2 Law Students Named Tillman Scholars
Two UA law students and Army veterans, Angela Menard and Joshua Sparling, have been named Tillman Scholars by the Pat Tillman Foundation.
A Tucson native who served as a U.S. Army medical laboratory specialist and combat medic plus a father of three who comes from a family of veterans — both of them University of Arizona law students — have been named Tillman Scholars at the University of Arizona.
The Pat Tillman Foundation has named Angela Menard and Joshua Sparling members of its new class of scholars, bringing the UA's total number of Tillman Scholars to 20, said Cody Nicholls, the UA's assistant dean for veterans education and transition services.
The highly prestigious scholarships are available for military veterans, active-duty service members and current military spouses "who show strength in character, academic excellence and incredible potential," according to the foundation. Tillman played football for Arizona State University and the Arizona Cardinals before enlisting in the Army and losing his life in 2004 while serving in Afghanistan.
Menard, an incoming third-year student in the UA's James E. Rogers College of Law, is being funded for one year. Sparling, who is entering his second year in the law school this fall, is being funded for a two-year period.
Raised in Tucson with modest means, it was during her later high school years that Menard began to imagine her future. She said that even though she was a high-achieving student with strong grades in addition to athletic participation — she played basketball and volleyball in high school — she could not envision her future.
But during recruitment meetings with other women who were serving in various branches of the military, she began to see herself in them.
"I saw these women, and they were so strong and patriotic. It seemed like they could overcome anything. I didn't have a lot of positive role models growing up, and when I saw them, I thought, 'I would like to be like that,'" Menard said. "I saw an Army soldier, and that's what I wanted to be."
Menard went on to serve as a medical laboratory specialist and medic in the 2nd Armored Division (forward) and was stationed in Germany. She also was deployed during the Gulf War, which began in 1990, serving as a combat medic.
Among her numerous awards, Menard received the Army Commendation Medal in 1991 and 1992, and the Soldier of the Year award in 1992 from the 2nd Army Field Hospital in Germany.
"I loved being in the Army," she said. "It made me confident and made me feel that I could do anything."
Menard left after four years of service. She worked at the UA in the Office of Real Estate Administration, ultimately deciding to return to an earlier desire: to study at the University. Menard arrived with a motivation to serve veterans who are ignored and forgotten, and others who are denied benefits.
"The degree has more to do with advocating for people and helping others to achieve their goals," she said.
In addition to her legal studies, Menard works with Kristine A. Huskey, an associate clinical professor and director of the Veterans' Advocacy Law Clinic, which was launched by UA student veterans. Menard's goal, and the goal of her collaborators at the clinic, is to expand support for veterans.
Menard specifically wants to work with veterans who have received a less-than-honorable discharge, institutionalizing support for that population, which has gone underserved.
"What is meaningful for me is advocating for veterans who are not getting the benefits they deserve after serving our country so honorably," Menard said. "It's a nationwide problem. Veterans are in the criminal justice system who have combat-related illnesses, like PTSD and brain injuries and other issues, that have not been addressed because they do not have benefits."
This summer, she is working with the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center, supporting veterans who have been denied benefits and those who have mental illnesses or do not have stable housing.
Ultimately, Menard intends to work as a staff attorney and also launch a nonprofit organization to continue advocating for veterans after she graduates from law school. She said she hopes to use her law degree to help others, particularly those who have served.
"I'm so proud to be a Tillman Scholar," she said. "I'm proud to represent the foundation, myself, the College of Law and the University of Arizona."
Sparling comes from a family of military personnel. The Michigan native's grandfather, father, sister and brother committed to service in the Army.
Sparling's commitment to military service extends beyond the family tradition. For him, military service is not a duty but a privilege.
"This correlates with why I want to be an attorney," Sparling said.
"It is a privilege to be able to stand up for the rights we are entitled to have. It's the people on the front lines, people in the military, who give others, like lawyers, the ability to defend the rights of others, or to prosecute those who break the rules," he said. "It is the military that defends the liberties we enjoy."
Originally, Sparling was on track to pursue higher education, but he switched his focus after 9/11. He went on to serve with the 82nd Airborne Division as an Army paratrooper.
In 2005, during a duty tour in Ramadi, a city in central Iraq, Sparling was critically injured after an improvised explosive device set off. The explosion resulted in the loss of his leg, among other significant injuries. The injuries led to his retirement from service in 2008.
"I saw firsthand what you have to give up," he said. "I have friends who were on their ninth, 10th, 11th tour. They don't get to watch their kids grow up. Their wives are home alone.
"I wouldn't disparage anyone who is serving, especially in a time of war. And if we don't take care of veterans when they come back, who is going to want to take on this job?"
Sparling, frustrated by his injuries, also turned to sports. He trained in mixed martial arts, participated in Pat's Run through the Tillman Foundation and other races, and also climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with other veterans. He is gearing up for a Grand Canyon hike in the fall.
Eventually, Sparling found another way to commit to service, by pursuing academic degrees.
Having earned a criminal justice degree in 2012 from Ferris State University, he is now pursuing his law degree at the UA. This summer, he is serving as an intern in Tucson for the Arizona attorney general. He plans to one day serve as an attorney, helping veterans by representing them in court and also working on policy issues at the national level.
Sparling, a first-generation college student, said the Tillman Scholarship will help him along the way.
"Pat Tillman was obviously someone to look up to," Sparling said. "And the Tillman Foundation is a community of people who want to help each other and make the nation a better place. It fills in all the dots. At the end of the day, that's where I want to be. I want to be a role model for my children and leave the world a better place for them.”
Sparling credits his family for his successes — especially the support of his wife, Laura.
"She did the unthinkable," Sparling said. "She stayed with me through my injuries, and then she agreed to marry me. She then gave me three kids and picked up her entire life to move 2,300 miles away from her family to pursue what I want to do here — and when we didn't have to.
"She has supported me through it all."
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