Success After Service: Paying It Forward

National Volunteer Week

You might be surprised to know that veterans make up 35 percent of Hire Heroes USA’s pool of active volunteers. It’s a remarkable number, especially since veterans comprise only about six percent of the U.S. population. If you drill a bit deeper into the stats on our amazing team of 750 volunteers, you will also find that – of the 266 who did serve in the military – only a tiny fraction of them are also alumni of our employment services.

Nikki Foster is no stranger to being part of an elite squad. For her, volunteering was a natural extension of her military service.

During an almost 15-year career in the US Air Force, she served mainly as an instructor pilot for the McDonnell Douglas KC-10 Extender, a military version of the civilian DC-10 that was configured mainly to conduct aerial refueling missions. It also had the ability to haul several tons of military cargo and transport personnel on those very same missions.  

Today, Nikki is in the Junior Officer Leadership Program (JOLP) at GE Aviation, where she’s working in the Commercial Engine Operations and Services Business for General Electric Engines. Her contract, right now, is with Delta Airlines to service their fleet of Boeing 777s, and her experience flying those big KC-10s provides her a distinct advantage in the role.

“When Delta tells me about their problems, or issues they’ve had, I can empathize with my customer, because I operated large, heavy aircraft in combat and globally,” she says. “I’ve done missions that have taken me from New Jersey directly to Guam, and then to air refueling inflight – and others that have taken me from California directly to the Middle East with air refueling inflight. I think very few people in the engineering world can relate to the customer that way.”

She adds, “Coming in as a mid-career professional and having been an Air Force pilot – there’s a different value that I bring to the company with my background. I think GE sees that. That’s why they hire good people and there are others in the program like me.”

From Client to Volunteer

When Nikki first registered for Hire Heroes USA services, she was getting ready to attend the Service Academy Career Conferences, an exclusive resource for graduates of the nation’s service academies, and needed assistance with resumes and interview preparation. It was about a year later, before starting her job at GE, that she began thinking about the nonprofit again, asking herself, “I wonder if there’s more that I can do?” Her answer was yes.

She now assists fellow veterans – both men and women, enlisted and officers – providing insight and advice on career paths, and helping some find the right market for themselves. “You’ll see folks be a little bit more uncertain and needing this coaching more, because there’s less of a safety net when they leave the military.”

The best part of volunteering?

“I can give back. I miss that part of my service because, when you transition from being a Major and being responsible for over 160 airmen, to being in a cubicle and being responsible for just yourself, there’s a bit of a gap, personally. So, for me, it kind of fulfilled a need to mentor and give back – so we both benefit.”

Changing Mindsets

It is through her role in the Hire pillar of GE’s Veterans Network that she assists even more, by informing Hire Heroes USA’s Employment Opportunities team about career events GE is holding in the community. Just last year, that resulted in the hire of a Marine Corps Aviation Mechanic, who is now an additive field service engineer.

Nikki Foster GE IMG_0505“To me, this is also a way for me to learn and build my skill set. When I left the service, I was really focused on flying airplanes and managing operations,” she says. “Now, I’m in the civilian sector, and one of the ways Hire Heroes USA is still helping me is that I’m building HR skills I didn’t have before. I know how to read a resume now and say, ‘You need to go to Hire Heroes USA and have them fix it.” Alternately, it can also mean helping a job candidate refocus on a different aspect of their experience – or, even, to stop underselling their value to an employer. “Those things are more of a nuance,” she notes, “but those are skills that I’m acquiring that the nonprofit is helping me with as a coach.”

Nikki shares that, long ago, she was given the advice that –  if you’re working with a nonprofit – you can really add value to the hiring circuit. She believes she is already doing that – by working to broaden mindsets at GE. “I try to get them to see it from a ‘What are we trying to do here? What are our goals?” More specifically, she thinks more attention needs to be focused on the former enlisted personnel who are getting hired.

“What do you do about that enlisted person? A lot of them are doing the work. Our plant in Durham, North Carolina, is nearly 50 percent veterans.” She says that’s because a lot of them are from the enlisted ranks in the military and the plant is non-union, so they hire each other. “They work together as a symbiotic relationship. They help each other out. It’s fascinating to see and they hire all the time. We just need to tell those stories more.”    

The Challenge

An hour-long conversation with Nikki can provide a fascinating journey through a wide range of topics, each of them able to yield a lengthy and thoughtful discussion on their own, like: why veterans shouldn’t limit their scope to just federal employment; what it will take to get more girls into STEM and more women into engineering; her work as an Admissions Liaison Officer; what it was like to deploy to Afghanistan with a toddler at home; and, why she’s now running for public office in Ohio.

Throughout it all, we kept coming back to the same thing, namely what veterans can do for their fellow veterans.

“It’s the nature of paying it forward,” she says, “and I’ve said it to others who use Hire Heroes USA’s services, too: ‘Hey, are you going to step up and help the next guy out? We see the challenge. I’m glad you’re good, but are you taking care of your brothers behind you?’”

She concluded with this: “I would challenge every veteran that when they’re situated and settled – they should give back. This is your calling. What are you waiting for?”


Written by:

Kathleen Saal, Hire Heroes USA Marketing & Communications Manager

National Volunteer Week: Meet Brad Tieszen

 “What is the essence of life? To serve others and do good.”


Since time immemorial, the value and goodness of doing something for others – volunteering – has endured, and a chorus of voices – to include ancient philosophers, poet-playwrights, activists, and statesmen – has extolled not only the virtues of selfless service but those who volunteer, as well.

As a national nonprofit with a worldwide reach, Hire Heroes USA has a team of active volunteers that is now 750-strong. They represent a wide variety of industries and professions, including recruiters and human resources managers, and they range from individuals in entry-level jobs to executives who work in C-level suites. Last year alone, they compiled 3,425 service hours. While most of them share their talents and experience based on very specific needs and requests, there are others who assist our organization every single week.        

Brad Tieszen is one of them.

He has worked in the health care industry his entire career, specifically in clinics, and he currently spends his workdays as a Vice President of Operations, overseeing multiple specialty practices and working closely with providers, leaders and co-workers at Parkview Physicians Group in Fort Wayne, Indiana. “It starts with taking care of your people,” he says matter-of-factly.  “My mantra and my philosophy is:  If you take care of your co-workers, they are going to take care of their customers and – in my case – that has always been patients.”

He quickly adds, “The main reason I’ve always been in the health care industry – it’s an amazing way to help others. I love the feeling of being around people and making a difference.”   

Seeking a Sense of Fulfillment

Brad and Dana in Buffalo 2017About a year ago, Brad went to the Hire Heroes USA website, mainly because he was curious but also hopeful that there would be something he could do. The visit wasn’t random. He knew of our nonprofit because of his uber-sized passion for mixed martial arts and the support Hire Heroes USA has received from the MMA community, fighters like Ryan Bader and Brian Stann, and even the world’s top promoter of the sport – the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

Brad also has an uber-sized passion for those who serve and have served in America’s armed forces. He describes his motivation this way: “I feel I’ve been put on this earth to make a positive difference in somebody’s life and help,” adding, “I really wanted to volunteer and just have that sense of fulfillment. I just feel like it was aligned.” 

As he remembers, he heard from our volunteer program quickly. “The next thing I know, I was asked to be an Outreach Volunteer. The rest is history.”

Outreach Volunteers help Hire Heroes USA expand its capacity. With our nonprofit’s high-touch, one-on-one service delivery model and hundreds of new registrants every week, these volunteers allow us the ability to touch base with clients more often and find out any number of things, including:  where they are in their job search; whether they need additional services or assistance, like mock interviews or federal sector guidance; if they’ve finally separated from the military and are now unemployed; or, even, if they’ve gone back to school.

“The best part is when they tell me they got a job,” Brad stresses, adding he hears that news at least twice a week. He calls 15-to-20 clients every week and reports any updates back to Hire Heroes USA before the weekend. All counted, it averages to no more than an hour of his time to complete. “I love it! I take this volunteer job as serious as I do my job as a health care leader, who is responsible for hundreds of co-workers. I just love it!”

Brad notes his favorite part of any call to a military member or veteran is something that is very personal to him: “I always thank them and say, ‘I volunteer because of you.’” 

Making a Difference

You could say that the whole concept of giving back and helping others has been part of Brad’s DNA since he was a young boy, growing up in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. His parents are a big part of his story.

“We always had foster kids in our house!” he remembers fondly, noting that his mom and dad were very involved in church and the community. There were 25 foster children in all, including infants and toddlers. They would typically stay between two weeks and three months. There was one, though, that stayed longer – over a year – and, in 1991, she was adopted, becoming a little sister to Brad and his two older siblings. 

Whether he was delivering newspapers in 4th grade or working as a camp counselor, a car wash attendant, or a bank teller, Brad’s focus was always on customer service and helping others. By high school, he was shuffling medical x-rays and, later, medical records at an orthopedic clinic. He was also an unpaid intern at Sanford Heath, while serving tables at a restaurant at night for income. For a time in South Dakota, he also mentored young men at church, helped provide meals for families in need, and was involved in Big Brothers Big Sisters.

As a volunteer today, his focus is mainly on Hire Heroes USA and the people we serve. When speaking with him for this blog, he told us, “These are men and women’s lives and the impact that you can have on them. You can feel it. They do more for me than I do for them.” He continued, “It’s been the best experience I’ve ever had in serving any community.”

The Motivator

There is one call Brad made for Hire Heroes USA that stays with him. It was someone in his 20s who had just finished a tour in the military. The veteran had shared a lot on that call – about his experience in the Army and his challenges transitioning to the civilian workforce. “What jumped out at me was how appreciative he was just of the phone call. He said, ‘Knowing that Hire Heroes USA is thinking about us on a Tuesday at 9am just helped me through the day.’ That motivated me because he was struggling to send out job applications.”

Brad shared something else about that conversation that was unexpected and struck him personally.  “He said, ‘I specifically want to thank you for volunteering’ and it just took me aback. I was like, “Well, thank YOU,” and he replied, ‘No, I really mean that.” Humbled by the comment and the whole conversation, it left Brad even more galvanized about his role as an Outreach Volunteer.  

“At least once a week I will tell my wife, ‘I absolutely love Hire Heroes USA!’ I love volunteering. It motivates me! It’s so rewarding – it’s just awesome!”


Written by:

Kathleen Saal, Hire Heroes USA Marketing & Communications Manager


Hire Heroes USA Volunteers: Skills Based Awesomeness

Volunteer week Blog Title

This week is National Volunteer Week and it has me thinking about how I’ve been working with the volunteers of Hire Heroes USA for just over two years now. Our volunteer program is very unique; all activities are scheduled on an as-needed basis and we hardly ever get to see our 750 volunteers face-to-face… but I can tell you that our volunteers are awesome.

Yeah, yeah, I know. “Awesome” is totally overused, especially when it comes to describing volunteers. They are ALL awesome, right? Volunteers give freely of their time to do good or help others. But the volunteers of Hire Heroes USA are different because they truly inspire awe within me; just last year they gave over 3000 hours of their time. Every new volunteer who comes on board brings a wealth of knowledge that can help a military veteran or spouse with their job search in a multitude of ways.

Our volunteers participate in skills-based volunteering, an innovative approach that utilizes a person’s experience, expertise, and skills to achieve the mission of an organization. Hire Heroes USA staff members provide a foundation for a job seeker through a professional resume, coaching, and motivation (among other things). Volunteers complement that foundation by offering industry insight, interview practice, guidance or a sounding board to U.S. military members, veterans, and military spouses. They have unprecedented access to professionals in almost any industry who are willing to share, connect, and support.

What I love most about Hire Heroes USA is that our mission of empowering military members, veterans, and spouses to succeed in the civilian workforce leads to results that you might not think of right away. Meaningful work, enough money to pay the bills, being able to take care of your family… these are all benefits that come out of that mission. Helping our clients land great jobs can reduce the ‘typical’ negative outcomes you often hear about related to veterans, things like homelessness, suicide, or untreated mental health issues.

Hire Heroes USA volunteers choose to volunteer in a role that is both challenging and meaningful; they change lives with the support they’re providing. I am so grateful to each volunteer for choosing to give their time and talents to Hire Heroes USA. Their contributions to this organization are absolutely vital to its mission and its success. And they’re awesome. #NationalVolunteerWeek #NVW

*Written by Lindsey Acciarito, Volunteer Coordinator *


Hire Heroes USA Featured Employer: The Nature Conservancy

Hire Heroes USA Featured Employer: The Nature Conservancy

Hire Heroes USA and The Nature Conservancy have had a strong employment partnership since 2014. It is evident that The Nature Conservancy values the skills and attributes that veterans and military spouses bring to the table with their continued military recruitment efforts and the constant support they provide their military family. Exploring careers with this great organization would be beneficial for all transitioning service members, veterans, and military spouses.

The Nature Conservancy is the leading conservation organization working to make a positive impact around the world in more than 72 countries and all 50 United States. Founded in 1951, the organization is governed as a single, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization by a worldwide, volunteer Board of Directors and is managed from its worldwide office in Arlington, Virginia USA. As a private non-profit, their mission is to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. One of their core values is “commitment to diversity”.

Since its inception, The Nature Conservancy has always valued its partnerships with the military. These very important and numerous relationships include a variety of examples such as:

Beginning in 1994, the Conservancy joined forces with the U.S. Army to protect the federally endangered black-capped vireos and golden-cheeked warblers on and around Fort Hood, Texas;

Since 2000, Conservancy staff have been collaborating with one of the largest National Guard installations in the US, Camp Shelby, located just outside Hattiesburg, Mississippi. This partnership yields field surveys for rare species and communities, evaluation of habitat quality and implementation of research and monitoring projects to improve management strategies for rare, threatened and endangered species;

Most recently, in 2017, staff from The Nature Conservancy’s Virginia Coast Reserve have worked with a team of scientists led by the Naval Facilities Engineering Command Atlantic and sponsored by U.S. Fleet Forces Command to plan and implement the capture and satellite tagging of wintering harbor seals on the seaside of Virginia’s Eastern Shore.

The Conservancy has always recognized that their core values are similar to those of the armed forces and that’s why they believe veterans have many of the competencies and skills they seek.

Their Global Diversity, Equity & Inclusion initiative officially launched in September 2015 and by October 2016 the organization introduced the Veterans In Nature’s Service (VINS) Employee Resource Group. This group is open to all employees who are located across the globe and is dedicated to promoting learning, education and awareness about employees, individuals and their family members who are veterans. Their most important goal is to become a welcoming and veteran friendly employer of choice.

To demonstrate their commitment, some of the initiatives they have already implemented are:

  • Introduced the “FOXHOLE” – an internal storytelling outlet where employees who are veterans are highlighted on a regular basis so their peers can learn about how we can become more veteran friendly.
  • Recruiting at veteran specific job fairs such as “Hiring Our Hero’s Job Fair in Schofield Barracks, HI in October 2017.
  • Partnering with other veteran organizations to host retreats at TNC properties or preserves where veterans can fully experience nature.
  • Established a task force to ensure that all SOPs are veteran friendly.

This next year they hope to:

  • Establish a pilot Community Outreach Initiative focused on veteran organizations.
  • Create a recruiting toolkit to educate hiring managers on how to recognize a veteran’s transferable skills and essentially promote a veteran friendly culture.
  • Host a webinar for all employees to provide PTSD Awareness and dispel any myths that exist in the workplace.

If you are interested in The Nature Conservancy we encourage you to do some more research. Go to to find out more about this organization. And while you’re there, visit their careers page.