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PTF has awarded over $4.4 million since its inception seven years ago, $2.2 million going to the Tillman Military Scholars.

Lacroix was a good candidate.

He spent 13 years in the Army, including nine working human intelligence for Special Operations, followed by three more years in civil service intelligence.

Lacroix saw action in some of the most dangerous places in the world, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia and Kosovo, and spent part of his time as a sniper in war zones. He took shrapnel in Iraq and was shot twice in Afghanistan, including April 22, 2004 _ the same day Tillman was killed just 30 miles away. Lacroix also was part of the team that helped rescue Pfc. Jessica Lynch from an Iraqi hospital, a large detail that included Tillman.

Upon returning to school in 2009, four years after receiving a medical discharge, he had a hard time adjusting to campus life, unable to comprehend how the students couldn’t follow the simplest of instructions or why the young woman in front of him was crying because she missed her cat while he still had bone fragments of his buddy lodged in his arm.

Ready to walk away, Lacroix instead wandered into the university’s Veterans Education and Transition Services, which had opened the semester before.

It was a move that may have saved his life.

“Honestly, the first day I walked in here, if someone would have said no to me or it’s going to have to wait, I wouldn’t be here,” he said. “I’d be in a gutter somewhere drinking away my disability every month.”

Taking advantage of his scholarship through the PTF, Lacroix helped the VETS center expand, working as the student director in a place where former military _ from Vietnam War veterans to reservists who never saw action _ could go to be away from the regular student population, among people like themselves.

An office that saw five veterans a day when it first opened, the VETS center now has 150 or so students filter through daily.

Lacroix plans to keep working at the VETS center while at UA, but has a bigger goal in mind: a former physical therapist aide, he’d like to work at a place where injured soldiers can have their physical and mental wounds healed at the same.

“Every time I got injured, it was always they’d treat body and they’d treat mind, but they’d never treat them both together,” said Lacroix, who’s majoring in psychology and plans to get his doctorate in physical therapy. “Your injuries come as a whole, so your treatment needs to come as a whole _ and that’s what I want to do.”

___

The day before last year’s New York City Marathon, members of Team Tillman had already had some memorable moments, visiting a firehouse and also NFL headquarters, where they saw Commissioner Roger Goodell’s office and a tribute to Tillman by the door.

What came next had them ready to run 100 miles, not 26.

Story Continues →