TILLMAN TUESDAY: Scholar Terry Weaver lends helping hand to fellow veterans, providing a source of strength and camaraderie

Featured Media, News, Blog | 08/11/2015

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 had the opportunity to catch up with 2010 scholar Terrence Weaver, who earned his BBA from Texas A&M and founded a non-profit called The Warriors Refuge to provide a source of strength and camaraderie for veterans in need.

Why did you join the service and how long did you serve?

“I joined because I was directionless. I did not know what to do with myself and I thought the very best use would be to serve in the military. I enlisted in the Navy and served for five years as a Navy Corpsman attached to the Marine Corps. I loved it and it is one of the best decisions I have ever made. In 2002, I deployed to Iraq, where I spent seven months with Combat Service Support Brigade – 12 following First Marine division through the initial breach into Iraq.”

You mentioned your grandparents as a guiding force in your life. How did they impact your decision to serve?

“They both served one in the Air Force and one in the Army and met while stationed at Okinawa. I have always looked up to them, so it was great for me to be able to carry on their legacy and join the military. Growing up, there was a lot of turmoil in my childhood. Both of my parents were unfortunately involved in drugs, and my mom was imprisoned for five years for a drug deal which turned out to be an FBI sting operation.

In reality, my grandparents were the only true constants in my life – I always looked up to them, and they always took care of me. They even had contingency plans when I was living with my parents because they felt that I might be in danger. My grandparents told me, ‘if there is ever trouble and the cops show up, this is where you go, who you talk to, this is our number, call us and we’ll be there in less than five minutes. They were always that one secure constant in my life.

I have a good relationship with my mom now. She is truly inspirational, she came out of prison, and though it took her a while to straighten out, she is now serving the Lord and inspires me. She’s doing great, and helping encourage others. I don’t have the greatest relationship with my dad, but I love him and he loves me.”

Terry Weaver_Grandparents

Louie and Patricia Weaver aka Nana and Papa Weaver, both veterans themselves, played an integral role in Terry’s life

Throughout your time in the military, what did you learn about yourself?

“The most valuable lesson I learned was the value of Freedom. I learned that quickly during the scariest moments I had serving in Iraq – it was seven months of fear. During that time, I truly learned to appreciate our freedom; I remember thinking to myself multiple times that I would give every dollar in my bank account just to be back at home for one day. You gain an amazing appreciation for Freedom when you’re deployed in hostile territory. After my experience at war, I understand what Freedom really is and its true cost.”

Why did you decide to get out of the military?

“While serving, I was in the medical field and realized that I did not want to pursue a career in medicine. I have always had an entrepreneurial nature and wanted to get out to do something original. I knew that I wanted to go to business school and start a company or help build and existing one.”

Terry Weaver_Haircut

Terry Weaver and his fellow comrades stay entertained in various ways throughout deployment

How did you learn about the Tillman Scholar Program?

“I found out through the Veteran Services office at Texas A&M; Texas A&M is a University with great military roots which has a great veteran support network. They told me about the Tillman Scholarship and said I had to apply. When I researched the history and character of Pat Tillman and understood the depth of his life, I wanted to be a part of The Tillman Foundation and Pat’s legacy.”

In your own way, how are you carrying forward Pat’s legacy?

“I have always been an Entrepreneur and I think the initial inclination for many is, ‘if I could go out and make a hundred grand and hit some financial goals then that would be it, and I would be happy.’ But when you get out and meet some of those goals you realize that money is just a transaction vehicle. I like the quote from Benjamin Franklin, ‘the greatest service to God is to help your fellow man’ – I believe that, and know that I have to be part of something bigger than myself. I ask myself that often, ‘what are you going to do to leave this earth a better place than when you entered it? What am I doing to make a difference?’ The picture of Pat walking off the field reminds me that I too need to lead and do something bigger than myself.”

What are you doing now to hold to your promise to be part of something bigger than yourself?

“I currently have a full time position in sales, and in 2013, I founded a non-profit, The Warriors Refuge. Myself and a great group of volunteers are developing programs to strengthen encourage and develop our Veterans. We are doing some real good and I’m extremely excited because I feel that I have finally found my purpose. I know that what we are able to accomplish through The Warriors Refuge is going to have a ripple effect and change lives of many veterans for the better and that they will go on to return that service. Our current programs are designed to train and inspire our Veterans through leadership and entrepreneurial speaking engagements and courses; we hold 10-week leadership development courses – our aim is to inspire Veterans to become extraordinary leaders in their home life, line of work and everywhere else. We feel that if we can help develop leaders, that in turn we can multiply our efforts, strengthen our communities and ultimately change lives for good.”

Where do you see yourself in five years?

“Our long-term vision is to have a physical Warriors Refuge where Veterans who are struggling or need inspiration can get away to. We will match them with community leaders and entrepreneurs who will inspire and mentor them in personal and professional development. We know The Warriors Refuge will exist in five years, it’s just unclear at this point what that’s going to look like. Right now, we are focused on developing leaders and entrepreneurs in our Veteran community, who in the future will help us with the “How To” part of financing, building and staffing The Warriors Refuge.”

With your full-time job and The Warriors Refuge as a passion project, what do you do for fun or as a hobby?

“The Warriors Refuge is my passion and is what fuels me. It’s how I can work an extra 10-20 hours a week, because I know that it’s what needs to be done. It’s my calling for many reasons. I find balance in my life through physical activity and my spirituality.”

How has the Tillman community changed your life or helped you do what you may not have otherwise had the chance to do?

“Being part of the Tillman Foundation is much bigger than a scholarship. That was clear to me after attending my first Pat Tillman Leadership Summit. The Pat Tillman Foundation isn’t just investing in education; they’re investing in leadership development and driving impact. The foundation isn’t doing that by telling scholars what to do, they’re giving us the tools and inspiring us to be bigger than ourselves. That message has inspired me.

 “The Tillman Foundation is helping us to understand – that our dreams must be bigger than ourselves. They are empowering scholars to believe they can solve problems and help correct injustices. Individuals selected as Tillman Scholars will go on to change the world for the better, and The Warriors Refuge will help carry that message and mission forward.”