Tillman Scholars in the News

Blog, Tillman Scholars in the News | 09/10/2021

We’re proud of these Tillman Scholars for continuing to make an impact in their communities. Read on to see how they lead through action.

Tara Heidger, 2017 Tillman Scholar

Tara Heidger was selected as a 2021-2022 nonresident fellow by the Modern War Institute at West Point.

Tara recently graduated from Columbia University with a dual master’s degree in international relations and urban planning, where she studied the intersection of cities and conflict. Tara currently works for an international advertising and communications firm and enjoys writing and pitching freelance stories to media outlets around the world. She lives outside of New York City with her veteran husband and three daughters.


Safi Rauf, 2020 Tillman Scholar

Safi Rauf spoke to the The New Yorker about his efforts to safely evacuate allies during the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

Safi was born in an Afghan refugee camp in Pakistan and immigrated to the U.S. as a teenager. After graduating high school in Omaha, Nebraska, he deployed to Afghanistan for four years as a linguist and cultural advisor embedded with Special Operations, supporting both Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. In Afghanistan, Safi performed translation and interpretation on a wide range of media, advised U.S. military personnel and coordinated with Afghan security forces, coalition partners and U.S. federal government departments—including U.S. Embassy Kabul—to mitigate high-profile threats.

In 2016, Safi moved to Virginia to attend college and enlist in the U.S. Navy Reserves as a corpsman. Safi is currently assigned to the Expeditionary Medical Facility Bethesda’s Naval Reserve unit, where he performs duties as a medical assistant to physicians and supports in the medical readiness of 80 patients per month for more than 2,800 reservists. In April 2020, Safi mobilized to New York City to staff the military’s makeshift hospital at the Javits Center. Concurrently, Safi studied as a pre-medical student at Georgetown University, studying human science and serving as the president of the Georgetown University Student Veterans Association. Safi Rauf deferred his medical school admission for a year to the University of Nebraska Medical Center School of Medicine.
During the United States Military’s rapid withdrawal from Afghanistan, Safi received an outpouring of cries for help through his personal network. Recognizing that the United States Government was failing to ensure the well-being of American Citizens and Allies, Safi deferred his enrollment in medical school for a year and formed Human First to provide safety for those left behind.

Jackie Munn, 2015 Tillman Scholar

2020 Make Your Mark Awardee Jackie MunnJackie Munn wrote an essay for Vox, discussing her concerns for the public health of women and children in a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

Working with wounded soldiers and vulnerable women and children in Afghanistan had a profound impact on Jackie, and motivated her to pursue a career in the medical field. As a non-medical provider working in Afghan villages and clinics, she witnessed the traumatic toll caused by rampant inaccessibility to healthcare. When she redeployed to Walter Reed, she saw the first-hand benefits of working on interdisciplinary teams that strived to provide wholistic care for wounded, ill, and injured soldiers. These experiences led her to pursue a master’s degree in nursing from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. During her two-year program, she earned her license as a registered nurse, followed by becoming a board certified family nurse practitioner.

Jackie’s passion for healthcare is rooted in providing empathetic care to predominately underserved and vulnerable populations. She believes that everyone deserves access to quality and affordable healthcare, and as a provider, it is her responsibility to partner with her patients and community to achieve the best health outcomes for those she serves.

Terry Weaver, 2010 Tillman Scholar

Terry Weaver announced his fourth book, Whitewashed Tomb, now available for pre-order.

Terry Weaver joined the U.S. Navy in 1999 and enlisted as a Navy corpsman. He deployed as a combat corpsman with the 1st Marines and served a tour of duty in Iraq between 2002 and 2003. His sole purpose quickly became – “save Marine lives at all cost”. After receiving a Presidential Unit Citation and serving five years, Terry received an honorable discharge from the U.S. Navy.

Terry earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 2011 and completed his master of arts in biblical studies in 2020. Terry spent more than a decade in sales and marketing, and while doing so, he founded VEL Institute, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit, that helps veterans advance in life through leadership and entrepreneurship training. With three books and a forthcoming lead role in a television series, Terry is passionate about his life’s mission to inspire those he loves, and the world, through his faith, creativity, and writing.

Sadia Heil, 2020 Tillman Scholar

Sadia Heil published an article in The Lily, discussing her experiences as a Muslim American and how 9/11 inspired her to serve.

As a first-generation American, the value of hard work and compassion for others was instilled in Sadia at a young age. Formerly a mathematics teacher in a small village in Pakistan, her father was committed to democracy and providing a peaceful future for his family, which brought him to Northern Virginia, where Sadia was born and raised.  After 9/11, Sadia felt a strong sense of patriotism and duty; and was commissioned into the U.S. Air Force in 2007. Later in her career, she led an interagency subject matter expert exchange on counter-violent extremism with the Department of Justice, the U.S. Defense Attache for Sri Lanka, and the Maldivian National Defense Force; and fully realized her enthusiasm for teaching.

Sadia’s passion for advocacy has inspired her to pursue a master’s in special education. The grit required to support and champion for her child has fueled Sadia’s desire to work in the field of early childhood special education in school, home, and community settings. Her vision is that of an inclusive world — a place that embraces individuals’ strengths and values their differences.