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10 Stories of Success: Impacting Veterans, One Connection at a Time

In honor of Veterans Day, Hiring Our Heroes is sharing 10 stories of veterans who have successfully transitioned from their military jobs to civilian employment through the connections they made through HOH programs or events.

These diverse stories illustrate the variety of opportunities available to veterans thanks to creative workforce initiatives designed to help service members and their families maneuver into professional careers.

In one story, a last-minute decision to attend a Career Summit helped an Air Force veteran discover his dream job. In another story, a Marine commander learned of a fellowship program that changed her life from those she supervised. Finally, a professional truck driver and Army veteran plans to own his own fleet one day, thanks to a HOH recognition program.

Here are 10 stories of success and one bonus story to illustrate the impact that Hiring Our Heroes is making in veterans’ lives.

Holly Harris, Army Veteran, Corporate Fellowship Program, 2016

Holly Harris is a bit of a chameleon.

During her Army career, this self-proclaimed lifelong learner started out as a Korean linguist before becoming an Apache helicopter pilot. She worked at the White House in the Office of Management and Budget as a budget analyst, and at one point, was a Department of the Army Strategist. In her final military job, she served as a policy analyst working in cybersecurity.

In 2016, Holly became one of the first to participate in the Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellowship Program in northern Virginia. Her fellowship was in operations at Amazon Fresh, but she found her passion in a different field. After speaking with senior recruiters at Amazon during her fellowship, Holly knew she wanted to work in recruiting. She didn’t have experience in the recruiting field, but that didn’t stop her from doing the research and eventually applying to be a recruiting sourcer for Amazon Web Services (AWS). After her fellowship, she got the job.

But Holly’s story doesn’t end there. The fellowship allowed Holly to get her foot in the door and continue to learn and grow in fields she had interests in; today, Holly works as a senior program manager at AWS.

“Without the Hiring Our Heroes fellowship program, it would have taken me longer to get to a place of confidence in my post-military career and to where I am today,” Holly said. “With the fellowship I grew the courage to try a new career – one where I thrive and have the opportunity to stay connected with Veterans.”

Jay Junkins, Air Force Veteran, Career Summit, 2019

Jay Junkins’ wife wanted to return to Wisconsin once he retired from the Air Force. But there was just one problem – Jay’s final duty station was Ramstein Air Base in Germany, more than 4,000 miles away.

On a whim, this aviator and air logistics officer went to a Career Summit at Kaiserslautern, a nearby Army base. His hopes of connecting with prospective employment opportunities were low until the summit emcee opened with this statement, “Raise your hand if you want to move to Oshkosh, Wisconsin.”

“I was the only one to raise my hand,” Jay said.

At the summit, Jay learned about a job in procurement and supply chain at Pierce Manufacturing. A custom fire and rescue vehicles manufacturer headquartered in Wisconsin whose mission is to build the best vehicle for those who risk their lives daily to protect our nation, a mission familiar to anyone in the military. After flying halfway around the world for an in-person interview, Jay was offered his dream job – a job he wouldn’t have known existed if it wasn’t for Hiring Our Heroes.

“Hiring Our Heroes was the key to connecting me with Oshkosh,” Jay said. Pierce Manufacturing is a subsidiary of Oshkosh Corporation.

Joseph Campbell, Marine Corps and Army Veteran, Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence Award, 2019

After serving in the military for 24 years, Joseph Campbell is enjoying his next career – working as a professional truck driver.

Nearly a year ago, Joseph was named the 2019 Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence award winner and handed the keys to a fully-loaded Kenworth T680 truck and the opportunity to be an owner-operator. Transition Trucking was launched by Hiring Our Heroes, Kenworth, and FASTPORT in 2016 as part of an overall effort to inspire veterans to seek employment opportunities in the trucking industry. America’s trucking industry has long been supportive of our nation’s military families, and several major carriers boast a driving population comprised of more than 30 percent veterans.

Since becoming the 2019 Transition Trucking winner, Joseph has set up his LLC and created his business plan.

“I set my goals according to the worth of my business and I have a number in mind that I’m working to reach,” he said. “With this truck, I can truly shoot for the stars.”

Kathrine Lukes, Marine Corps Veteran, Solar Ready Vets Fellowship, 2020

As a Marine Corps officer, Kathrine Lukes approved requests from active duty service members under her command to participate in the Corporate Fellowship Program during their final 180 days in the military. So, when the time came for her military transition, Kathrine knew exactly what direction she would go for her transition and applied for a similar opportunity.

With zero experience in the renewable energy industry, Kathrine applied for the Solar Ready Vets Fellowship. This program supports the transition and hiring of active duty service members and veterans into the solar industry.

Kathrine enjoyed her fellowship and liked the people that she worked with at Icarus RT, her host company. In June of 2020 she graduated from the program. Now, Kathrine works as an operations manager with Icarus RT in San Diego.

“If it wasn’t for this fellowship, I would still be looking for a job,” she said.

Jon Cox, Navy Veteran, Sports Expo, 2017

Jon Cox continues to make connections at Hiring Our Heroes events nearly three years after his military transition.

This retired Navy Master Chief received a job offer as a result of the connections he made at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Hiring Expo with the Minnesota Wild hockey team. The event was one in a series of hiring expos held at professional sports arena concourses through partnerships with the National Hockey League (NHL), National Basketball Association (NBA), and Major League Baseball (MLB). An average of 4,000 job seekers annually connect with military-ready employers at HOH expos.

Jon became the military recruiting specialist responsible for finding and placing veterans in more than 200 stores and corporate positions at Hy-Vee, a regional grocery store chain. He placed 1,200 veterans in 2019 and 1,110 in 2018. Through his efforts, Hy-Vee now hosts fellows from the Corporate Fellowship Program. Before Jon, Hy-Vee hired between 10 and 15 veterans annually.

Recently, Jon was promoted to director of recruiting. He’s looking forward to attending in-person hiring events again in the future.

“Hiring Our Heroes events attract better candidates and I have hired more veterans from those events than any other,” he said. “Hiring Our Heroes is a veteran organization that actually cares about the veteran. I will always attend every Hiring Our Heroes event that I can.”

Eric Putt, Army Veteran, Corporate Fellowship Program, 2015

When Eric Putt heard that Hiring Our Heroes was offering the Corporate Fellowship Program to transitioning service members at Fort Hood, he was determined to be a fellow. Part of his determination stemmed from an unexpected timeline shift for his transition out of the military. The Army scheduled his transition to be earlier than he requested, so he was feeling anxious about finding employment.

Six interviews later, as part of the Corporate Fellowship Program’s placement process, Putt matched with his host company, Workforce Solutions of Central Texas. On week eight of the 12-week fellowship, he was offered full-time employment.

“The value is those 12 weeks where you can focus on you and your next career,” Putt said. “You have the time to show off your soft skills and do your very best.”

Recently, Putt transitioned into a new role – Hiring Our Heroes’ program manager for the CFP at Fort Hood.

“This job has been my dream job for a long time,” he said.

Kashona Oakman, South Carolina Army National Guard Veteran, Hiring Our Heroes “Committed to America’s Heroes Sweepstakes,” 2020

Hiring Our Heroes kicked off 2020 by presenting a Toyota RAV4 to Kashona Oakman, who served in the South Carolina Army National Guard for 23 years.

“I would like to thank this great organization, Hiring Our Heroes, for everything that they do for veterans,” she said at the event in January 2020.

Being selected as the winner for Hiring Our Heroes’ annual “Committed to America’s Heroes Sweepstakes” out of tens of thousands of entries is quite a success story, in our opinion. The best part is that another giveaway is right around the corner and you could be next year’s success story! Enter to win before December 1, 2020.

Josh Eskow, Navy Veteran, Salesforce Fellowship Program, 2020

In the last eight years, Josh Eskow has successfully transitioned to a civilian job, earned his MBA, and worked as a consumer data analyst contractor. He didn’t mind working as a contractor, but he didn’t love his job, either. So, he quit to explore other career options. Then the COVID-19 worldwide pandemic hit and Eskow was scrambling to find employment.

He was researching upskilling opportunities for in-demand career fields when he learned about the newly launched Salesforce Fellowship Program available to veterans and military spouses. He became a Salesforce certified administrator in May 2020 and started his fellowship in August.

“The timing could not have been any better,” Eskow said.

In 90 days, Eskow’s life went from being filled with anxiety to being filled with gratitude. He loves his job and has a clear career path for future success. Eskow is a technical analyst at Slalom, his fellowship host company.

“When you are looking for a Salesforce job, you are told that you need experience, but how can you get experience without a Salesforce job?” he said. “I don’t know how I would have been able to break into the Salesforce ecosystem without this fellowship.”

Ferdinand Sabala, New Jersey National Guard Veteran, USS Intrepid Hiring Event, 2012

Eight years ago, Ferdinand Sabala was among 1,500 military job seekers that attended a Hiring Our Heroes hiring event aboard the former USS Intrepid in New York City.

Ferdinand had returned from a yearlong deployment to Afghanistan and he went to the hiring fair hoping to find a different job where he could utilize the skills he gained during his deployment. His hope become his reality. He was offered a job as result as the connections he made at that hiring event.

Since then, Ferdinand has been advancing his career in the analytics and technology industries. He currently works as a MarTech product manager at the Hyatt Hotels Corporation.

The job Ferdinand got eight years ago helped him launch a new rewarding career.

“I look back at it and that hiring fair was such a positive experience. Hiring Our Heroes definitely had a positive impact on my career,” Ferdinand said.

Miki Adachi, Air Force veteran, Corporate Fellowship Program, USS Midway Career Summit, 2019

Miki Adachi first completed her  Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellowship with Northrop Grumman before attending a Career Summit on the USS Midway in San Diego, California. It was at that summit that Miki interviewed for a role at Booz Allen Hamilton.

“The interview I had with Booz Allen Hamilton that day led to an offer within a week, and I was able to kick off my professional career as soon as I signed out of active duty,” Miki said. “If I hadn’t been in the HOH fellowship program, I might have never gone to the HOH Career Summit on the Midway and interviewed with Booz Allen.”

Miki feels that the fellowship program set her up for success at the Career Summit.

“Making that jump from service member to civilian is very daunting. I’m glad that I had the support of Hiring Our Heroes,” she said.

Now, Miki helps connect other veterans with employment at Booz Allen.

“My goal is to pay it forward so that future veterans can also find their place after service,” she said.

A Bonus Success Story: Greg Newton, Army Veteran, KISS Roadie for the Day, 2016

In 2016, Hiring Our Heroes teamed up with the iconic rock band KISS to hire a military veteran, service member, Reservist, or National Guard member to serve as “Roadie for a Day” during the band’s nationwide “Freedom to Rock” tour.

Greg Newton, the operations noncommissioned officer in charge at the Army War College, was selected to be “Roadie for the Day” for a concert at Penn State. He said it was an opportunity of a lifetime to mingle with one of his favorite bands and meet people in an industry he had always admired. He also said the opportunity happened while he was preparing for his post-military career. Greg went on to earn his teaching certification through Troops to Teachers.

“Transition is ultimately knowing what you want and being prepared to step in and get to work,” Greg said. “Hiring Our Heroes is all about that – helping you figure out what you want after the military.”

Four years later, Greg works as an instructor at the Gettysburg Area School District. He oversees the JROTC program and teaches high school civics and leadership. Occasionally, he shows his students the photo of him on stage with KISS.

Helping Thousands of Veterans Find Meaningful Employment

These 10 success stories and one bonus story are a small snapshot of the various ways that Hiring Our Heroes connects veterans with employers.

Since 2011, Hiring Our Heroes has helped hundreds of thousands of veterans and military spouses find meaningful employment through more than 1,100 job fairs in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and on military installations overseas; a suite of free online career-based resources; and the Hiring 500,000 Heroes campaign.

We look forward to connecting with you in 2021.

We love hearing veteran employment success stories, so share yours in the comments section. Tell us which Hiring Our Heroes event you attended and how your participation helped you in your military transition.

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A Program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation