"It is the greatest honor of my lifetime, without a doubt."
Katie Newton is overwhelmed by the distinction of being a Pat Tillman Scholar.
"He had everything to lose, and he was OK with that. And that is so admirable," she said of Tillman, the Arizona State University graduate and Cardinals football player who put his NFL career on hold to serve our country after 9/11.
[SPECIAL SECTION: 13th Annual Pat's Run - April 22, 2017]
Through the Pat Tillman Foundation, Newton, a Phoenix native and Xavier grad, is taking graduate classes at Arizona State University's College of Nursing.
"When I was applying for this, they ask you, how you have qualities that sort of relate to that, and it was hard for me to say anything because the amount of bravery and the amount of sacrifice that he was willing to put forth is overwhelming, and such an example of service that it's hard to put into words," Newton explained.
But many of those same qualities can be found in Newton and her husband of two years, Michael. "He's protecting soldiers overseas, and I'm looking out for families and kids here who are facing chronic illnesses," she said.
Her husband, Technical Sgt. Michael Newton is a 33-year-old explosive ordnance disposal technician.
"His job is to go out where there's [sic] land mines and bombs and defuse them, and keep the troops there, safe," Newton said.
She said her husband, a 13-year veteran of the Air Force, has been deployed four times to Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait.
"In my own eyes, he's incredible," she gushed about him. "He's a hero. He's just very brave and such a compassionate person and really has always wanted to make a difference and have value in what he's doing."
And to families dealing with the worst time in their lives, Newton is making a difference.
"I work in a challenging field. I chose oncology for a reason," she said.
At 16, Newton started volunteering at Phoenix Children's Hospital.
"I would go every Friday to hang out in the playrooms and I sort of got exposed to different areas in the hospital," she explained.
Today Newton is a pediatric oncology nurse, currently living in Texas where her husband is now based. She works with kids who have cancer.
"To most people, that's terrible. That's a horrible thing to witness," she said.
But the 29-year-old is not most people.
"I really consider it a gift to be a part of, and be able to share my knowledge and put forth what I know to support people at that time," she said.
And now her experiences have sparked a brave new mission. She wants to take care of children at the end of their lives and their families.He had everything to lose, and he was OK with that. And that is so admirable.
- Newton on Pat Tillman"I've had patients who have passed away -- a large amount," she said. "And that's sort of the drive for me to go into palliative care."
Through the Pat Tillman Foundation, Newton is pursuing her doctorate of nursing practice. She's on track to graduate in May 2018. In the meantime, she flies to Arizona two or three times a semester for instruction.
"It enables me to really go out and make a difference and make a change, and the Pat Tillman Foundation is the reason I'm able to do that," she said.
And this year, it's also a chance for the couple to witness the Pat Tillman Foundation's signature fundraiser, Pat's Run, in person.
[RELATED: 13th Annual Pat's Run at Sun Devil Stadium]
"My husband and I are both coming out for the run this year," she said. "It is the first time for both of us, so, we're very excited."
[TILLMAN SCHOLARS: Class of 2016 (PDF file)]
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