We’re proud of these Tillman Scholars for continuing to make an impact on their communities. Read on to see how they continue to lead through action.
Shane Oravsky, 2020 Tillman Scholar; Ashley Nicolas, 2016 Tillman Scholar
As part of the Visionaries in Service series, the 9/11 Memorial & Museum highlighted Tillman Scholars Shane Oravsky and Ashley Nicolas. Read more about what motivated them to join the military and the impact of 9/11 on their service.
Shane began the journey to become a Green Beret when he returned from his first deployment and became a Special Forces detachment commander. He returned to Afghanistan and leveraged earlier life experiences to shape his decision-making. His Special Forces team initiated a regional uprising against the Taliban by empowering, and tactically supporting, key stakeholders in a fight against the oppressive regime.
In 2015, Shane became an FBI Special Agent and led counterterrorism and violent crime investigations in New York City. After military and federal law enforcement exposure, he witnessed some of the darker sides of humanity. Shane is determined to serve the global community through a different lens and provide meaningful value from those experiences. Shane is attending Columbia Business School to solve some of the world’s most challenging and complex healthcare problems. He intends to develop impactful solutions that assist 9/11 First Responders, Global War on Terrorism veterans and those that lack sufficient healthcare resources.
Following graduation from West Point, Ashley branched Army Intelligence and served the majority of her five active-duty years in the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division (4-2 SBCT). During that time, she deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan, where she worked both as a Female Engagement Team Leader and a Brigade Assistant Intelligence Officer, supporting infantry units in a very hostile and kinetic region of southern Afghanistan.
Although deployment was a difficult time of personal sacrifice, the lessons she learned and the perspective she gained on the ground proved invaluable. In intelligence, she worked with many soldiers who, due to the quality of their high school education, struggled to conduct the high-level analysis and critical thinking that was necessary for their jobs. Further, she witnessed the plight of Afghan women who, based solely on gender, had been denied any form of formal education. As a result, they were completely eliminated from official positions of influence in the country and lacked a voice in the discussion of their nation’s future.
Cassie Bronson, 2020 Tillman Scholar
Cassie Bronson was recently interviewed by Georgetown University about her work in women’s health as she finishes her doctor of nursing practice degree.
The Navy taught Cassie teamwork, leadership, strength through pressure and flexibility. One of her greatest desires was to deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan and use her nursing skills to help save the lives of her fellow servicemembers. While logistics ultimately prevented her deployment to the Middle East, she was honored to serve aboard the U.S.S. Boxer and assist other countries in humanitarian efforts.
Shortly after leaving the Navy and recently married to another servicemember, Cassie was diagnosed with cancer and needed immediate treatment to not only save her life, but to also save any hope of having children in the future. This struggle as a woman, a wife and a future mother illuminated how her clinical nursing skills could be used to help women undergoing similar scenarios.
Ten years after leaving the Navy and 15 years as a nurse, Cassie is now pursuing her doctorate in women’s health nursing and using her personal experiences to support and treat women in the community under the philosophy of cura personalis, or care for the whole person.
Rachel Wilcox, 2020 Tillman Scholar
Rachel Wilcox will be the keynote speaker at George Washington University’s Veterans Day of Service on Nov. 20.
As a spouse and advocate, Rachel hopes to ensure that service members, veterans and family members receive the level of treatment and understanding they deserve. By identifying, listening to and acting on these individuals’ specific goals, she hopes she can deliver optimal, compassionate care to best suit their needs.
Following graduation from George Washington University’s doctor of physical therapy program, Rachel wants to commission as a medical officer in the Air Force and serve the military community directly as a licensed physical therapist. She hopes to become a board-certified orthopedic and neurologic clinical specialist to treat active duty service members and veterans who have sustained spinal cord injuries, fracture injuries and amputations in service to this country.
The military community has supported Rachel as a spouse and has taught her to embrace challenges, expect change and empower herself with information. Rachel has a vested interest in this community and believes she can provide patients the encouragement and tools they need to continue their lives with renewed purpose in service to others.
Gretchen Klingler, 2016 Tillman Scholar
Gretchen Klingler joined the US Global Leadership Coalition as its Veterans Outreach Manager.
Gretchen entered the military in 2009, searching for a new direction in life. She soon found that direction in joining the Air Force as an airborne linguist, finding herself in Iraq as a stand-in translator five years later. Here she recounts her most memorable moment realizing the importance of communicating the Iraqi experience to Americans, leading her to add Arabic to her passion for cultural anthropology at The Ohio State University.
Following her time at Ohio State, with the narrowing of national resources and funding allocated to welcoming immigrants to the United States, especially between 2017 through early 2021, Gretchen turned to a career in a passion equally important to her — the veteran community. She is actively involved in the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion, and is a member of AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans and Associates of Vietnam Veterans of America.
Gretchen continues to strive to provide opportunities for both the stories of veterans and immigrants’ and refugees’ to be shared with and understood by more Americans. She believes that building stronger intercultural understanding in the United States and beyond will help us all embrace the beauty in our collective diversity, whether that be the stories of immigrants who leave their homes, or the experiences of military service being shared with those who desire to support our returning service members.