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Pat Tillman Foundation selects 2 student veterans as Tillman Scholars

Helen Murray in military fatigues wearing a mask and standing next to children near a table with U.S. flags hanging in the background.

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Helen Murray, a translator with II Marine Expeditionary Force and a native of Wilmette, Illinois, helps translate for Afghans during a check-in process on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, on September 6, 2021. Photo courtesy Cpl. Scott Jenkins

July 24, 2023

Two student veterans from Arizona State University have been selected as Tillman Scholars for the class of 2023, the Pat Tillman Foundation announced recently.

Air Force veteran Demon Foster and Marine Corps veteran Helen Murray will join a select group of only 60 service members, veterans and military spouses who will receive over $1.3 million in scholarship funding as part of the 15th Tillman Scholar class.

"We are incredibly proud of Demon and Helen for their extraordinary achievements," said ASU Pat Tillman Veterans Center Executive Director Shawn Banzhaf. "Their selection as Tillman Scholars is a testament to their character, commitment to service and the values ASU strives to instill in all of our students. We congratulate them on this well-deserved recognition."

Foster, who is pursuing his master’s degree in global education, has shown leadership and resilience throughout his journey, garnering recognition from peers and mentors. His dedication to serving others positions him to make a lasting impact on his community and beyond. Notably, Foster played a crucial role as the founding member and first president of Lackland Air Force Base's Airman's Voice, an organization uniting hundreds of airmen in San Antonio, Texas, for impactful volunteer initiatives.

While deployed in Iraq, Foster witnessed firsthand the harrowing consequences of war, gaining a deep understanding of the hardships endured by individuals affected by violence and trapped in severe poverty. This eye-opening experience profoundly impacted Foster, igniting a steadfast commitment to championing fairness and justice on a global scale.

“With the help of this scholarship, my education at ASU will empower me to help create supportive environments, expand educational access and provide greater opportunities to vulnerable children worldwide,” said Foster after news of his selection.

Demon Foster

Demon Foster rides a saleng with children from a school in Thailand in July 2023. Photo courtesy Demon Foster

Meanwhile, Murray, who is studying English to pursue teaching as a career, has displayed a strong dedication to service through involvement in research projects and student organizations. As the first Marine in her family, Murray immersed herself in learning a new language at the Defense Language Institute, where she tutored peers in the Afghan-Pashto course, sparking her passion for education.

“Language is the bridge that connects us,” Murray said. “It’s the healer of wounds, and the key to unlocking the potential of others.”

In 2021, Murray's language skills proved invaluable when she became a translator at the Quantico, Virginia, resettlement camp during the efforts to support incoming Afghan evacuees. Noticing the lack of English language proficiency among refugees, Murray started teaching English to teenagers, and her efforts expanded to a class of over 100 refugees.

Foster and Murray will receive financial support as Tillman Scholars, empowering them to pursue their educational aspirations at ASU. Foster's commitment to advancing educational solutions and Murray's belief in the transformative power of education and language make them exemplary representatives of the Tillman Foundation's stated mission to “unite and empower remarkable military service members, veterans and spouses as the next generation of public and private sector leaders committed to service beyond self.”

Written by A.J. Mottola

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