NEW JERSEY (WTXF) - Today was a day was about celebrating a local veteran who was honored to win a prestigious scholarship named for the late Pat Tillman.
Winning the scholarship to pay for nursing school was the reason Laura Tolver was being celebrated at Rutgers-Camden. But speaking to Laura made it clear that her military service and desire to continue to serve as a nurse was even more impressive because of her own personal struggles.
She shared that her life changed when she came home on leave hoping to surprise her family.
“I was gonna surprise my family for Easter because I hadn’t been home for a while. My aunt kinda had a surprise for me, it was that my father had been hospitalized he had fallen ill."
Laura’s mother passed away when she was just a teen, a grandmother she was close to followed. So coming home to her father’s illness was as devastating as it would be to any of us but in his case it left her with serious new responsibilities.
“Inevitably, he suffered an anoxic brain injury. I took custody of him because he’s my dad.”
Maybe that’s what we’re supposed to do but Laura chose to do it. She was honorably discharged from the marines and moved back so she could care for her father. That along with her experiences with her mom drove her to want to be a nurse.
“So many nurses who would ask me how I was doing or notice my hair changed and that mattered because they valued me just as much as I valued the care they were giving my parents…I wanted to be part of that experience for someone else, I wanted to be there for someone else.”
Knowing Laura’s story helped better understand the emotion of the day as she broke into tears trying to explain how much honoring her parents and serving her community meant to her.
“For those who planted seeds in my life and were not able to be here, my mother, my father, my grandmother (crying) ….I’m sorry.”
It also gave one more reason to celebrate someone who before their 30th birthday with what felt like a lifetime of service and struggle remains unbroken and committed to helping others for goodness sake.