Veteran and student Ian Tucker

Sophomore Ian Tucker walked into Sport Clips for a free haircut and ended up with free college tuition.

The 22-year-old biology major went to Sport Clips for a haircut with his dad on Veterans Day, where he noticed a poster from the Veterans of Foreign Wars, a nonprofit organization in place to serve veterans. The poster advertised college tuition assistance with the VFW’s Sport Clips Help A Hero Scholarship. 

Tucker qualified for the free haircut as an Army veteran, and decided to see if he would qualify for free tuition as well. He wrote his 300-word essay and, to his surprise, received his scholarship offer the next day.

“I thought, ‘this has got to be fake. You’re not going to pay for all of my schooling,’” Tucker said.

Even after visiting the VFW headquarters in Kansas City, Tucker wasn’t fully convinced of the scholarship’s legitimacy until his account balance confirmed that his tuition was paid for.

Tucker enlisted in the Army after high school, signing a 3 ½-year contract. He said he always wanted to serve, and the education benefits were important to him. Tucker worked in artillery as a 13M, or a multiple launch rocket system crewmember, where he rode in the trucks and shot rockets after receiving a fire command.

Tucker wanted to attend Missouri State University after his contract ended, but could not afford to go to college. Because Tucker saved his GI Bill for medical school, he would have had to pay out of pocket for his college tuition.

“With the scholarships, I can afford it,” Tucker said. “It has taken off the huge financial burden of having to pay for school ... knowing that I have this GI bill and that I’m going to go to medical school, and that’s going to be free. So it’s just pushing me to want to do better here, so that I can get into a medical school.”

Tucker does not plan to go back to the Army, but he is a member of the Individual Ready Reserve, which means he may be called back to duty in the future. Right now, his sights are set on his education.

“He’s got that determination,” Ian Tucker’s father, Jim Tucker, said. “He’s not wasting it, he’s really putting it to good use.”

The VFW’s Sport Clips Help a Hero Scholarship gives up to $5,000 to recipients to cover college tuition and fees. The scholarship covers Tucker’s 2019 spring and fall tuition, and he plans to apply for a third time this spring.

Ian Tucker came to MSU in the spring of 2018 with 37 credits from the Army. As each semester is paid for, Tucker is one step closer to graduating.

“It was always pretty much his destiny. Since he was little he talked about it,” Jim Tucker said.

According to his father, Tucker has always had a plan and the determination to reach his goals. Ian Tucker credits the army to furthering his focus and time management skills. 

“I think it made me really grow up because you’re thrown into an environment when you’re 18, and you don’t really know where, so you just have to grow up quickly and figure out what you want to do,” Tucker said. 

Tucker is now living with his family while he finishes his education and is in the process of joining the VFW.

 “I would like to work with VFW because they’ve given a lot to me, so anything that I can do to help them, I’ll do,” Tucker said. 

Tucker also wants to be a general physician after medical school because he sees a need for more workers in the field.

“They do a lot of the grunt work with helping patients, and that’s what I want to do,” Tucker said.