13th Annual Pat's Run

Tillman scholar carries on mission of service after her time in the military

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Karen Gallagher is working on her doctorate to help her fellow veterans. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Karen Gallagher is working on her doctorate to help her fellow veterans. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
She's working on her Ph.D. in the Department of Speech and Hearing Science. (Source: 3TV/CBs 5) She's working on her Ph.D. in the Department of Speech and Hearing Science. (Source: 3TV/CBs 5)
Gallagher's "Veteran Cognition and Academic Success Project" tests veteran's memory and cognitive function, especially helping those with any kind of mild traumatic brain injury. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Gallagher's "Veteran Cognition and Academic Success Project" tests veteran's memory and cognitive function, especially helping those with any kind of mild traumatic brain injury. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
The inspiration for her work stems back to when she came home from Desert Storm. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) The inspiration for her work stems back to when she came home from Desert Storm. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

A Pat Tillman quote outside Karen Gallagher's office at Arizona State University serves as a daily reminder of her mission: serving her fellow veterans.

She's working on her Ph.D. in the Department of Speech and Hearing Science.

Her research here is about finding solutions for others coming out of the military.

A Pat Tillman Foundation scholarship is helping her help others.

"To be able to continue Pat's legacy, it's an honor. One of the greatest honors of my life. In fact, if it hadn't come with a single penny of scholarship money, I would've fought very hard to earn this scholarship because of what it represents: Pat's legacy," said Gallagher. 

[SPECIAL SECTION: 13th Annual Pat's Run - April 22, 2017]

Gallagher's own story starts with grit and determination. She was a chemical specialist in the Army and wanted to go airborne.

"I'm not a big person," states Gallagher as she recalls when she first enlisted in the army. "And all I heard was, 'You can't go airborne. You're too small. The equipment's going to weigh more than you do. You can't, you can't, you can't.' It never occurred to me that I couldn't. People would say, 'How did you do it?' I didn't know I couldn't!"

Gallagher carried that motto into her personal life. As a single mother, she raised two sons, one with a disability, while waiting tables and going to graduate school.

[RELATED: Pat Tillman Scholar Jameson Lopez fulfills his destiny]

Now, as she pursues a Ph.D., Gallagher says she is determined to accomplish her mission at Arizona State University.

Gallagher's "Veteran Cognition and Academic Success Project" tests veteran's memory and cognitive function, especially helping those with any kind of mild traumatic brain injury.

"We do a lot of memory and executive function testing. A lot of it is computerized," Gallagher said.

Then, after analyzing the data, Gallagher assists veterans in connecting with services that can help them integrate into the college setting.

[RELATED: Pat Tillman Scholar Katie Newton embodies sacrifice, compassion]

The inspiration for her work stems back to when she came home from Desert Storm. Another vet from another generation moved her.

"He stood up and he embraced me and shook my hand and said, 'I want to thank you because no one ever thanked me, and I want to make sure that never happens to you.' It touched me on such a level. This man and I had nothing in common but service, separated by decades, and he reached out to me in this really meaningful way, wanting to make my path somehow better and easier than his," Gallagher said.

So now Gallagher wants to make the path easier for those coming after her.

[TILLMAN SCHOLARS: Class of 2016 (PDF file)]

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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