GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A United States Army veteran in Grand Rapids is being recognized for her service in the community by the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

She’s a student veteran advocate who is motivated by her work despite a scary diagnosis with no cure.

“What keeps me motivated is definitely my students. I love being around veterans. I love being around my students,” Jill Hinton Wolfe said.

Wolfe is the first military and veterans resource manager at Grand Valley State University. She’s been committed to the job for the last two years.

“It’s not easy coming back to school after service. It’s just a whole different mindset and when they do it successfully it’s so inspiring to watch,” she said.

Wolfe joined the Army at 19 and served three years of active duty.

“I really did want to go on an adventure and do something meaningful and purposeful with my life,” she said.

After military service, her purpose led her to become a wife, mother and business owner. Soon, the vision she had for the future slowly began to fade.

She was diagnosed with a rare genetic eye disease called retinitis pigmentosa during a routine ophthalmologist appointment in 2017.

“Right now, most of my peripheral vision is gone. I have about 12 to 15 degrees of central vision. I will probably lose most of that in the next 10 to 15 years,” she said. “The way I describe it is if your retina is a giant jumbotron. If one or two lights go out you can still see the picture pretty well but as time goes on more and more lights go out and it’s harder and harder to see.”

Wolfe added the diagnosis was difficult to cope with as she continued to learn more about the disease though she quickly shifted her mindset to make the most of what vision she had left.

“Over time, I came to realize that there were two ways I could react to this, and I saw a lot of people online who have my same condition and they were saying my life was over. There’s nothing for me to do or be purposeful in this world and I’m just going to waste away, and I just thought that’s not helpful. That’s not going to be how I react to it,” she said.

Wolfe is able to continue serving because of her leader dog, Hannah, who helps her navigate through life.

“Being able to have a dog that’s by my side whether we are flying on an airplane or eating at a restaurant or going hiking, it just allows me to continue to be out there in the world,” she said.

She said it was an honor to serve her country and it’s an even greater privilege to do it for her own community.

“What’s really meaningful for a lot of us especially post 9/11 veterans is to continue to be able to serve and give back. Whether that’s touring at your kids school or doing what I do which is helping student veterans get their degree and become successful, it’s just something that’s a need for us and something that we are still driven to do,” Wolfe said.

To learn more about the VFW’s national still serving campaign, click here.