Giving thanks: veterans at Stanford reflect on Pat Tillman's legacy

November is a month of giving thanks, and this year, three students at Stanford University's Graduate School of Business said they are grateful to Bay Area Army Ranger Pat Tillman 

The three graduate students, Syed Faraz, Mike Arth, and Kyle Kennedy, are connected not just by their classes and books, but also by a bond of brotherhood. All three have served in the military and are veterans who come from very different paths in life.

Mike Arth flew for Air Force Special Operations Command for 11 years and comes from a military family.

"I grew up in the Air Force, lived in 19 states now," said Arth, "My dad started serving before my granddad had stopped. And I started serving before my dad had stopped. So we've really, since 1952, been a member of the Air Force as a family. So that brings us a lot of pride."

Kyle Kennedy is from the Midwest, growing up in Kentucky before joining the Navy.

"I learned about the SEAL teams when I was in high school. I was very excited about the possibility of leaving home and serving my country in a special operations unit," said Kennedy, "Enlisted in 2006 and served for 16 years."

Syed Faraz's family had a different history that led him to become an Air Force pilot with more than 630 combat hours. He is one of the nation's highest-flying aviators of Muslim heritage.

"I come from an immigrant family. We moved to the U.S. when I was 12. I think about the sacrifices that my parents gave so I could be here and serve this country and this republic," said Syed.

The three men from different backgrounds are united by their military service. They also belong to another elite group.

"To be here is an incredible blessing. And I wouldn't be here were it not for the G.I. bill and the Tillman Foundation," said Syed.

All three are Tillman Scholars, a highly-selective honor which comes with scholarships from the Pat Tillman Foundation, in memory of the Bay Area native.

"It was Pat's birthday just a few days ago. And I think it's fair to say all military folks have known the Pat story for a long time," said Syed.

The Tillman Foundation has a tribute on its website with a page explaining Pat Tillman's story. 

Tillman was born Nov. 6, 1976 in San Jose and grew up to become a football player in the NFL. 

After the 9/11 attacks, he walked away from his NFL career to join the Army with his brother. As Army Rangers, they served in Iraq and Afghanistan, where Pat was accidentally shot during an ambush.

"I think there's a set of core values that Pat Tillman  lived by that is aspirational. And the core values of the Pat Tillman Foundation are the core values of Pat himself and I try to embody that every day," said Kennedy.

The Tillman Foundation's website features those core values of service, scholarship, humble leadership, and impact. 

Kennedy says those ideals touched him to his core, and serve as inspiration for many people transitioning from military service.

"I think among the military community, there's a tendency to discuss service as something that happened in the past," said Kennedy, "When I was transitioning out of the Navy, I too, kind of fell into that line of thinking where, I wasn't sure what I was going to do and lost that sense of purpose and meaning that was implicit in military service."

The Tillman Foundation aims to open new paths forward for service members and their families.

"I believe that Pat thought  that his best years of service were always in front of him," said Kennedy.

"That's why the Pat Tillman Foundation is so important, to bring veterans together and give them an opportunity to continue serving our communities," said Arth.  

Jana Katsuyama is a reporter for KTVU.  Email Jana at and follow her on Twitter @JanaKTVU or Facebook @NewsJana or