Medical issue, Tillman Military Scholarship helps man chase his late twin brother's first choice

Ed Woodward studying to go to medical school

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The morning flag ceremony is a tradition for students and parents at St. Pete's Canterbury School.

Ed Woodward,37,  brings his five-year old son, Tylor, every morning.

"Its teaching them at a young age to be in front of people, to be proud of their uniqueness, and the unique things that they did," said Tylor's mom Manda Woodward.

The gathering is a lesson about the importance of character, a lesson the Woodward family has learned together.

"I have always been so proud of what he's accomplished," said Manda Woodward.

Ed Woodward is a Tillman Military Scholar, one of only two at the University of South Florida, and among a handful nationwide.  The scholars are former and current military honored each year by the Tillman Foundation for extraordinary leadership and service.

"Its just been a great blessing to our family to be able to have their support," said Ed's wife.

Getting here hasn't been easy.  In fact, many may have given up long before now.

"I got an opportunity to go into the Air Force and fly, so I jumped at that chance," explained Ed Woodward.

Woodward will tell you he always felt called to serve.  His identical twin brother, Gene, dreamed of being a doctor, but he wanted to be a pilot.

Only one of them would carry out those dreams.

"We were hit by a drunk driver," said Woodward.

"I was trying to pull him out, but some spark or something ... Gas was everywhere, you know, because it ruptured the back end of the truck, so it ended (standing) up.  It basically exploded in my face. Somebody, a bystander, grabbed me and pulled me on the other side of the wall," he recounted. 

Gene would never start his second year of USF Medical School.

But his brother was commissioned into the United States Air Force, flying refueling tankers.  His heart was set on being a F-15C fighter pilot, so he kept on.

"I really thought I was going to be a good fighter pilot after I graduated," he said.

A home video shows his first full-stop landing. Its also one of the last flights Woodward would ever pilot.

"I had a sense that there was something wrong," he said.

There was.

"When it happened, I had a massive seizure and lost consciousness and effective aphasia, so I couldn't speak.  Well, I could speak, but it would come out in numbers and things like that," said Woodward.

Woodward suffered a bleeding stroke caused by a blood clot in his brain, likely brought on from the G-force of flying.

"I remember trying to talk, but nobody was understanding what I was saying," he said.

His Air Force career slipped away during a year of speech therapy, but Woodward's drive grew stronger with the simple advice of his grandfather.

"He just looked at me and was like, 'Why don't you just go finish?' what Gene started" he said.

The Tillman Military Scholarship helps Woodward support his family while he studies in a USF Master's program. His tribute to his brother will be to score high on the MCAT or Medical College Admission Test.

"He got a 32, so I need to get a 33," he said with a grin.

His son has already caught on to these character lessons:  leadership, service and never giving-up, even when fulfilling your calling isn't easy.

"Even now, when you ask Tyler what does Daddy do? And he'll go through, well he was a pilot, and he flew jets, and now he's going to be a doctor," said Manda Woodward.

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