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 learn more about former Marine and the 2012 NFL Tillman Scholar Emily Thompson-Schelberg who graduated with a Nursing degree from Johns Hopkins University in 2015 and is currently working in Sports Medicine and Orthopedics. Emily comes from a long line of family members who have served and continue to serve their communities with aspirations of continuing to do the same herself.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO JOIN THE MARINE CORPS?
“I knew I wanted to join the military pretty early on as I was interested already in high school. My great uncle was the Deputy Fire Commissioner of New York City and was the oldest firefighter (age 71) killed in the attacks on September 11. After his death, when I was in school I knew I wanted to serve but didn’t know exactly how so I was in the Naval Academy for a short period of time before joining the Marine Corps as I really wanted to serve in the war.”
HAVING BEEN IN HIGH SCHOOL WHEN 9/11 HAPPENED, EACH DAY ON THE ANNIVERSARY, WHAT DO YOU DO TO REMEMBER YOUR UNCLE AND HOW DO YOU LOOK AT IT DIFFERENTLY NOW THAN IN THE PAST?
“We get together as a family and sometimes go to the memorial or the cemetery, but we also celebrate my grandfather who served in WWII and passed away on September 10. We take the day and celebrate by my uncle and grandfather’s lives and what they did for this country.”
HOW LONG WAS YOUR TIME IN THE MILITARY AND HOW DID YOU SERVE?
“I joined in 2005 as a reservist and served until 2013, deploying to Iraq from 2006-2007. I was trained to be a combat correspondent, but deployed with Golf Battery 3/14 and worked as convoy security as a turret gunner on a 7 –ton vehicle. I also went to the Marine Corps Officer Candidate School in the summer of 2008 and 2010. I graduated and was planning on a commission but had a choice of becoming an officer in the Marine Corps or attending Johns Hopkins University. Because of the Tillman Scholarship I was able to afford to attend school at which point I declined my commission. It was a very tough decision not to continue my military career as my husband is also a Marine, and my separating from the service came down to making a decision that would work best for both of us and our future together.”
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE A CAREER IN NURSING?
“When I was deployed I traveled to various detention facilities working as convoy security. When I was in Ramadi, I had the opportunity to hang out with Navy Corpsmen that were taking care of detainees while I was waiting for the next convoy. Watching them do what they do was very inspiring. They went out on a trip to the Tigris-Euphrates River and were helping a local population and providing as much medical care as they could – ultimately inspiring me to pursue the medical field route.”
HAVING GRADUATED JUST OVER ONE YEAR AGO AND WORKING IN SPORTS MEDICINE AND ORTHOPEDICS, WHAT IS IT LIKE FOR YOU TO KNOW YOU ARE DIRECTLY IMPACTING LIVES OF PEOPLE EVERY DAY?
“It’s great and sometimes I feel guilty about how much I have. I can’t count on my hands the number of times throughout a week where my husband and I realize how lucky and thankful we are and we have no need to stress. Becoming a Nurse Practitioner is something I could not have imagined without being a Tillman Scholar. I’m always looking for ways to serve. In addition to working in sports medicine, I’m also a nutrition counselor and fitness coach at a local gym. Even when you achieve the things you want to achieve you always strive to do more, which is something I feel I learned from my time in Marine Corps, and from my family.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN THE COMMUNITY TO CONTINUE SERVICE OUTSIDE OF THE UNIFORM?
“Working in the medical field you’re in a position where your phone is going to ring whether you’re on the job or not, and I always feel that it’s my duty to be available and to help if called upon. I’m still trying to find ways to give back to the military though it’s not always easy. A big part of my day is providing care to many veterans. I work in the Annapolis area which has a very large active duty and veteran population.”
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO BE A TILLMAN SCHOLAR?
“To be a Tillman Scholar and be a representative in the community has changed my life. To be able to represent an organization that makes such huge changes in veterans’ lives it’s definitely a point of pride. From a civilian stand point they can identify Tillman Scholars as someone they can trust and know they have a profound sense of duty and can contribute to their community. Quite frankly I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for the Tillman Scholarship.”
WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME?
“I’m very involved in the CrossFit community and serve as a coach and nutrition counselor. Recently I was on Facebook and saw that a former coach posted an ad about a bobsledding and skeleton team which got my attention. I checked it out and the USA Bobsled and Skeleton Team was advertising for a combine that they hold yearly. I ended up getting invited to the week-long camp after my performance at the combine and had the opportunity to represent the veteran community. I’ll be going to the drive school this month and the hope is that I could be part of the World Class Athlete program through the National Guard and compete on a national scale, showing people what veterans are capable of doing after serving.”
HOW ARE YOU STILL ACTIVELY INVOLVED IN THE VETERAN SPACE?
“Obviously my husband is still involved as a current Marine Reservist, and my brother-in-law and several members of my extended family are all veterans. I have at least two or three veterans that come through my clinic daily for sports medicine and orthopedic care. After service, a lot of veterans have arthritis, back pain are amputees, or continue to compete athletically, so I’m very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with them. I’m able to share stories with them and we get to talk about their service.”
WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN FIVE YEARS FROM NOW?
“I would love to be back in the service representing the US on the American Skeleton or Bobsled team. Representing our country on a national level to show what veterans can do would be awesome! I really would like to find a way to get more involved with the Naval Academy which is really close to where I work now. I’d like to find ways to have more access to veterans rather than just through my family members or my job.
THROUGH YOUR EXPERIENCES, WHAT IS SOMETHING IN YOUR LIFE THAT HAS REALLY DEFINED AND INFLUENCED YOU?
“I don’t think there’s just one thing. I think the beauty of it is finding goals which act like stepping stones, motivating you along the way. Once you reach one goal, you find something else that motivates you. The biggest influence I can remember would be my husband encouraging me to join the Marine Corps and fulfill my goal of being part of the war – that was the biggest step. He’s always been the one to keep me moving forward.”
HOW HAS YOUR FAMILY INFLUENCED YOUR PASSION TO SERVE AND MOLDED YOU INTO THE PERSON YOU ARE TODAY?
“I was brought up by family members who believed in serving their communities. I have two cousins who are on the New York City Fire Department, my brother serves as a volunteer fireman, my father is a volunteer fireman, and my cousin works as a paramedic for the New York City Fire Department. My mother is a Nurse and my grandfather and all four of my uncles were all volunteer firemen. My grandfather, two uncles, my cousin, and great-grandfather also served in the military. It’s who we are and how we live our lives. Service is what defines us as a family.”