As he walks the campus of the University of Arizona, Iraq War veteran Dane Parker is keenly aware that he travels in the shadow of a legend.

He's one of six former troops attending the school this year on scholarships that honor Army Ranger Pat Tillman, who quit pro football to join the service after 9/11, then was killed by friendly fire in a mishap that spawned a military coverup.

Parker, 28, of Scottsdale, is part of the first crop of Tillman Military Scholars at the UA. The awards were set up a few years ago by Tillman's family.

The scholars are handpicked, in large part, for their desire to use their educations to make a difference in the world.

This year's class includes two veterans studying to become lawyers, one aiming to be a pharmacist, one pursuing a degree in psychology and another in his first year of medical school.

Some plan to work in the veterans health system after graduation, and a few, including law student Parker, are already doing so through the local Veterans Court program, which aids veterans charged with lesser crimes by diverting them to mental-health programs.

"Everyone's so consumed with the story surrounding his death," Parker said of Tillman. "This is a way to remember his life and turn his name into a legacy."

The Army initially announced that Tillman, 27, died overseas from enemy fire in April 2004. Later, it emerged he had actually been killed by colleagues.

The scholarships for active-duty and veteran military are renewable and provide varying amounts of financial aid, from several thousand to tens of thousands depending on circumstances.

The awards, which also are open to spouses and dependents of current or former troops, can be used for child care, rent, car insurance, parking and other costs not covered by GI Bill benefits.

For Glen Lacroix, a former military intelligence instructor at Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista who befriended Tillman in Afghanistan a few weeks before his death, the scholarship is about far more than money.

"To be honest, I wouldn't care if they gave me one dollar or a million dollars," said Lacroix, 37, who is studying for a psychology degree. "To me, it's just a huge honor and privilege to be able to say I'm a Pat Tillman scholar."

Lacroix said he was surprised by Tillman's humility when they met.

"All I wanted to talk about was Pat Tillman the football star. And all he wanted to talk about was being an Army Ranger," he said. "Pat was such an incredible guy, a very intellectual person. He believed in helping people."

Lacroix said he strives to model his life after Tillman's example.

At the UA, he serves as president of the student veterans club, an outfit that, among other things, raises money to help troops in need. On Friday afternoon, for example, Lacroix was busy digging through piles of donated toys to find gifts for the offspring of a student veteran with four kids and a tight budget.

Former Army Humvee mechanic Barrett Howell, 29, of Oracle, said the Tillman scholarship is helping him defray the cost of earning a medical degree. Howell plans to become a gastroenterologist and work for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Former Green Beret Kris Carlson, 40, of Tucson, is studying law, while ex-Army infantryman Martin Stahl, 39 a Colorado native, is pursuing a geography degree to map recreational trails.

Air Force reservist Will McCracken, an Idaho native who moved to Tucson in 2005 and plans to become a pharmacist, said Tillman's story inspires him "to do the best I can every day."

"To give up a football career to go serve your country, to me that's astounding," said McCracken, 26.

"It's the kind of thing that makes me want to be a better person."

On StarNet: See official biographies of Tillman Military Scholars at the University of Arizona at

Tillman Military Scholars

Spc. Barrett Howell

• Military Branch: Army

• Hometown: Oracle

• Degree sought: Doctor of Medicine

Sgt. First Class Glen Lacroix

• Military Branch: Army

• Hometown: Tucson

• Degree sought: Bachelor of Science, psychology

Staff Sgt. William McCracken

• Military Branch: Air Force

• Hometown: Tucson

• Degree sought: Doctor of Pharmacy

Corp. Dane Parker

• Military Branch: Army

• Hometown: Scottsdale

• Degree sought: Juris Doctor

Spc. Martin Stahl

• Military Branch: Army

• Hometown: Evergreen, Colorado

• Degree sought: Bachelor of Science, geography

Staff Sgt. Kris Carlson

• Military Branch: Army

• Hometown: Tucson

• Degree sought: Juris Doctor

More information

Go to www.pattillmanfoundation .org for details on scholarships and other programs in memory of Army Ranger and former Arizona Cardinals star Pat Tillman.

"This is a way to remember his life and turn his name into a legacy."

Dane Parker

Iraq War veteran and Tillman Military Scholar attending the UA

Contact reporter Carol Ann Alaimo at or at 573-4138