While serving in the Air Force, Sgt. Lamar Valentina was diagnosed with a rare cancer.
“Renal medullary carcinoma… it affects the kidney, so I’ve had my kidney removed," he said.
For years, he's been receiving different kinds of treatment including chemotherapy, but he asked doctors to rearrange those plans so he could attend graduation festivities in Tempe this weekend.
"I said, 'Hey this is important can I just push some appointments back?'" he said.
Valentina started taking classes through ASU Online back in 2017 and will be graduating with a degree in organizational leadership.
He told ABC15 hearing about Pat Tillman's sacrifice made him want to be a part of that tradition.
"You have someone that turns down millions of dollars to serve their country...being able to share the same university that he was at, I think it's a legacy I wanted to be a part of," Valentina said.
Valentina was previously stationed at Luke Air Force Base and is currently serving as a recruiter in New York.
After dealing with the cancer treatments and the pandemic, he said it was important to get come to Tempe for graduation.
He was one of more than a hundred student veterans attending a stole ceremony on Saturday.
"To be here and see other veterans that worked hard and sacrificed and readily dedicated themselves to a degree and how they’re achieving it. It’s something you can’t put into words," he said.
It's unclear how many more treatments he has left but he's optimistic.
"I went through about 25 rounds of chemotherapy, I still have some more chemo, more possible radiation ahead of me but I’ve seen some great strides in progress in my treatment, for the cancer has shrunk," Valentina said.
He plans on retiring from the military and pursuing a career using his degree.