Joshua Sparling

Sparling named Tillman Scholar; working toward law degree

Joshua Sparling
Joshua Sparling

Every day men and women in our military are called to duty and risk their lives so the people of the United States can continue to be safe and free.

Yale native Joshua Sparling is one of those men who felt the call of duty and it happened while he was pursuing a Criminal Justice degree at St. Clair County Community College.

“I am one of those people who has always loved the military. I have family members who have served in the military and I grew up in Yale and we have great respect and appreciation for what they do every single day,” Sparling said. “I felt I had a duty to the United States to serve, especially at that time.”

Sparling was a paratrooper in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne and earned the rank of corporal. While he was deployed in Ramadi, Iraq he was wounded during an ambush by an improvised explosive device, an injury that would ultimately result in the loss of his right leg below the knee.

While he recovered at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, Sparling said he wanted to continue to be a productive member of society and decided to again pursue his Criminal Justice degree and would fly home once a week to attend classes at SC4.

“At that time, my main mission was to get my Criminal Justice degree from SC4, so that’s what I did,” Sparling said. “Once I get my teeth into something and say I am going to do it, I usually do.”

He had hopes of working for the Federal Border Patrol, but due to the nature of his injury Sparling said he had to slow down and be real with himself, so he began considering other careers. Inspiration came in the form of SC4 teacher Ken Lord who he said influenced him to pursue a career in law.

“He was a Green Beret and the guy was so cool,” Sparling said. “He taught my constitutional law class and that is originally when the law bug got put in me. He was on the defense side and taught us everyone deserves their constitutional right. He opened my eyes to a different avenue.”

After finishing his Criminal Justice degree in 2009, Sparling transitioned to Ferris State University to purse a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. It was during that time he began working with Congresswoman Candace Miller as the Veteran’s Defense Coordinator. He said that position further encouraged him to pursue a law degree.

“I took the LSAT and did well,” he said. “I thought maybe law school was in the cards, and that’s why I went for it.”

Sparling said he was accepted into a few schools in Michigan but opted to attend University of Arizona’s James E. Rogers School of Law in Tucson. He has one year left and in addition to attending law school, raising his family, and working for the Attorney General’s Office for the prosecution, Sparling was selected as a Tillman Scholar.

The Tillman Foundation is named for Pat Tillman, who walked away from a multi-million dollar career in the NFL to be an Army Ranger, and lost his life in Afghanistan. The Tillman foundation was created in 2004 and supports military veterans and their spouses with academic scholarships.

“There are a few thousand people who apply and they select 60 throughout the country,” Sparling said. “I’m very surprised and cannot believe I was chosen to carry on Pat Tillman’s legacy. He made the ultimate sacrifice and being mentioned in the same breath as someone like that is a great honor.”

Sparling said he also received the St. Thomas Moore Society Judge Jon Roll Scholarship which is awarded to law students who are in good academic standing and interact with the Catholic Church in a meaningful way.

“It is not as well-known, but I’m a strong catholic guy and I’m equally as proud of this scholarship,” he said.

While law may not have been what Sparling had in mind when he began taking classes at SC4, he feels he is exactly where he is supposed to me.

“Things change and you have to move with the plans,” he said. “I think I am more suited behind a desk or in a court room anyway. I miss the action but I’m a firm believer things happen for a reason and that the path I’m on is the right one for me.”

Sparling’s Advice to current students: “Take the time to develop yourself without sacrificing your beliefs. College is like an incubator, develop your character and don’t lose it because you will never get this type of opportunity again. I’m going to law school and I’m working with the Attorney General’s office in Arizona, I have three kids and a wife and if I can do that and still make my VA appointments then anyone should be able to get their dreams accomplished.”