for T6B. In 2011, we organized the Pat Tillman Leadership Summit community service event when it was being held in Washington, D.C. If we hadn’t met through the foundation, T6B would never have happened and we would have never been tasked with the Summit project which introduced us to Oliver Town (East Baltimore). Everything T6B is doing wouldn’t have happened without the Tillman Foundation; four of our Board of Director members are Tillman Scholars.”
Where did you come up with the name The 6th Branch?
“It was a play off the five branches of the military. We view the 6th Branch as a branch that anyone can serve in.”
With Baltimore in the news over the past couple of weeks, what has it been like living there and has your organization been affected at all?
“T6B has been doing business as usual. We reached out to those leading clean-up efforts and offered our support, but the outpouring of volunteers was so great that our help was not needed. As a result, we’ve been able to maintain our operations.”
What are you currently doing now to fulfill your time?
“My free time is spent co-chairing T6B and serving as the primary grant writer while handling our Public Affairs and fundraising. At some point I hope to come back to Baltimore, which is where I call home though I grew up in Ohio next to Akron.
“Right now, my wife and I are getting ready to move to Germany this month, where I’ll be stationed at a medical center serving as a Clinical Psychologist for about three years.”
How did you decide to focus on Clinical Psychology?
“While I was majoring in Psychology I thought it would be cool to be able to help treat veterans. Along my journey T6B started and that’s really where my passion really lies so after my stint in Germany I may hang up my military career but I’ll have to wait and see.”
What does it mean to you personally to be able to call yourself a Tillman Scholar?
“It has been a huge boost for me to be in the Tillman Scholar community. For me it wasn’t really about the money, it was about the community involvement and the network of people that I met was the greatest thing for me. My fellow Tillman Scholars became my primary support channel.”
Did you feel any pressure in a sense to uphold the legacy of Pat Tillman and what he stood for?
“Absolutely! Upholding what Pat stood for is something that I talk about with fellow Tillman Scholars frequently. There’s a huge emphasis on community service. We really want to live up to it and do as much as we can to help out in any way we can.”