13th Annual Pat's Run

Pat Tillman Scholar Jameson Lopez fulfills his destiny

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Jameson, AKA J.D., Lopez is a Pat Tillman Scholar who is working toward his doctorate. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Jameson, AKA J.D., Lopez is a Pat Tillman Scholar who is working toward his doctorate. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
"It makes you want to be a better, it makes you want to be a greater person, to be a great return on their investment," Lopez said about being a Tillman Scholar. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) "It makes you want to be a better, it makes you want to be a greater person, to be a great return on their investment," Lopez said about being a Tillman Scholar. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Lopez joined the Army and coordinated more than 300 combat missions with Iraqi and Kurdish forces as a leader of a tank platoon. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Lopez joined the Army and coordinated more than 300 combat missions with Iraqi and Kurdish forces as a leader of a tank platoon. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

Just call him J.D.

That’s what Jameson Lopez, a hulking, former tank commander and now Arizona State University doctorate candidate insisted on being called after enduring a strong handshake followed quickly by a smile you cannot miss.

Leading a classroom filled with Native American children is what this 31-year-old Kwat’san tribe member from Ft. Yuma, California and Pat Tillman Scholar feels is his destiny.

"I live my life knowing I'm going to influence somebody, even if it’s one person, it’s worth it. But my goals are to do much more than that," Lopez said.

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

Being a role model for his people, and a call to serve is something that he believes was passed down through the generations.

"Both my grandfathers were in WWII. I had several uncles in the Korean War and then nine uncles in Vietnam. And uncles in Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan." said Lopez.

After finishing his undergraduate degree at American Indian College, he did what his ancestors had taught him. He joined the Army. Rising quickly to a First Lieutenant, he coordinated more than 300 combat missions with Iraqi and Kurdish forces as a leader of a tank platoon.

“It was an interesting and a great learning experience,"  Lopez quietly explained.

Honorably discharged in 2012, he taught school for a while, but he always had a goal to get more of his people passionate about education. So, he arrived at ASU on the GI Bill for his master's degree and is now working toward his doctorate degree. It was only possible with the financial help of the Tillman Foundation. His lofty goals are something his mom is proud of.

"She grew up very poor in a one bedroom mud house. Literally, dirt poor,” explained Lopez. “She didn't have much. Sometimes one dress, no shoes."

"At 12 years old, there was a group of native students who came to our reservation and told my mom, 'Despite all that's happened, you can make it. You can go to college. You can make something of yourself.' My mom believed them and at that point, she made a decision that kind of changed the legacy of our family," Lopez added.

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

And what does it feel like to be a Pat Tillman Scholar?

"It makes you want to be a better, it makes you want to be a greater person, to be a great return on their investment. And I think that what I think the foundation sees as Tillman scholars. That we are going to go back in our communities and make an enormous difference and make a major impact," Lopez replied.

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

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


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