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Mom goes back to college to fulfill last vows to husband killed in Iraq war

Tiffany Eckert may be America’s most unlikely sorority sister.

The 41-year-old mother may be older than her compatriots in the Sigma Kappa sorority house at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, but she still feels right at home.

Eckert’s husband, Andy Eckert, died in the Iraq War. His son is Miles went viral in 2014 An airman he saw at the restaurant when he handed over a $20 bill in a Cracker Barrel parking lot. Her tribute touched the nation, but it’s not the family’s only emotional story.

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Andy Eckert.

Steve Hartman / On the Road

It is because of her husband that Eckert is in this sorority house, she said.

“Just a few hours before my husband was killed, he called home from Iraq and he said that no matter how long it takes, I have to learn a lesson,” Eckert said. “He promised me I would. And then he told me ‘I love you more than anything in this world – I’ll call you tomorrow’.”

That call never came, and Eckert’s promise he made to her was over. Until recently, it was the only one he didn’t keep.

Eckert said she barely made it through high school and was busy raising the couple’s three children. But those kids grew up, and three years ago, she decided to enroll and immerse herself in the college experience.

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Tiffany Eckert sings at a sorority karaoke night.

Steve Hartman / On the Road

“You can’t focus on the negative, because you’ll always be in the hole,” Eckert said. “It’s easy to claw your way out when you’re reaching for sunlight. That’s how you get out of the hole.”

Eckert’s story inspired her fellow sisters.

“She’s helped me a lot and she’s inspired me a lot and I know she’s inspired a lot of other girls in the chapter,” one Sigma Kappa sister told CBS News.

As she approaches her graduation this spring, Eckert hopes her story reaches the people who matter most.

“I go back to that last phone call, and I think he was really proud of me,” she said.

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