The fate of two Turkish soldiers now hangs in the balance as they have become the unwilling guests of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (also known as ISIS).
Supporters of the terrorist group have reportedly been debating what to do with the captured soldiers.
According to a report by al Jazeera, the two Turkish troops were captured during a battle near the Syrian village of Elbab. The announcement from the terrorist group about the captives caused a celebration on Facebook and other social media sites.
The celebration then turned to into a debate when one ISIS dirtbag solicited opinions on what to do with the prisoners.
“Expect a nifty video with the soldiers of the tyrant infidel Erdogan,” one ISIS supporter tweeted, adding two knife emojis. ISIS has routinely beheaded some of its captives, including American journalist James Foley. “Jihadi John,” the ISIS jihadist who was responsible for the terrorist group’s most notorious beheadings, became a good jihadist in Nov. 2015.
Others advocated not beheading them, but treating them humanely and educating them about Islam, with one saying, “it would only give the members a momentary boost of adrenaline but not much more.”
Most followers of jihadists, though, were calling for the summary execution of the Turkish troops, whom they deemed “nonbelievers.” One of the senior terrorists claimed, “All the options are on the table for the Islamic State organization to decide what to do with the two Turkish soldiers.”
The terrorist group burned a captured Royal Jordanian Air Force pilot alive in February 2015 after his F-16 crashed due to a mechanical failure.
A bunch of teenagers found magic coins and became rangers — specifically, Power Rangers.
While everyone has to believe that Zordon had his reasons for selecting angsty teens rather than proven leaders, Army Rangers might have a little issue with magical coins being the only threshold for assuming their coveted title.
But what if real Army Rangers became Power Rangers? While the fights would be awesome, there would also be some other changes. Here are nine of them:
1. Step one would’ve been finding out where the alien spaceship that grants superpowers came from
Seriously, who finds a spaceship with super-powering coins on it and doesn’t start investigating where more coins are? After all, denying the enemy the coins limits the enemy’s combat power and distributing those coins to other Rangers would multiply friendly combat power.
So why not look for the coins? Would be pretty great to get a whole battalion of Power Rangers to spearhead all future American operations, right?
2. Every one of them would need a dip straw installed in their helmets so they could spit tobacco juice during fights
Army Rangers are known as well for stuffing their lips with coffee grounds and tobacco as they are for annihilating enemy forces with extreme prejudice. But take a look at the screengrab above. See anywhere to spit dip in that helmet? That’s going to need a redesign. May we humbly suggest DARPA? Natick might not be up to this.
3. Alpha 5 would’ve been relentlessly mocked for being a POG
The spaceship has a small robot with super strength and, instead of fighting in the field, it helps train and manage the Power Rangers. Sure, the Rangers may need him to get the job done, but that never stopped them from making fun of any other support troops, so why would they stop with the robot with Bill Hader’s voice?
4. Every Ranger would carry a crew-served weapon — either the M2 .50-cal or Mk-47 grenade launcher or the M107 .50-cal sniper rifle
Does anyone think a bunch of Rangers would get super strength and start carrying less firepower into combat? Hell no. Rangers with super strength would go shopping in the Weapons Company armory.
Those guys would carry modified M2s and Mk-47s. At least one guy would grab a Barrett .50-cal. sniper rifle and start using it like a carbine.
5. The drunken shenanigans would be legendary (assuming they can get drunk)
So, we’re not yet sure that the Power Rangers can get drunk since some superhero stories say that the healing factors make it impossible. But think a bunch of Rangers would give up drinking if they could?
Nope. And superpowered humans would get in fights with bouncers, police, and the special operators who would have to be pressed into law enforcement roles to keep them in line.
6. They would show off in the gym all the time
The Power Rangers woke up completely ripped. Of course, the Rangers probably went to bed at least a little ripped, so imagine how strong they would be in the morning.
Now imagine that they don’t work out the next morning shirtless, bench pressing entire people who are bench pressing lots of weight.
7. At least one of them would try to sleep with Rita
Yeah, Rita is the supreme evil lady. But she’s pretty attractive. And she’s probably available (there aren’t many handsome monsters in the trailer). At least one Ranger would proposition her. At least.
8. At least one Ranger would be missing from each of the first few fights because they would be combat jacking
Speaking of things that at least one Ranger would be doing in combat, the attempted “monster jacking” — combat jacking but in a fight with a monster — would disrupt each of the first five fights. At least the first five.
9. The rest of the Rangers would make fun of them for needing super powers
The entire rest of the Army’s Ranger Regiment would be super jealous that they weren’t the ones who got super powers, but they wouldn’t let it show. Instead, they would heckle the Rangers with power coins relentlessly.
“Oh, the little baby can’t throw a car without his special coin? Guess the rest of us will go ahead and protect the U.S. everywhere else in the world without any magical powers. Like real Rangers.”
A senior Afghan defense official said that country’s government wants the vaunted A-10, which is highly regarded for its durability and lethality in close-air-support operations, to return to Afghanistan.
No decision on A-10 deployments has been made, according to Air Force Brig. Gen. Lance Bunch, who directs U.S. air operations in Afghanistan. “The discussions of what forces we move to Afghanistan or drawdown from Iraq and Syria are all ongoing,” Bunch said.
After the liberation of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria in July and October, respectively, operations against ISIS in those two countries, in which the A-10 played a major role, have begun to wind down.
President Donald Trump has also started to pursue an expansion of U.S. operations in Afghanistan over the later half of 2017 and the Air Force may see increased operations in Afghanistan as a part of that expansion.
In September, the Air Force chief of staff said the force was “absolutely” reviewing greater involvement following Trump’s decision on Afghanistan strategy.
The Air Force has deployed six more F-16 fighter aircraft — bringing the total to 18 F-16s — and a KC-135 tanker aircraft to Afghanistan in recent months. And the air war in the country has already intensified. (Though the Pentagon has begun classifying previously available data about military operations in Afghanistan.)
The numbers of weapons released by U.S. combat aircraft in Afghanistan have hit highs not seen since the 2010 surge. Air Forces Central Command data released in October showed 751 weapons dropped in September, eclipsing the 503 released in August and setting a new five-year high. (Data released in November adjusted September’s total down to 414 and recorded a new high — 653 — in October.)
U.S. forces in Afghanistan have also turned their attention to the Taliban’s involvement in the drug trade in an effort to cut into the insurgent group’s financing. Advanced F-22 fighters, joined by B-52 bombers and Afghan A-29 Tucano propeller aircraft, attacked drug labs in November.
Since then, about 25 Taliban drug labs in northern Helmand province — a hotbed for Afghan drug production — have been destroyed, costing the Taliban almost $16 million in revenue, according to Bunch, who said the air campaign against Taliban financing had only “just begun.”
In 2017, area under opium cultivation in Afghanistan increased 63% over the previous year, according to U.N. data. Even though eradication increased 111% during that period, the number of opium-poppy-free provinces declined from 13 to 10.
The Taliban has gotten heavily involved in the drug trade. The insurgent group has also expanded its territorial control in Afghanistan — from 11% of the country’s 407 districts in February to 13% in August.
Trump’s new strategy will also deploy more U.S. troops to Afghanistan — some of whom will embed with Afghan forces closer to the fighting. That could put them in harm’s way and will likely lead to more U.S. aircraft providing close air support, at which the A-10 excels.
The Air Force backed away from plans to begin mothballing its A-10 fleet earlier this year. The Air Force has pushed Congress for additional funding to produce new wings for 110 of its 283 Thunderbolts, and Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson assured lawmakers this month that money allotted for that project would keep the A-10 dominant.
“I happen to be a fan of the A-10,” Wilson told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Dec. 7.
In the fall of 2014, HillVets requested nominations for their first annual HillVets 100 award. The HillVets 100 highlights the most influential and impactful veterans, service members and supporters from 2014. Nominations poured in and HillVets compiled a list encompassing individuals from many diverse sectors and areas, including those in the arts, politics, business, philanthropy, and personal achievements.
Though different in their pursuits and contributions, the commonalities we found in the men and women listed as the HillVets 100 were their mission and purpose of giving back to those that have sacrificed so much for our nation. “As an organization that emphasizes networking and empowerment, we thought it would be a great way to create synergy with the amazing work that veterans and supporters are doing across numerous sectors. Imagine the great things that would happen if we get all of these men and women in the same room. We intend to shortly,” said HillVets Co-Founder Justin Brown.
HillVets 100 provided a chance to recognize those who have continued answering the call to serve, and it is a chance to gather and celebrate the successes of so many of our fellow veterans. Abigail Gage, HillVets Director of Operations and Outreach said, “We wish the list could’ve been longer. The selection process was a challenge. The project as a whole was more demanding then we had expected, but it was worth it.” HillVets had an open nomination period. Final selections and summaries were created by a panel of 13 HillVets 100 Committee members; a special thanks to them for their very diligent efforts.
Medal of Honor Category
The Medal of Honor is the United States of America’s highest military honor, bestowed for personal acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty. These veterans and service members’ actions bring veterans and service members into the forefront of the national conscious, and we are thankful for them.
Sergeant First Class Bennie G. Adkins, United States Army
Sergeant First Class Adkins was a Medal of Honor recipient in 2014 for his combat operations at Camp A Shau, Republic of Vietnam from 9 March 1966 to 12 March 1966. Sgt. 1st Class Adkins manned a mortar position while running through exploding mortar rounds and dragging several of his comrades to safety. When the hostile fire subsided, Sergeant First Class Adkins exposed himself to sporadic sniper fire and carried his wounded comrades while sustaining injuries. Sergeant First Class Adkins’ extraordinary heroism in close combat against a superior hostile force was in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service.
Colonel (Ret.) Harvey C. Barnum, Jr., United States Marine Corps
Colonel (Ret.) Harvey Curtiss Barnum, Jr. was born in Cheshire, Connecticut. He was a natural leader, serving as president of his freshman and senior high school classes. He commissioned into the United States Marine Corps officer, and deployed to the Vietnam War, where he earned Medal of Honor. After retiring from the Marine Corps, He continued to serve the military community as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Reserve Affairs, then as Acting Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Manpower and Reserve Affairs). He has also served as a president of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.
Corporal (Ret.) Kyle William Carpenter, United States Marine Corps
Corporal Carpenter was born in Jackson, Mississippi, and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 2009. During a 2010 deployment to Helmand Province, Afghanistan he threw himself in front of a grenade to protect a fellow Marine. For these actions, he received the Medal of Honor on June 19, 2014. Medically retired, he is pursuing a degree at the University of South Carolina.
Sergeant Santiago Jesus Erevia, United States Army
Sgt. Santiago Erevia was born in Nordheim, Texas, and volunteered for the United States Army at 22 years old. He deployed to the Vietnam War, where he served as a radio-telephone operator. His conduct during a search-and-clear mission eventually resulted in his receiving the Medal of Honor in 2014.
Sergeant First Class Melvin Morris, United States Army
SFC Melvin Morris was born and grew up in Okmulgee, Oklahoma. He enlisted into the Oklahoma Army National Guard, and then went on active duty. He became one of the first Green Berets in 1961 and volunteered for two tours during the Vietnam War. For his actions in Vietnam, Morris received the Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama in a March 18, 2014 ceremony at the White House.
Master Sergeant Leroy Arthur Petry, United States Army
MSG Petry was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico, enlisting in the Army after high school. He was training to become a Ranger on September 11th, 2001. MSG Petry deployed eight times in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in 2008 while deployed to Paktia Province, Afghanistan. Severely wounded during these actions, Petry lost his right arm below the elbow, but returned to service with a prosthetic, deploying to Afghanistan for another tour.
Staff Sergeant Ryan Pitts, United States Army
Ryan Pitts was born in Lowell, Massachusetts. He enlisted in the Army, deploying to Kunar Province, Afghanistan in 2008, where he earned the Medal of Honor for his actions as a forward observer. He was medically discharged from the Army in 2009. He now lives in Nashua, New Hampshire with his wife and son. He works in business development.
Sergeant Kyle J. White, United States Army
Sergeant White was born in Seattle, Washington. He enlisted in the army in 2006, and deployed to Aranas, Afghanistan where he earned the Medal of Honor for his actions as a platoon radio-telephone operator. After departing from active-duty, White pursued degree in Business Administration from the University of North Carolina, afterward working as an investment analyst with the Royal Bank of Canada.
Individual Accomplishment Category
These individuals are some of the most exemplary representatives of the veteran community, able to bridge the gap between the veteran and civilian population by educating and increasing the understanding between them. These individuals work to make the veteran experience a reality, and have dedicated their careers to pursuing their goals, achieving great success and recognition in all of their endeavors.
Phil Klay, Author of Redeployment
Phil Klay was awarded with the National Book Award of 2014 for his writing of Redeployment. Though this is a work of fiction, the characters Klay develops are based on the real experiences of this Marine veteran. This work shows the array of emotions and the individuals who make up the Marine Corps.
But perhaps even more important to the veteran community is the picture Klay paints of Marines transitioning from their military service back into the country within their communities. His narrative stays focused on the experience of war and how it can change a person’s perspective. Redeployment shares what it’s like to return to a country full of people who have never experienced the camaraderie, carnage, happy moments and sad times of the U.S. Marine Corps. If you have not read it, do so.
Dr. Nichole Pardo, OB/GYN,Foxhall ObGyn Associates
In March of 2014, Army Veteran Dr. Pardo inspired DC area veterans by taking the cover of the Washingtonian Magazine as a Top Doctor in the DC area; the second time she has made the list.
As a recipient of a Health Professions Scholarship from the US Army during medical school, Dr. Pardo completed her residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC. Following residency training in 2002, Dr. Pardo was deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Upon returning to Washington, DC she attained her board certification in obstetrics and gynecology and spent the next 4 years working as an attending obstetrician-gynecologist at both Walter Reed Army Medical Center and National Naval Medical Center. During this time she was actively engaged in the residency-training program and served as the Chief of the Gynecology Division at Walter Reed. She joined Foxhall ObGyn Associates in 2007 following her nine-year medical career in the US Army.
Mike Viti, Hiking for Heroes
Viti vini vici, Mike Viti walked over 7,000 kilometers during most of 2014 to honor those who have died in the line of duty. For each kilometer, he writes a name on a flag that he carries with him, each the name of a fallen service member. Going 26 kilometers or more a day, he has 14 flags filled with names. Media outlets noticed and took a moment to remind people of the 13 years of war in the Middle East and those Americans who have paid the ultimate price for armed conflict. Local and national media took notice when Mr. Viti felt compelled to raise awareness because he noticed how easy it seemed for many Americans to ignore the war. Viti is inspiring more veterans to take action to remind people of the cost of war, and he is just getting started. He plans to create more projects based on demanding challenges to continue to bring awareness for those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.
Janine Davidson, Senior Policy Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations
Dr. Davidson is an Air Force veteran whose post military career has kept her at the vanguard of defense issues. This former combat pilot has received recognition from both the federal government and from the academic world for her work. Her regular blog on defense policy has added to public awareness and the conversation about the true cost of war. While Dr. Davidson’s focus is primarily on contemporary and emerging defense issues, her focus has helped add perspective for the troops on the ground and other geopolitical defense issues. In addition to her regular blog posts, this year her articles were published in The Hill, USA Today, and Defense One to name but a few.
The Arts Category
Those selected in this category have been successful in the art and entertainment sectors. From producing and directing movies that portray the lives of veterans and military service members, to developing programs that allow veterans to enhance their skills and talents, these individuals have pushed the envelope in the industry and have made headway for up and coming veteran artists, actors and entertainers.
B.R. McDonald, Founder and President, Veteran Artist Program
As the founder and President of the Veteran Artist Program, B.R. McDonald has fostered and promoted veteran artists across the nation, successfully bringing thousands of veterans to new careers in visual arts, filmmaking, writing and other performing arts. Mr. McDonald and the VAP is most recognized for pioneering the Pentagon’s first ever, all-veteran artist exhibit, and for its production of The Telling Project, which aims to bring a deeper connection between communities and the veteran experience. Mr. McDonald has ensured that VAP is one of the fastest growing leaders in bridging the gap between the military and the arts.
Mike Dowling served on active duty in the Marine Corps from 2001-2005 and as a mobilized reservist from 2008-2010. He is an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran turned actor, author, technical consultant, public speaker, and veteran advocate.
He has also earned notice for his book: “Sergeant Rex: The Unbreakable Bond Between A Marine and His Military Working Dog,” which is a memoir of his time in the military working as a dog handler in the Marine Corps. In addition to being cofounder of VFT he remains highly active in the veteran community working with wounded warriors and on various veteran related non-profits. Mike currently works at We Are The Mighty — the military community’s entertainment and lifestyle brand — based in Hollywood, California.
Kyle Hausmann-Stokes, Director, Producer, Writer
Kyle Hausmann-Stokes is an award winning director and writer based in Los Angeles. Following graduation from the production track at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, Kyle founded a production company (Blue Three) through which he has produced a variety of commercial, web, and video content for national television and multi-million dollar ad campaigns. Kyle served 5 years in the US Army’s Airborne Infantry, is a combat veteran of Iraq (Bronze Star), and is one of todays few professional young directors able to bring direct, personal experience and perspective to military/veteran-related projects.
Folleh Tamba, Producer and Director, Documentary Film Maker
Mr. Tamba is a Marine Reserve NCO with a passion for the arts and entertainment. He was awarded a Purple Heart after being wounded in Iraq. Folleh Tamba has showcased his talent and is working for the interests of the veteran’s community through the GI Film Festival and with the release of his two documentaries.
One of these documentaries: Triangle of Death, was picked up by AE. An interesting aspect of Mr. Tamba’s life is his past – he grew up in Liberia, immigrated to America, attended film school and joined the Marine Corps where he fought with honor for his adopted country.
Tim Mike Rauch, Directors
The Rauch Brothers create cartoons, shorts, and animations to bring stories to life in a unique and impactful way. In 2014, they dedicated a large portion of their work to developing three shorts for the project: StoryCorps’ Military Voices Initiatives, which had the aim to tell the stories of post-9/11 veterans, service members and their families to others. These pieces of animation told various stories of the war through different perspectives – one about a survivor Marine and another about the relationship between a member of the US military and two Iraqi citizens.
Through their unique broadcasts and animations, The Rauch Brothers have been successful in bringing a better understanding to the lives of the men and women who have served. The Rauch Brothers’ animations are award winning and their creations have been featured on NPR and PBS.
Montel Williams, Talk Show Host, The Montel Williams Show
Montel Williams has a storied career as a US veteran and long-time service member. He is a US Marine and has worked for the veteran’s community for many years. He is recognized as an avid and tireless supporter of veterans’ issues. Most recently, Mr. Williams displayed his commitment to the community by speaking out against the Department of Veterans Affairs scandal, and encouraging a VA Surge of healthcare professionals.
Businesses That Support Veterans Category
The businesses in this category have dedicated a significant portion of their work to ensure that veterans, military service members, and their families have a number of diverse resources and opportunities available to them. These companies recognize the challenges that veterans face during the transition into civilian life, and as such, have created impactful and purposeful programs that provide a benefit to the veteran community. The individuals selected for this category are those that led the charge for these companies in 2014, promoting veteran-specific initiatives that aim to highlight the skills, leadership and experiences of the veteran community.
Marillyn Hewson, CEO, President and Chairman, Lockheed Martin
Lockheed Martin demonstrates a continued commitment to veterans, service members and military families by following the tenants of their core value: “We never forget who we’re working for.” This phrase has defined the way that Lockheed Martin demonstrates the importance of giving back to the community and supporting the men and women that have sacrificed so much for our nation.
From numerous hiring programs and initiatives that help transition veterans to civilian life to providing rehabilitation programs for wounded warriors, Lockheed Martin is a solid supporter of ensuring that Veterans receive the honor and gratitude that they are owed. Ms. Hewson has maintained the company’s commitment to this charge, and remains to be an influential individual; she was recognized Forbe’s “50 Most Powerful Women in Business” in 2014.
James McNerney, CEO and Chairman, Boeing
Boeing has made huge strides in helping service men and women achieve success after their time in the military. Through their Wounded Warrior Hiring Program, Boeing has addressed many of the challenges that veterans and military families face in the job market. Boeing has hired over 25,000 veterans, and has solidified their commitment to this effort by offering mentoring, career counseling, and networking opportunities. The company continues to engage with programs that highlight service by developing partnerships with other companies and non-profit entities that have initiatives that support the veteran community.
Wes Bush, CEO, President and Chairman, Northup Grumman
Northup Grumman has made a difference in hundreds of transitioning veterans, service members and their families’ lives through their Operation IMPACT (Injured Military Pursuing Assisted Career Transition) initiative. The program provides support for those who have been injured in the war.
By committing resources and recruitment initiatives to hiring veterans, Northup Grumman has become a force in veteran hiring. As CEO and President, Mr. Bush has led the charge to instill the values of service and giving back to the community throughout the mission of the company.
Jamie Dimon, CEO, President and Chairman, J.P. Morgan Chase
J.P. Morgan Chase recognizes the sacrifices that military members, veterans and their families undergo by offering employment, housing and educational programs to these individuals. As the CEO and President, Jamie Dimon ensures that the company is committed to understanding the challenges that many veterans face during the transition to civilian life. J.P. Morgan Chase is dedicated to helping individual service members and their families find success in their careers and in their plans for the future. In 2014, J.P. Morgan Chase pledged to invest an additional $20 million towards programs and initiatives to build upon the $25 million the company has already provided to military and veteran-based organizations since 2011.
Dr. Timothy P. Novelli, President and Founder, The Patriot Project
The Patriot Project offers free chiropractic care to veterans, military service members and their families. Dr. Novelli began this grass-roots organization in 2012 in North Canton, Ohio, and the project has since spread across the country. The project began when Dr. Novelli recognized that although chiropractic care is included in veterans’ health benefits, it was not easily accessible. There are now over 800 chiropractors that currently that take part in The Patriot Project. Dr. Novelli has set a high goal, however – to have active participation from the majority of chiropractic physicians in the United States, putting chiropractic care in all VA hospitals across the nation. Dr. Novelli has made a huge impact for veterans, and continues to work in advocating for veterans’ access to various health care services.
Businesses Focused on Veterans Category
The individuals in this category are the leaders and founders of businesses created with veterans in mind. They offer services and provide resources and solutions that benefit veterans and military service members. The companies’ efforts work to strengthen the community by directly supporting veterans through unique and diverse initiatives. This category includes the more traditional and long-standing supporters of veterans, to the newer, veteran-founded businesses, both of which are focused on bringing relevant tools and resources to the veteran community.
Josue Robles, CEO and President, USAA
Josue “Joe” Robles is President and Chief Executive Officer of USAA, one of America’s leading financial services companies. The association has been serving military families since 1922 and has become well known for what it offers to its 9.4 million members. In 2014, USAA continued expanding their mission to the military community by offering free guidance and tools that were catered to supporting veterans in their careers and post-military lives. They increased their promotion of veterans’ hiring programs and partnered with other industries to ensure that available jobs were filled by worthy and experienced veterans.
Cutler Dawson, CEO and President, Navy Federal Credit Union
Navy Federal Credit Union is a well-known supporter of the veteran community and specializes in banking and mortgage services for its members. Underneath Mr. Dawson’s leadership, the Navy Federal Credit Union recommitted to their mission of helping young veterans by strengthening the company’s student loan repayment program, which will benefit new enlistees. Mr. Dawson has been President and Chief Executive Officer of Navy Federal Credit Union since December 2004. Previously, Mr. Dawson served as a Navy Federal volunteer official for five years until March 2004, after completing a 34-year career in the United States Navy. He served as Chief Financial Officer of the Navy and a principal advisor to the Chief of Naval Operations.
Fred Wellman, CEO and Founder, ScoutComms
Fred Wellman is CEO of ScoutComms and provides senior level counsel, strategic communications, public relations, social media, media relations and government affairs advice to the company’s clients. He applies his over 25 years of military, government, commercial and non-profit experience to helping clients operate successfully.
Mr. Wellman supports a number of veteran oriented non-profit organizations and efforts. Prior to founding ScoutComms, he was the Vice President of a strategic communications firm in Washington D.C. exclusively focused on the aerospace and defense sector providing management of all of the company’s operations and client services.
Chris Taylor, CEO and Founder, Novitas Group
The Novitas Group’s mission is “helping veterans translate military experience to the civilian sector.” Their highly successful “Vet Connector” is a revolutionary job tool that connects a veteran’s military skills with available jobs in the market. As the Founder and CEO, Mr. Taylor has ensured that the company’s success always benefits members of the military, veterans and their families.
Prior to the Novitas Group, Mr. Taylor spent 14 years in the US Marine Corps. He is currently a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Atlantic Council, and a member of the Board of Trustees at the American University of Afghanistan. He is also an adjunct professor of national security studies at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.
Zach Iscol, Founder and CEO, hirepurpose
Mr. Iscol is a combat decorated Marine Officer, Iraq veteran and entrepreneur. Hirepurpose was developed to address the gaps that exist in the transition from military service to civilian life. Developed by veterans, hirepurpose dives deep into a military service member’s story and life goals in order to help the individuals achieve their purpose and find the right opportunity. Hirepurpose focuses on “matching the right talent with the right opportunities so everyone wins.”
Before founding hirepurpose, Mr. Iscol served as the first officer in charge of Recruiting, Screening, Assessment, and Selection (RSAS) for the US Marine Corps Forces – Special Operations Command. He is also the Executive Director of the Headstrong Project, a non-profit organization that provides cost-free mental health care treatment to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans with PTSD and TBI.
James Schenck, President and CEO, Pentagon Federal Credit Union
PenFed President and CEO James Schenck rose through the ranks to become PenFed’s CEO in March of 2014. An Army officer, graduate of the United States Military Academy, and UH60 Blackhawk pilot, it is safe to say that Schenck understands the needs of the service members, veterans, and families that make up the majority of Pen Feds customers. Additionally, the company launched the Military Heroes Fund to provide wounded service members with services that the Defense Department cannot offer due to budgetary and regulatory restrictions.
In his new capacity, Mr. Schenck has maintained Pen Fed’s commitment to the hiring of veterans and the support of military families. In 2014, on numerous instances Pen Fed highlighted, notably and to include Schenck, the hiring of veterans to numerous senior level positions within the organization. Schneck earned his MBA from Harvard Business School and taught economics and finance at West Point. He served on the Army Staff in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans, overseeing the Army’s OPTEMPO Budget. His final tour was as special assistant to the Secretary of the Army.
Capitol Hill Staff Category
These individuals are at the helm of forming the policy and legislation for our Nation. Working on Capitol Hill gives a great deal of responsibility and power needed to address many of the problems and challenges that veterans, and our nation, face on a day-to-day basis. The influence that these few have in bringing legitimate change to the veteran community is unparalleled, and their ability to understand the issues and facilitate necessary debate and discussion is recognized and appreciated.
Steve Robertson, Democratic Staff Director, Senate Veterans Affairs Committee
In the 113th Congress Robertson oversaw the agenda of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee during one of the most pressing eras in recent memory. With the VA under fire, he was the lead on formulating a political response to address the issues facing the VA healthcare system. Robertson had large influence on what would move forward in conference and what legislation would be considered from the House.
Robertson was Senator Sander’s senior legislative assistant prior to his Chairmanship of SVAC. He also has worked as director, deputy director and assistant director of the National Legislative Commission at the American Legion. Robertson retired after 20 years of military service: 12 years active-duty USAF and 8 years in the DC Army National Guard.
Mike Brinck, Deputy Staff Director, House Veterans Affairs Committee
Mr. Brinck, a former Naval helicopter pilot, is second in command of the House Veterans Affairs Committee under Chairman Jeff Miller. During Mr. Brinck’s tenure, Chairman Miller has lead the way on numerous hearings and investigations surrounding the wait time scandals at the Phoenix VA Medical Center. Brinck, the former Staff Director of the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity has been with the committee since 1994 and is well respected by staff from both sides of the aisle, as well as among the many veterans and military service organizations involved with veteran issues. Brinck hails from Iowa and has a B.A. from St. Ambrose College in Davenport, Iowa, and is a graduate of the Naval War College.
Doug Coutts, Chief of Staff, Senator Tom Cotton
Coutts is an Army Veteran that served with Senator Cotton in the infantry, and is now providing the lead role in his office. During Coutts’ time serving as the Chief of Staff, Senator Tom Cotton has become extremely influential, beginning his career as a member of the House of Representatives, and is now a member of the Senate. Mr. Coutts also served as Cotton’s campaign manager, and will continue to play a critical role in an office that consists of and impacts a number of OIF veterans. Coutts taught U.S. History and Government at Orange County Public Schools prior to joining the Army in June of 2003. He received an MBA from American University.
Darren Dick, Republican Staff Director, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
With homeland security, terrorist attacks, and the growing realm of government intelligence, Navy Reservist Darren Dick played an outsized role in providing oversight of the Nation’s intelligence apparatus. His role will likely only continue to grow in the 114th Congress.
Darren Dick served as the Deputy Staff Director for the House Intelligence Committee from January 2011 to July 2013. He is a veteran of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence where he served as Counsel for the Committee and also as Deputy Staff Director. He was previously Senior Manager and Counsel for Government Relations and Public Policy at the EMC Corporation. Darren spent three years in the office of U.S. Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) as principal advisor to the Senator on national security issues. Prior to his work for Senator Roberts, he worked as a litigation attorney in Overland Park, KS. From 1992-1996 Darren worked as the Military Legislative Assistant to U.S. Senator Robert Dole (R-KS). He is an Intelligence Officer in the U.S. Navy Reserves and holds a Masters Degree in National Security Strategic Studies from the U.S. Naval War College.
Richard Kessler, Democratic Staff Director, Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs
Dr. Kessler, an Army Vietnam veteran and recipient of the Bronze Star, was the lead US Senate staffer overseeing America’s intelligence apparatus. This essentially placed him between House Republicans and the President in consideration of legislation of interest; a position that Senate Democrats will not enjoy in the forthcoming Congress. Nonetheless, it seems that Kessler will continue to be an influential voice on Capitol Hill considering his impressive background and accomplishments.
Dr. Kessler also served as the Democratic Staff Director of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee where he was appointed in 2008. Prior to his work on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Dr. Kessler served as Staff Director and Democratic Staff Director for numerous committees and subcommittees. As a Sergeant in the U.S. Army from 1970-1973, Dr. Kessler served in Vietnam where he was awarded a Bronze Star, the Army Commendation Medal, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, the Vietnamese Medal of Honor, and two battle stars.
The tireless work of the foundations listed in this category play an important role in strengthening and empowering the veteran community. These foundations provide direct support to the community through the development of employment initiatives, by providing funding for research on veteran-specific health issues, and by bringing relevant dialogue and educational opportunities to the general public in order to increase the overall understanding of veterans and the military community.
Eric Eversole, Vice President and Executive Director, Hiring Our Heroes, US Chamber of Commerce
Hiring Our Heroes is a grassroots initiative that helps veterans, service members and military spouses find employment across the United States. Hiring Our Heroes is committed to promoting events that will allow the military community to engage with both public and private partners, connecting businesses with future employees. With more than 800 hiring fairs, they have set a goal to make employment commitments to 500,000 veterans and spouses.
He first entered military service in 1994 as an enlisted security specialist in the Indiana Air National Guard. Eversole later accepted a commission in the United States Navy JAG Corps in 1998 and served on active duty until 2001, when he transferred to the Navy Reserve. Mr. Eversole is also the founder of the Military Voter Protection Project (MVP Project)—a program dedicated to promoting and protecting the voting rights of active duty military members and their spouses.
David Hiller, President and CEO, Robert McCormick Foundation
In 2014, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation gave over $12 Million in grants to benefit veteran initiatives and education through their well-known Veterans Program.
The Veterans Program is “committed to investing in, learning from, and implementing models of support to enable veterans to become assets in their local and national communities.” The impactful model deployed by the foundation encompasses plans and programs that make a difference in the daily lives of veterans by investing programs that benefit veteran employment, health and reintegration into a civilian lifestyle. The Robert R. McCormick Foundation has been integral in ensuring that veterans are provided with the resources that they need and opportunities that recognize the service that they have provided to the United States.
Howard Schultz, Founder, Schultz Family Foundation
In March 2014, the Schultz Family Foundation announced their commitment to honoring the nation’s veterans through their Onward Veterans program. Onward Veterans is an initiative that empowers post-9/11 veterans and recognizes their skill sets, work ethic and leadership skills by providing opportunities that utilize these abilities to make our nation better and stronger. This program also focuses on providing funding for research of PTSD and TBI.
The foundation recently released a book: For Love of Country: What Our Veterans Can Teach Us about Citizenship, Heroism and Sacrifice, which allows the civilian population to engage with the military community and veterans. By raising awareness of the sacrifices made by these individuals and increasing an understanding across the broader public, the Shultz Family Foundation works to bring the service member experience closer to home.
Debra Jacobs, President and CEO, The Patterson Foundation
The Patterson Foundation’s Legacy of Valor Campaign is a military initiative that aims to highlight the contributions given by military service men and women. The campaign consists of more than 100 community partnerships and organizations and has the purpose of facilitating events that will benefit and honor veterans and their families. Thus far, the Legacy of Valor Campaign has raised more than $270,000 for non-profits and engaged in more than 200 community events and activities that honored veterans. Most notably, they worked with VA to create Patriot Plaza, a 2,800-seat ceremonial amphitheater at Sarasota National Cemetery that honors veterans, inspires patriotism and embraces freedom. These are only a few of their accomplishments. The campaign hopes that their support of hundreds of grassroots projects will inspire patriotism, and educate communities about the service and sacrifice of veterans and their families.
Deborah Bial, Founder and President, The Posse Foundation
The Posse Foundation celebrated its 25-year anniversary in 2014, continuing its commitment to recognizing scholars around the nation. In 2014, The Posse Foundation expanded its Veterans Program, which supports and helps individuals in achieving his or her goals of receiving Bachelor’s degrees from highly ranked U.S. universities and colleges. The group’s ability to build a community of veterans around educational goals and opportunities makes The Posse Foundation undeniably noteworthy.
Boasting a graduation rate of over 90%, The Posse Foundation has gone above and beyond to ensure that veterans are receiving the best education and experiencing success in reaching their life and career goals. As founder and president, Deborah Bial is an expert in the field of education and leadership development. Her expertise has gained her national recognition in the higher education community in the United States.
Government — Career Employees Category
The individuals in this category have dedicated their lives to public service. In light of the most recent scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs, the following have given countless hours to bring pragmatic solutions to the most relevant problems, in addition to the positive work that they already do for the veteran community on a day-to-day basis. This category honors those that devote their lives to serving the interests of veterans, and their work is appreciated and recognized by many in the community.
Steven W. Young, Medical Center Director, VA Salt Lake City Health Care System
In the wake of the challenges of the Phoenix VA Medical Center crisis, Steve Young was called in to lead as the interim Medical Center Director. Young continues to be one of VA’s go to leaders in difficult situations, particularly in the Western United States.
He was appointed Director of the Veterans Affairs Salt Lake City Health Care System on June 21, 2009. In this position, he is responsible for executive leadership of the health care system that includes the George E. Wahlen VA Medical Center and clinics located in Utah, Idaho and Nevada.
Holly Petreaus is the Assistant Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Office of Servicemember Affairs, a government office dedicated to protecting service members and their families from financial predators and pitfalls.
From taking on predatory lenders focused on service members, to making sure that educational institutions are not taking advantage of veterans and their families, Holly Petreaus spent 2014 trying to make the world a better place for troops, veterans, and their spouses.
Dr. Sam Foote and the VA Whistleblowers
Dr. Sam Foote was the initial whistleblower whose actions led to a large-scale shake up of the Department of Veterans Affairs, to include the resignation of Secretary Shinseki and numerous other top VA officials. An emphasis on patient wait-times goals, poor oversight and scheduling practices all led to systematic failure of veterans across the nation. Mr. Foote’s and other whistleblower actions led to the uncovering of these failed systems that resulted in increased Congressional funding aimed at increasing clinical space for veterans, increasing the number of VA physicians to provide care, and providing temporary authorization to receive private care in the event VA cannot provide it or if the veteran does not have easy access to a VA facility.
James Ridgeway, Chief Counsel, Board of Veterans’ Appeals
James Ridgway is the Chief Counsel for Policy and Procedure at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. As a military brat, and one of the most respected veteran benefit attorneys in the nation, Ridgeway continues to be a leader in benefits law. He clerked for the Hon. Kenneth Kramer, an original member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC), and was the senior law clerk to the Hon. Alan G. Lance, Sr. for nearly eight years. In between his periods with the CAVC, Professor Ridgway was an assistant state attorney in Chicago for five years. While in Chicago, he taught appellate advocacy at the Loyola University of Chicago School of Law. He is also a Professor of Law at George Washington University.
Mr. Ridgway was the president of the CAVC’s bar association for 2012-13. As part of the Board of Governor’s for the bar association, he published the quarterly Veterans Law Journal, helped found the National Veterans Law Moot Court Competition (NVLMCC), and presents an Introduction to Veterans Law at law schools across the country.
Government – Political Appointees Category
Those that are called to serve carry the responsibility and honor of developing and implementing the President’s agenda. This is no easy task, and the following individuals were integral in making tough decisions, all with the aim of bringing the right solutions and policies to benefit the veteran and military community. The Department of Veterans Affairs were hit with a number of scandals this year, and these individuals took charge of their positions, doing everything possible to make right some of the most immediate problems and prominent challenges for veterans and service members.
Chuck Hagel, Former Secretary of Defense
Chuck Hagel, the 24th Secretary of Defense, is the first enlisted combat veteran to lead the Department of Defense. As a young man, Secretary Hagel volunteered for Vietnam, serving as an infantryman. Wounded during the conflict, his decorations include two Purple Hearts.
Secretary Hagel has been advocating for the veteran community since 1981, when he was nominated by President Ronald Reagan to serve as Deputy Administrator of the Veterans Administration. When elected to the U.S. Senate in 1996, Secretary Hagel continued to protect veterans’ rights, adding a focus on international security to his portfolio. He was also one of the leading Republican Senators that advocated along side Senator Jim Webb for passage of the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill. Secretary Hagel has also served as Co-Chairman of President Obama’s Intelligence Advisory Board and a member of the Secretary of Defense Policy Board.
Eric K. Shinseki, Former Secretary of Veterans Affairs
The year 2014 will probably not be fondly remembered by the highly decorated Vietnam veteran and former Secretary of the Army. After five years as Secretary, President Obama accepted Shinseki’s resignation as the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, in light of a scandal involving veterans receiving substandard access to care at the Phoenix VA Hospital and the mischaracterization of VA’s performance measures related to access. Despite these challenges, the top three priorities of Secretary Shinseki during his tenure were: increased access to VA healthcare and benefits, ending veteran homelessness by 2015, and eliminating the VA backlog with no claim pending for longer than 125 days. Moving forward it will be interesting to watch how VA under the leadership of Secretary McDonald, reorient their goals.
Sloan Gibson, Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Sloan Gibson was appointed to be Deputy Secretary following the departure of Deputy Secretary Scott Gould in 2014. Appointed in February, he had little time to prepare for the VA scandal that rocked VA in May. By the end of the month he was the acting Secretary after Shinseki’s resignation and was a national media focal point as numerous whistleblowers and other VA’s hospitals were found to be fudging their patient wait times. Sloan found himself testifying before Congress and working with VA to formulate an immediate emergency response to veterans that were in need of consistent and accountable healthcare. Prior to his appointment, Sloan was the CEO of USO and a graduate of the 1975 class of West Point.
Robert McDonald, Secretary of Veterans Affairs
When the Phoenix scandal led to Shinseki’s resignation in May 2014, an effective replacement was necessary. Many in the veteran world wondered who would fill the tough shoes of the highly respected Shinseki. The President’s selection, who was the Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer of The Procter Gamble Company (PG), has intrigued many. The implication has been that McDonald, a successful businessman, will be able to bring about positive customer-oriented change to VA.
Secretary McDonald is a graduate of the 1975 class from the United States Military Academy. He received his MBA from the University of Utah.
Allison Hickey, Under Secretary for Benefits,Department of Veterans Affairs
From the claims backlog, Post 9/11 GI Bill, and VA’s home loan program, General Allison Hickey is the face of VA benefits and services. The claims backlog took a backseat in the VA public limelight to the VA’s recent healthcare crisis. Recent numbers also suggest that Hickey has been effective in leading VA to dramatic reductions of VA claims; though not without controversy.
Nonetheless, General Hickey continues to be a dominant force over the 56 regional offices that give billions in benefits to veterans across the country. She created a strategy that took the VA out of a paper-based system and into an electronic claims processing system. Most seem to be in agreement that there has been substantial improvement in timeliness and the delivery of services. 2015 will be a year to watch General Hickey as VA has suggested for numerous years that they would eliminate the VA backlog. General Hickey is a 1980 graduate of the first Air Force Academy class to include women. She retired with the rank of Brigadier General as the Director of the Air Force’s Future Total Force office at the Pentagon.
First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden
The First and Second Ladies understand that behind every service member there is a supportive spouse and family that is making sacrifices and serving our country. To support them, the dynamic duo launched an effort entitled Joining Forces: Taking Action to Serve America’s Military Families. In President Obama’s State of the Union he suggested Joining Forces has resulted in 700,000 jobs for veterans and their spouses.
A strong and robust military depends on its people, and its people depend on their families. Ensuring the strength of our military families fortifies the morale of our soldiers, and strengthens their ability to protect and defend our nation.
Maura Sullivan, Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs, Department of Veterans Affairs
In October 2014, Maura Sullivan became the face of VA’s communications as the Assistant Secretary for Public Intergovernmental Affairs.
Following the challenging scandal that rocked the VA in May, Maura’s role is integral to rebuilding trust and transparency with the veterans and families VA serves. Sullivan was a Marine Captain and served in Fallujah in 2005. She came to VA via Pepsi Co. where she was a part of their executive team. She also was previously appointed to the Commission of the American Battle Monuments Commission. She is a graduate of Northwestern (B.A), and Harvard (MBA, MPA).
These military men and women have successfully led the United States Armed Forces during a very challenging and difficult time in our country’s military history. Being involved in numerous wars and conflicts for more than a decade, these individuals have shaped the debate surrounding the duty and the call to serve. With the Middle East continuing to be a volatile environment for our troops, and politicians continuously posturing on positions that take the fight to the enemy, we can only expect that our military will continue to see high ops tempos.
General Martin E. “Marty” Dempsey, U.S. Army
Gen. Martin Dempsey took his unique Jersey City, NJ flavored Irish American wit with him from the West Point Class of 1974, to Chairman of The Joint Chiefs. In a show of his multi-force command demeanor and diplomatic prowess, General Dempsey proved his admirable qualities when he ordered military schools to make sure they were not including anti-Islamic themes in training courses.
Martin Dempsey received his commission as an Army Armor Officer in 1974 when he graduated from West Point. Through his continuing 41-year career and rise to Chairman of The Joint Chiefs, Gen. Dempsey has served in a plethora of joint force, and multinational command elements. His highest level personal decorations include; Defense Distinguished Service Medal (with bronze oak leaf cluster), Army Distinguished Service Medal (with three bronze oak leaf clusters), Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit (with two bronze oak leaf clusters), Bronze Star (with Valor device and bronze oak leaf cluster), Meritorious Service Medal (with two bronze oak leaf clusters), along with the JSCM, ACM, and numerous AAMs.
General Raymond T. “Ray” Odierno, U.S. Army
Gen. Odierno, currently serving as the 38th Chief of Staff of the Army understands the importance of a strong and well-trained military force. In 2014, he spoke candidly about the need for leadership development in the Army, despite budget cuts and public disapproval of the continuing war. General Odierno continues to embody the tenants and traditions of what it means to serve. He works to bridge the gap between military and civilian life, and create the environment for a greater understanding between the two cultures.
Ray Odierno received his commission in 1976, upon graduation from West Point. He also received an MS in Nuclear Effects Engineering from NC State, an MA in National Security and Strategy from the Naval War College, and an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters again from NC State. Gen. Odierno most recently served as Commanding Gen. MNF-Iraq. His numerous decorations include; Defense Distinguished Service Medal (with 3 bronze Oak Leaf Clusters), Army Distinguished Service Medal (with bronze Oak Leaf Cluster), Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit (with 1 silver Oak Leaf Cluster), Bronze Star, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal (with 3 bronze Oak Leaf Clusters), ACM, and AAM.
Lieutenant General Herbert Raymond “H.R.” McMaster, U.S. Army
General McMaster is currently strategizing and helping win America’s future wars as the Director of Army Capabilities Integration Center and Deputy Commanding General, Futures, of US Army Training and Doctrine Command. McMaster is known for his pragmatic and no nonsense attitude; on numerous occasions he has spoken out against mistakes made in the war, solidifying his place as a leader of change. He has pinned on three stars in less than six years, and was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People.
HR McMaster received his Commission as a US Army Armor Officer after graduating West Point in 1984. He has earned numerous decorations during his career, including a Silver Star for his actions in 1991 as Captain commanding Eagle Troop of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment at the Battle of 73 Easting, where the nine tanks under his command destroyed over eighty Iraqi Republican Guard tanks and other vehicles without loss.
Sergeant Major Michael P. “Mike” Barrett, U.S. Marine Corps
Michael P. “Mike” Barrett enlisted in the Marine Corps at the age of 17 and has risen to be 17th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps. On April 11, 2014, Barrett surprised Congress on the topic of pay when he said, “Marines don’t run around asking about compensation, retirement, modernization…” “That’s not on their mind. As I talk to thousands of audiences, they want to know into whose neck do we put a boot next.”
Sergeant Major Barrett hails from Youngstown, NY, where he enlisted into the Corps at the age of 17 on March 16, 1981. During his 30 plus year rise from Infantry recruit at Parris Island, to 17th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps on June 9, 2011, he has held numerous duty positions, including; Scout Sniper, earning a Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with a Valor Device for engaging enemy mortar positions with his Barrett M82 sniper rifle in early 1991 during the first Gulf War. His leadership under fire also earned him two Bronze Stars with Valor Device during his 2005 and 2007 deployments to Iraq with the 2/7 Marines.
Christopher Scott “Chris” Kyle, U.S. Navy
Navy SEAL Sniper Chris Kyle had been termed Shaitan Ar-Ramadi, “The Devil of Ramadi”, by those he took aim at, and “Legend” by those whom he protected. After his tragic death in 2013, solidifying his full devotion to protecting Marines from the turmoil of war, Bradley Cooper portrayed Kyle in the film version of his book, “American Sniper,” which has brought his story and the challenge of service into high magnification. With 160 confirmed kills, “America’s deadliest sniper” was known as saying, his targets were, “already dead. I was just making sure [they] didn’t take any Marines with [them]”.
Kyle was born in 1974 in Odessa, TX to Deby Lynn (Mercer) and Wayne Kenneth Kyle. After overcoming medical complications with his arm during his attempted enlistment into the Marines, he was invited by the Navy to attend BUDS, and became a Navy Seal in 1999. Chris served through four combat tours to Iraq where he earned two Silver Star Medals, five Bronze Star Medals, one Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, and two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals.
The media plays an integral part of our political process. In 2014, the following individuals led the way on reporting on VA and the veteran experience. Through their stories, the media has held public and government officials accountable for their actions and promises. The media has also enlightened the public on veterans’ issues and increased their understanding of the sacrifices made by those that chose to serve.
Rick Maze, Editor-in-Chief, Association of the United States Army
Mr. Maze has been a major presence on Capitol Hill for most of his career as a regular contributor on C-Span, recognized for his writing on defense and veterans’ issues. He currently serves as the Editor in Chief of the Association of the United States Army. He has reported on military, defense and veterans affairs for 35 years, and is a nationally recognized expert on these issues.
Many were sad to see Maze’s departure from Gannett, Military Times, as he was rightly credited as the lead beat writer on veterans’ issues for numerous years.
Leo Shane, Reporter, Military Times
Leo Shane is an award-winning Military and Veterans Affairs reporter whose work has drawn national recognition from policy leaders, media peers, and troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, all of who rely on his insight as an objective voice on issues affecting their lives.
He has worked in Washington, D.C. since 2004, covering Capitol Hill and the White House. His beats include legislation affecting military policy and veterans’ issues. His work also includes overseas coverage of military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Chile and Ecuador. He has become a prominent voice on veterans’ issues, chronicling troops’ transition back to civilian life and the challenges facing the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Jon Stewart, Host, The Daily Show
The man, the myth, the legend. Twenty years ago, who could have predicted that a satirist would be considered a bona fide newsman in America? During Stewart’s tenure, The Daily Show went from a barely veiled homage of SNL’s Weekend Update, to investigating and reporting on real news. They have pushed the envelope on many controversial, yet relevant stories.
The Daily Show spent a fair amount of time on Veterans’ issues in 2014, as did a lot of news makers, in the wake of some of the controversy surrounding VA’s handling of patient wait times, but the Daily Show has a history of keeping a watchful eye on veterans’ issues. With so many topics which are not exactly ripe for comedic material, Stuart walks the fine line to highlight important issues and generate interest.
Jacqueline Klimas, Reporter, The Washington Times
Jacqueline Klimas is an award-winning reporter in Washington, D.C. As a Capitol Hill reporter for The Washington Times, she covers veteran’s issues, defense legislation, sexual assault in the military and on college campuses, and how technology is changing elections. Ms. Klimas was on top of all of the major veterans stories in 2014, which highlighted controversial issues and provided a high volume of stories that shaped the narrative and paved the way for passage of the Veterans’ Access Choice and Accountability Act.
Richard Jones, Executive Vice President Chief Veteran Officer, CBS
Richard M. Jones serves as Executive Vice President, General Tax Counsel, and Chief Veteran Officer with CBS. Prior to his role at CBS, Mr. Jones was a noncommissioned officer for the Army…oh yeah, he was also an Army Ranger. As Chief Veteran Officer, Mr. Jones is personally responsible for seeing that veteran’ issues are kept at the forefront of CBS’s news watch. Jones works closely with veterans’ organizations and keeps vigilant in ensuring veterans’ needs are receiving the attention they deserve.
He serves on the Advisory Committee on Veterans Employment, Training and Employer Outreach (ACTVETEO) at the Department of Labor. He also sits on the boards of the Wounded Warrior Project, The Institute for Veterans and Military
Families (IVMF) at Syracuse, The Uniforms Services Justice and Advocacy Group, the Eastern Seals Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Community Services, the Aaron Grider Foundation and is an advisor to Veterans Advantage and Act Today! (Autism Care Treatment) for Military Families.
Most Successful Veteran Entrepreneurs Category
These veterans have taken success to a new level. Their drive, ambition and savvy have allowed them to create extremely successful careers and gain domination within their individual business markets. These individuals started serving their country when they joined their respective military branches many years ago, and since then, have continued to serve our nation with the services that their business provide.
Richard Kinder, CEO, Kinder Morgan
Richard Kinder is a veteran of both the Vietnam War and the energy industry. The former Army Captain was Enron’s President at a time when the company was considered a bastion of integrity, and he left before the company’s challenges. Mr. Kinder emerged as one of the co-founders of Kinder Morgan, now the 4th largest energy company in the country. Forbes listed him among the richest Americans of 2014, and he is poised to remain on that list for some time.
Kinder’s leadership style has been described as meticulous, and he holds his management team to high standards. His nature has also led to a positive and strong workforce environment, and Kinder Morgan was recognized as one of Americas Most Admired Companies by Fortune magazine in 2007.
Jack Taylor, Founder, Enterprise Rent-a-Car
Before Jack Taylor launched what would become the Enterprise car rental company 1962, he was a Navy Fighter Pilot in World War II serving on the USS Enterprise. Enterprise remains family owned and operated, but Mr. Taylor’s military values remain present, and the company takes pride in its military heritage. The company welcomes veterans and their family members into their ranks and offers a Management Training Program, which teaches participants how to run a successful business. In addition, Enterprise has been involved with philanthropy for over half a century. This has led to over $200 million going to thousands of local nonprofits focused on community improvement, education and environmental stewardship.
Rich DeVos, Co-Founder, Amway
Rich Davos is one of the cofounders of Amway and the owner of the Orlando Magic. A World War II veteran who served in the Army Air Corps, the 88 year old is still attending his team’s games regularly.
The American businessman has also authored two books, Compassionate Capitalism and Hope from My Heart: Ten Lessons For Life. The latter was written after a successful heart transplant operation in 1997. He also coauthored a book about his career titled Believe.
John Paul DeJoria, Businessman and Philanthropist, Patron / Paul Mitchell
John Paul DeJoria may be better recognized as a cofounder of the Paul Mitchell brand, but the entrepreneur has a diverse range of holdings including the Patron Spirits Company and the House of Blues.
What many may not realize is that DeJoria is also a Navy veteran. His trek into the Navy would sound familiar to many of today’s service members. As a first generation American, DeJoria began earning money to support his family at the age of nine by selling Christmas cards and newspapers. During high school, he joined the Navy at 17, serving on the USS Hornet. The Navy recently honored DeJoria with the Lone Star Sailor Award in recognition of his success as an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and a pillar of the business community.
Sumner Redstone, Founder, Viacom
Sumner Redstone is the media magnate behind CBS Corporation and Viacom. The Boston native graduated from Harvard in 1944, and served as a lieutenant in US Army during World War II. Besides building a media empire, Redstone is also an author and philanthropist. It is estimated that Sumner Redstone has donated over $150 million, nearly 1.7 percent of his net worth to various philanthropic causes. In 2014 alone, Redstone donated $10 million to Harvard Law School for public-interest fellowships. The donation was the largest ever to the law school in support of public service.
Non-Profit Innovators Category
The men and women in this category have turned their own first-hand veteran experiences into successful and well-known non-profit enterprises, all of which have the mission of helping service members as well as those within their local communities. These individuals understand the importance of building a strong community and recognize the constant challenges that many veterans and their families face. As such, they have dedicated their life’s work to ensuring that they bring positive and impactful change to those around them, as well as offering relevant opportunities for veterans to find a way to continue their call to serve.
Jake Wood, Founder, Team Rubicon
Jake and Team Rubicon have taken the veterans’ world by storm. What better way to continue using your military skills than redeploying to help when a natural disaster strikes? Since 2010, Team Rubicon has grown immensely, and they even received their own infomercial on the National Mall during HBO’s Concert for Valor. If that doesn’t make you want to tread into hurricanes and earthquakes… what will? In 2014 it was business as usual for Team Rubicon, with hurricane operations in the Philippines, and in assisting in the aftermath of mid-west tornados and flooding across the Nation.
Wood honorably served four years in the United States Marine Corps, deploying to Iraq in 2007 and Afghanistan in 2008. He graduated Scout-Sniper School at the top of his class and in 2007 he was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with “V” for actions in Iraq. Jake serves on numerous national veteran committees and speaks around the country about veteran issues and social entrepreneurship. In October, Crown will publish Jake’s first book, Take Command.He graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a double major, where he also played football.
Mike Erwin, Founder, Team RWB
Across the nation, veterans, their families, and their supporters are donning red Team RWB shirts. The man to blame: Mike Erwin. Erwin, a Major in the US Army, earned a MS in Psychology from the University of Michigan. He also teaches psychology and leadership at the US Military Academy at West Point.
Team RWB’s fast growing nature seems to be based on a growing trend whereby veterans are interested in coming together and looking for ways to bridge commonalities in a social and empowering manner. Team RWB seems to be at the forefront of this and saw dynamic growth in 2014. From running to rock climbing to other fun and physical activities, veterans are getting out, getting active, and having a strong association with Team RWB in the process.
Chris Marvin, Managing Director, Got Your 6
Got Your 6, under the leadership of Chris Marvin, has made huge headway and come out strong in 2014. From media campaigns to working with their partners on the Concert of Valor, Got Your 6 has been busy “normalizing the depictions of veterans on film and television to dispel common myths about the veteran population.” We are looking forward to see what 2015 brings for veterans on their behalf.
Marvin, a US Army Officer and Blackhawk helicopter pilot, served for more than seven years and was awarded a Bronze Star and the Air Medal. After being severely wounded in combat in Afghanistan, Marvin volunteered as an advocate for other wounded veterans, most prominently as the Director of the Fellowship Program for The Mission Continues. He holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Notre Dame and an MBA from The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.
Seth Lynn, Founder, Veterans Campaign
After receiving his Commission from the US Naval Academy in 2002, Seth went on the serve for 6 years as a Marine Corps Ground Officer. He then went on to earn a MPA in International Affairs from Princeton University, and after came to DC where he founded Second Service and Veterans Campaign, both of which are aimed at teaching Veterans how to run successful campaigns. Mr. Lynn understood that Veterans were experienced in leadership and teamwork and that they are the ones that could bring solutions and partnerships to Capitol Hill.
In 2012, Seth published In the Shadow of Greatness, discussing his military service and how it inspired him to start his nonprofit organizations. After 4 years of existence, Veterans Campaign, in 2014, has become a prominent catapult in helping Veterans fulfill their call to service in political office.
Taryn Davis, Founder and Executive Director, American Widow Project
The death of Davis’s husband to a roadside bomb in 2007 led her to create the American Widow Project. The American Widow Project is a non-profit organization providing peer-to-peer support to a new generation of military widows grieving the loss of spouses in the United States Armed Forces.
After her husband’s death, Taryn began traveling around the country to hear other women’s stories of love, tragedy and survival. In hearing their accounts, she hoped to learn more about the title that been had given to her – that of a military widow. Inspired by the willpower and strength of the women “in her shoes” she has found that true love is eternal, that the lessons and things her husband said and did still runs through her veins, and mostly that she is not alone.
Chris Brown, Founder and Director, Growing Veterans
Chris Brown has been taking the farming world by storm. What launched as an idea among fellow veterans to learn more about farming, nutrition, and the chemicals that pervade our food supply, Mr. Brown has successfully turned into this group of veterans that are determined to help their fellow vets experience a positive transition. Growing Veterans, moving into its second year, is looking to empower military veterans to grow food, communities, and the relationships with each other. Their organization is part educational, part community, and part agricultural movement. We are looking forward to eating the outcome!
Father Rick Curry, Founder, Dog Tag Bakery
Dog Tag Bakery is a small business run by veterans. Father Curry founded Dog Tag Bakery as a training ground for veterans, giving them a hands-on experience with the tools and resources needed for operating and managing a business. This unique business model has partnered with Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies to offer training offers courses specific to participating veterans’ goals including: accounting, management, communication, corporate finance, marketing, and business policy. The storefront includes a state of the art bakery and kitchen, as well as classroom space to ensure that veterans learn about every aspect of owning and operating a successful business.
Steven Nardizzi, Founder and CEO, Wounded Warrior Project
Wounded Warrior Project continues to make an impact in a growing number of projects and events that benefit veterans. One thing is for certain – Wounded Warrior Project knows what the broader community of veterans wants and needs, and has created overarching and long-term strategies to achieve their goals and benefit the veteran community. Wounded Warrior Project offers a number of programs focused at assisting veterans, as well as advocating for veterans’ issues to Congress and the Administration. Mr. Nardizzi helped found the Wounded Warrior Project in 2003. If the past is any indicator, expect to see more dynamic partnerships and effective programming in 2015.
Non-Profit Traditional Category
This category honors some of the longest standing, non-profit supporters of the veteran community. The continuously show dedicated and committed efforts to bring veteran and service members’ interests to the forefront of national dialogue, which has made them highly influential and powerful forces in enhancing veterans’ needs. The individuals listed below represent the leadership of these organizations, those who reinstated the commitment to veterans in 2014, and who ensured that the veterans’ issues remained prevalent in public discourse.
Verna Jones, Executive Director, American Legion
The American Legion and Verna Jones, quickly found themselves among veteran and public conversations during the VA Healthcare Scandal. The Legion was the first traditional Veteran Service Organization to call for the resignation of highly respected Secretary Shinseki. Ms. Jones was called upon to organize Veteran Crisis Command Centers in Phoenix and numerous other cities to assist veterans in receiving healthcare, benefits, and other services. In November, Ms. Jones was appointed to become the first African-American female Executive Director of the American Legion.
Garry Augustine, Executive Director, Disabled American Veterans
Garry Augustine survived a severe injury sustained by a mine attack in 1970. Since then he has dedicated himself to assisting veterans in numerous capacities. As the Executive Director of the DAV, Mr. Augustine is one of the most respected voices on Capitol Hill. Under his leadership, the DAV has earned a reputation of being approachable, pragmatic, and knowledgeable.
In 2014, he and his team led the way on advance appropriations to ensuring that the VA was properly funded. He also worked tirelessly to get more funding in light of the VA healthcare scandal, and in looking to create a fully developed appeals process.
Paul Rieckhoff, Founder and CEO, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America
Paul Rieckhoff continues to dominate the airwaves as the “go-to” expert for a number of veteran related topics of the day. In 2014, his team was oriented towards highlighting mental healthcare issues via the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act, which aims to help reduce military and veteran suicides and improve access to quality mental health care.
Through Rieckhoff’s efforts, his organization has a sizable team of lobbyists and advocates in Washington, D.C. that continue to focus on finding government solutions to the many challenges faced by America’s veterans.
Bob Wallace, Executive Director, Veterans of Foreign Wars
With 13 years as the Executive Director of the VFW, Wallace is easily the longest tenured Executive Director of the “big three” veteran service organizations: DAV, Legion, VFW. As a combat wounded Vietnam Veteran, Wallace is well known and respected on Capitol Hill, and among the veteran community.
In 2014, his team was largely focused on the challenges presented by the VA scandal that broke in May 2014, as well as on receiving advance appropriations for all VA funded programs to continue improvements to VA claims and appeals processes.
Vice Admiral Norbert Ryan, President and CEO, Military Officers Association of America
Admiral Ryan’s actions continue to lead MOAA to higher plateaus. Largely respected as one of the top military service organizations (MSO), MOAA continues to build its impact and image under Ryan’s leadership. In 2014, MOAA announced that they would take on assisting veterans with their disability benefits. Additionally, they continue to play a key role in the fight to maintain service members’ benefits and pay.
Expect to see Admiral Ryan leading the way in the discussions surrounding the morale and readiness of the uniformed services in 2015, the need for increased pay, the quality and accessibility of healthcare for veterans, and the maintenance of benefits for service members, veterans, and their families.
In 2014, these Representatives were at the front and center on veterans’ issues, or were dynamic veterans themselves. During challenging times at VA, and with more than 10 years in war, these members are on the leading edge of the policies that affect our nation’s service members and veterans.
Representative Jeff Miller
As Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Miller took VA leadership to task as news broke that the Phoenix VA Medical Center had been inappropriately reporting wait times for veteran’s medical appointments. Additionally, Miller played a key role in legislation aimed at ensuring that veterans receive timely healthcare, which included increased funding for VA clinical space, the hiring of physicians and healthcare employees, and the ability to utilize private healthcare in the event that VA is unable to provide services in a timely manner.
United States Representative Jeff Miller also serves on the House Armed Services Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. He is a former Florida State Representative who attended the University of Florida. Naval Air Station Pensacola is located in his district. He was a strong supporter and proponent of the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill.
Representative Mike Thompson
Congressman Thompson, a Vietnam Veteran turned vintner, is Co-Chair of the Veterans Congressional Fellowship Caucus. In 2014, Thompson took point with the congressional body for failing to hire veterans. In reaction to the less than 3% of veterans working on Capitol Hill, a number worse than nearly every federal agency, he and Rep. Don Young established the Veterans Congressional Fellowship. The fellowship provides an initial opportunity and training for veterans to get their foot in the door in the Capitol Hill career track. In the summer of 2014, the fellowship hosted the first eight veteran fellows, across numerous offices on both sides of the aisle. The Veterans Congressional Fellowship is expected to host two classes of fellows in 2015. Additionally, Representative Thompson continues to fight for his local veterans leading the way on bringing positive change to the Oakland VA Regional Office; one of the worst in the nation. He has also been a strong proponent of Post 9/11 G.I Bill, the end of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and TBI/PTSD issues.
In 1990, Thompson was the first Vietnam veteran elected to the California State Senate. He served in combat with the U.S. Army as a staff sergeant/platoon leader with the 173rd Airborne Brigade where he was wounded and received a Purple Heart. He was also an instructor at the Army’s Airborne School.
Thompson is a small vineyard owner and was the maintenance supervisor for the Beringer Winery. He has taught Public Administration and State Government at San Francisco State University and California State University, Chico. He received his Masters of Public Administration from California State University, Chico.
Representative Don Young
Congressman Don Young is the second longest tenured veteran in Congress, second only to Charlie Rangel. Rep. Young is the co-founder of the Veterans Congressional Fellowship Caucus. In 2014, Young took point with the congressional body for failing to hire veterans. In reaction to the less than 3% of veterans working on Capitol Hill, a number worse than nearly every federal agency, he and Representative Mike Thompson, established the Veterans Congressional Fellowship. The fellowship provides an initial opportunity and training for veterans to get their foot in the Capitol Hill career track. In the summer of 2014, the fellowship hosted the first eight veteran fellows, across numerous offices on both side of the aisle. The fellows received extensive legislative and on job training. The Veterans Congressional Fellowship is expected to host two classes of fellows in 2015.
Congressman Don Young was re-elected to the 114th Congress in 2014 to serve his 22nd term as Alaska’s only Representative to the United States House of Representatives. First sworn in as a freshman to the 93rd Congress after winning a special election on March 6, 1973, Congressman Young is today the 1st ranking Republican member and the 3rd ranking overall member of the House of Representatives.
Representative Buck McKeon
In 2014, McKeon chaired the powerful House Armed Services Committee during continued operations in the Middle-East, Afghanistan, and other contingencies across the world. Under his leadership the House renamed the FY2015 NDAA to the Buck McKeon Act that would authorize $600 billion in appropriations. The bill successfully kept the Air Force’s fleet of A-10’s in operation despite best efforts to retire them to save operational funds.
McKeon, a graduate of BYU, retired at the end of the 113th Congress. We suspect he will be spending a great deal of time with his 31 grandchildren.
Representative Dina Titus
Representative Titus actions led to the most controversial Veterans Affairs Committee vote in the 113th Congress. In a Full Committee mark-up she offered legislation that would allow same sex married couples to receive benefits and healthcare from VA. The vote was split on party lines with one Republican voting in favor of the measure. Additionally, she has focused on reducing the claims and appeals backlog, increasing veteran access to National Cemeteries in states that don’t have them, and increasing GI Bill benefits for those pursuing STEM degrees.
Titus, a Georgia native of Greek descent, first came to Nevada as professor of political science at UNLV. She also served in the Nevada Senate.
In 2014, these U.S. Senators were at the front and center on veterans’ issues, or were dynamic veterans themselves. During challenging times at VA, and with more than 10 years in war, these members are on the leading edge of the policies that affect our nation’s service members and veterans.
Senator Tom Cotton
A 2015 dark horse, Cotton had fellow OIF veterans shaking our head in amazement that he had pulled off the win. Cotton enters the 114th Congress as the first Senator to be an OIF generation combat veteran. At 37 he is also the youngest Senator. He continues to employ veterans at a high rate, realizing the leadership skills they bring and that likely contributed to his being the youngest Senate member on Capitol Hill…take note Congress!
An OIF/OEF vet, Cotton attended Harvard (B.A. and J.D.) and was a platoon leader for the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division. He is a recipient of the Bronze Star.
Senator John McCain
Senator John McCain continues to offer his own brand of foreign policy and national security. With nearly 33 years of congressional experience in the House and Senate, and a few presidential runs under his belt, McCain continues to be a “go to” for the press on issues such as ISIS, Afghanistan, and other National Security focused issues. He holds the record for Meet the Press appearances for an individual in office.
McCain, a former U.S. Naval aviator who attained the rank of Captain, was shot down over Hanoi during the Vietnam War. He was a POW in the notorious Hanoi Hilton for five and a half years prior to his release. He is highly respected and is a recipient of the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star, and the Navy Commendation Medal.
Senator Bernie Sanders
As Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Sanders found himself as the gatekeeper between law affecting the Department of Veterans Affairs and a Republican controlled house. As the VA scandals in Phoenix reached the level of a national crisis, Sander’s found himself looking for pragmatic middle-ground as both the public and the nation’s veterans called for immediate action. Sanders played a key role in legislation aimed at ensuring that veterans receive timely healthcare, which included increased funding for VA clinical space, the hiring of physicians and healthcare employees, and the ability to utilize private healthcare in the event that VA is unable to provide services in a timely manner.
Senator Carl Levin
Senator Levin has served as Democratic ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee since 1997, and served as Chairman during the 113th Congress. After his 6th term representing Michigan as the state’s longest serving Senator, Levin delivered his farewell address on Dec. 12, 2014, and leaves behind a truly bipartisan legacy. His time in the Senate was addressed with accolades by numerous members from across the aisle such as, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaking about Levin. “He’s put the country ahead of any partisan politics….working with him on detainees, investigating Abu Ghraib. He has just been a rock-solid chairman of the Armed Services Committee.”
Senator Richard Burr
Senator Burr currently serves the state of North Carolina in his 2nd Senate term as Chairman of Senate Intelligence Committee. Prior to being elected to the Senate, he served North Carolina through five terms in the House. His advocacy for our men and women in the military and their families, and for the growing population of veterans across North Carolina, has earned him a seat on the West Point Board of Visitors.
He carries a great American legacy with him as 12th cousin of Aaron Burr, the former Vice-President, Senator, lawyer, and Continental Army officer known most for defeating Founding Father Alexander Hamilton in an 1804 duel.
Small and Mid-Size Businesses
The veteran community has only grown stronger with the development and progress of these businesses. These small and mid-size businesses are either founded by veterans, or founded with veterans in mind, and they offer insight into the leadership and entrepreneurial talent that exists within the veteran community. As these individual businesses continue to grow, it will mean more opportunities for veterans and supporters to establish themselves within the local community as successful business men and women.
Dawn Halfaker, Founder and CEO, Halfaker and Associates
Ms. Halfaker continues to take the world by storm. “Have a vision. Follow your passion. The money will come,” she says. A West Point Grad, she is the founder and CEO of Halfaker and Associates, a successful, award winning professional services and technology solutions firm founded in 2006. Headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, Halfaker and Associates operates worldwide providing cutting-edge, innovative solutions in information technology for government organizations on issues of national and global significance. Under Dawn’s leadership, the Company has achieved extraordinary success and growth and which is fueled by the Company’s vision of “Continuing to Serve.” She is also a Board Member of the Wounded Warrior Project.
Robert Bleier, CEO, Rocky Bleier
As the spokesman of NAVOBA (National Veteran Owned Business Association), Robert “Rocky” Bleier, CEO of Rocky Bleier, Inc. is an accomplished Veteran, who began his service when he was drafted for the Vietnam War. He was awarded a Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his military service. He moved on to be an extremely successful athlete, mentor and businessman. He is a four-time Super Bowl winner with the Steelers in the 1970s.
Bleier found his calling through motivational speaking. His focus has been to communicate to the broader veteran community, ensuring that veterans understand the importance of sharing and spreading their individual stories and experiences. He is a managing partner of RBVetCo., which works on various VA contracts.
Joseph Kopser and Craig Cummings, Founders, RideScout
When two Army veterans team up, watch out. RideScout originated from imagine this….DC traffic! The idea: what is the quickest way to get from point A to point B utilizing real time data on various available transportation options?Their revolutionary (and genius) tool allows people to search and compare various ground transportation options in real time. RideScout shows a user’s transit, taxi, ride share, car share, bike share, carpool, walking, biking, driving and parking in one view, with transit arrivals and traffic integration.
Word on the street is that they have struck a deal and have or are selling the company to a higher bidder. We will be keeping an eye on these Army Vets and imagine they have more to come!
Top Lobbyist and Influencers Category
The job of lobbying for veterans’ interests brings a diverse selection of individuals for this category. The range of veteran and service member issues is wide and offers a number of perspectives when trying to understand the most relevant problems for multiple generations of veterans. From Vietnam to the most recent Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, the individuals listed below represent the most impactful lobbyists and influencers from 2014, those that worked relentlessly to bring positive change to the veteran community.
Rick Weidman, Executive Director for Policy and Government, Vietnam Veterans of America
Rick Weidman continues to be one of the most respected veteran advocates on Capitol Hill. As a co-founder of the Vietnam Veterans of America, and its primary spokesperson in Washington, D.C., Mr. Weidman has long advocated for a host of issues for veterans across the board to include Agent Orange, access to quality mental health care, and employment and small business issues. His efforts have resulted in significant positive results for veterans over numerous decades. Weidman served as a 1-A-O Army Medical Corpsman during the Vietnam War, including service with Company C, 23rd Med, AMERICAL Division, located in I Corps of Vietnam in 1969.
Joe Violante, Legislative Director, Disabled American Veterans
Joe Violante, a Vietnam veteran, was appointed National Legislative Director of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) in July 1997. Since that time Mr. Violante has become one of the most respected veteran advocates on Capitol Hill. He leads a pragmatic, solution-oriented team and has gone after many tough issues. His team continues to lead the way on advance appropriations to ensure that the VA is properly funded.
A New Jersey native, Mr. Violante joined the Marine Corps in 1969 and served with the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines and Battalion Landing Team 2/4 in Southeast Asia. He was discharged in 1972 with the rank of Sergeant. He attended the University of New Mexico, received a Bachelor’s degree in history and political science, and earned his law degree from the San Fernando Valley College of Law in California. Mr. Violante was a practicing attorney in California before moving to Washington D.C. to work as a Staff Attorney at the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Board of Veterans’ Appeals in 1985.
Alex Nicholson, Legislative Director, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America
Alexander Nicholson serves as the Legislative Director for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). In a short period of time, Nicholson has quickly established himself as one of the leading veteran advocates on Capitol Hill. Armed with IAVA’s strong media presence and strategy, Alex has reinvigorated positive relationships with lawmakers and their staffs on Capitol Hill in an effort to garner positive outcomes on behalf of veterans.
In 2014, his efforts largely focused on introduction and passage of the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act that aims to help reduce military and veteran suicides and improve access to quality mental health care. Prior to joining IAVA, Mr. Nicholson founded and led the advocacy group Servicemembers United.
Mr. Nicholson holds a Bachelors degree in international affairs from the University of South Carolina, a Masters degree in public administration from the University of North Georgia, and is currently completing the dissertation on his Ph.D. in political science from the University of South Carolina.
William Hubbard, Vice President of Government Affairs, Student Veterans of America
As the Vice President of Government Affairs for SVA, Will Hubbard has led the way on veterans’ educational issues on Capitol Hill. With an increased number of veterans departing the military and looking to use their educational benefits, SVA’s role has grown across the nation.
Previously, Will spent several years serving government agencies to include the Department of the Navy, Department of State, and the State of Indiana Department of Revenue. Prior to his career in consulting, he co-founded a successful startup business in the snack food industry, which continues to prosper in the greater Chicago area. He has served SVA at both the chapter and national levels.
Ray Kelley, Legislative Director, Veterans of Foreign Wars
In 2014, Mr. Kelley led the way on Capitol Hill for America’s oldest major Veteran Service Organization – the VFW. He and his team focused on veteran’s issues across all sectors, but were particularly focused on healthcare in light of the recent Phoenix scandal. He also played a critical role in the creation of the Independent Budget, which is intended to inform and educate the public and lawmakers about the most pressing issues affecting VA and veterans.
Formerly the National Legislative Director for AMVETS, Kelley’s credentials as an advocate for America’s veterans are well established. Prior to that, he served six years in the U.S. Marine Corps. Upon receiving his Bachelor of Science in Political Science from Indiana University, East, Kelley served for three years in the Army Reserve where he conducted over 250 combat missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).
Anu Bhagwati, Executive Director and Co-Founder, Service Women’s Action Network
Bhagwati continues to lead the way on Military Sexual Trauma (MST) reform on Capitol Hill. MST, which has seen continued interest in the media and public, was a large topic of debate in the 113th Congress. Bhagwati was the lead advocate on numerous pieces of legislation that would increase benefits for veterans who have been the victims of MST, while pushing DoD to reform policies to prevent sexual assault in the military and punish those that partake in assaults.
A former Captain and Company Commander, Anu served as a Marine officer from 1999-2004 and was the second woman to complete the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program instructor trainer school, earning a black belt in close combat techniques. A regular contributor to the media, Anu has been featured on Piers Morgan Tonight, The Situation Room, Fox News, MSNBC, CBS This Morning, NBC Nightly News, Good Morning America, NPR, BBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Time and Newsweek and is also featured in the Academy Award-nominated documentary The Invisible War.
Veteran Foundations Category
The individuals in this category have led the charge in promoting veteran-specific initiatives and providing support and funding to improve the quality of veteran and military service members’ lives. These organizations are dedicated to ensuring that the valor and sacrifices made by the men and women in our military are recognized and honored. These foundations’ efforts have worked to bring a number of benefits to veterans, and their commitment to these efforts has increased the overall strength of the veteran and supporter community.
Bob and Lee Woodruff, Founders, Bob Woodruff Foundation
Bob and Lee Woodruff continue to impact the veteran community with their great deeds. Emphasizing rehabilitation and recovery, education and employment, and quality of life, the foundation has provided millions of dollars to entities that are fulfilling these outcomes on behalf of veterans.
In 2014 the foundation provided funds to help veterans to transition into farming, to educating nurses that assist veterans, and to provide programs that reintegrate veterans through a number of physical activities. In 2006, Bob Woodruff was seriously injured by a roadside bomb while reporting for ABC. Since then, he has become a huge advocate on behalf of veterans, service members and those that support them.
Lee Woodruff, as the wife of Bob, has been by his side throughout his recovery. This tragedy that she detailed in her book In an Instant has been the spark that has led to a huge amount of goodwill and assistance to those that serve our Nation.
Marie Tillman, Co-Founder, Tillman Foundation
The number of Tillman Foundation scholars continues to rise, and their accomplishments do not fail to amaze both the veteran community and its supporters. Founded following the death of Pat Tillman, the foundation has changed over the years into an entity that assists veterans in realizing their dreams through educational scholarships.
Marie Tillman has led the way in turning tragedy into a legacy, one that continues to honor Pat’s life, as well as honoring Marie as a survivor, who has found an impactful purpose in enriching the lives of veterans through education.
Kenneth Fisher, Vice Chairman, Fisher House Foundation, Inc.
Ken Fisher continues his family tradition of providing an amazing “home away from home” when veterans and service members are receiving treatment at facilities across the nation. In 2014, sixty-four Fisher Houses served more than 25,000 families in 2014.
When he is not helping service members and their families, Kenneth Fisher is a senior partner at Fisher Brothers, based in New York City, and is part of the third generation of leadership, overseeing the leasing, management and marketing of more than five million square feet of class-A commercial space in Midtown Manhattan covering the Park, 6th and 3rd Avenue corridors and 1.5 million square feet in Washington DC.
Michael Focareto, Founder and CEO, Veteran Tickets Foundation
A U.S. Navy veteran with a long lineage of military service, Focareto found inspiration in helping disabled veterans attend socially interactive events. In 2014, the Veterans Ticket Foundation gave away nearly a half-million tickets. Focareto views social events as a great way to bring veterans families together, while also allowing veterans to socially reintegrate.
HillVets is a bipartisan organization focused on empowering veterans through networking, education and community service. HillVets strives to increase the number of veterans working in government and in business in the Washington DC area. Through various initiatives and events HillVets works to promote and connect veterans to each other and to the broader community. Learn more at: www.HillVets.org.
The scene speaks for itself: you can clearly see the journalist presenting her report from the runway as several Hind gunships fly close to her. As many as 14 Mi-24s can be seen in the footage with the second one literally buzzing the journalist with the stub wing endplate missile pylon missing her head by a few inches…
Take a look:
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
Christopher Brown squats among knee-high rows of green garlic. He grasps a stalk at its base and tugs it from the ground with a satisfying crunch. After popping several plants from the soil, he peels back their papery protective layers, revealing bulbs that are a brilliant, glossy white.
Six months ago, much of this Skagit Valley farmland was a mucky soup of tangled grass, mud and standing water under stormy skies. Today, it’s a pleasant 70 degrees. Rows of produce, from garlic and sugar snap peas to kale and broccoli, spring from the valley’s soft loam.
A three-time Marine combat veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, Brown struggled to adjust when he returned to the U.S. So, too, did many of the men and women who are now harvesting produce alongside him — military veterans from all branches, of all ages.
Welcome to Growing Veterans, the thriving nonprofit that has transformed the life of Brown, its president and co-founder, and the lives of many of its workers and volunteers.
Together, they use sustainable practices to plant, grow and harvest a rich variety of produce for sale at farmers markets and donation to food banks. It is satisfying work, but there’s a deeper mission at stake: helping veterans reconnect — to each other, and to the communities they serve. And, in the process, tackling the pervasive isolation that underlies many of the issues they face.
In the morning, they park their cars in the gravel driveway of a former dairy farm. They greet each other with hugs. As they work, they share stories — funny stories, sad stories, terrifying stories — from their time in the service. They talk politics. Medications. Family. Civilian life.
Brown has a story of his own. In 2008, he returned from his final tour of duty. “There was a lot of guilt, grief, anger, frustration and anxiety,” he says. He also had to cope with a mild traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
His struggles were not unique. Along with PTSD, many returning veterans face depression. Substance abuse. Unemployment. Homelessness. And suicidal thoughts.
There was a lot of guilt, grief, anger, frustration, and anxiety
Brown’s Marine battalion, the 2/7, has a suicide rate four times that of all young male veterans. At least 15 men from the battalion have taken their own lives since he left the military.
“When I went back to get my undergraduate degree,” he says, “I made a commitment to myself that I would pursue an education and a career where those losses would not be in vain.”
Brown also began working on his own mental health. He spent over two years in group and individual counseling, processing his traumas and learning coping strategies. Following the advice of his counselor, he started growing plants as a way to reconnect with life.
Soon, he was harvesting food from his own garden for dinner, and he was feeling better and better. “I realized that there really is something to working with food and growing plants,” he says.
And then, just before he turned his thoughts to graduate school at the University of Washington, he says, it clicked: Why not combine food and sustainable agriculture with helping veterans?
For the past four years, he has done just that. Along with counselor-turned-farmer Christina Wolf, who serves as operations manager, Brown co-founded Growing Veterans on a 3.5-acre site north of Bellingham. The organization has since leased its expansive Skagit Valley location and a half-acre spot in Auburn, and continued to deepen its connections with regional farm agencies, veteran service providers and nonprofits.
Brown, who just completed his master’s in social work at the UW, and Wolf have also deepened their organization’s focus on mental health. Each of Growing Veterans’ nine employees has completed a peer-support training program designed to tackle veteran isolation and prevent suicide.
And beyond providing life-sustaining social support at its farms, Growing Veterans helps people connect with as many meaningful opportunities as possible: through other local and national veteran organizations, business and community networking, and educational projects.
There’s plenty of excitement cropping up for Growing Veterans. More community partners. More acreage planted. More people receiving healthy, sustainably grown produce. More veterans beginning the journey to healing.
But there’s also tremendous power in the present: The warmth of the sun. The fertile soil that gently gives way under each step. And the rhythm with which dirt-covered, callused hands pick and peel bunches of garlic, set them aside, and then begin anew.
When Growing Veterans was just getting off its feet, Christopher Brown embarked upon another journey: He took on a master’s degree in social work at the University of Washington.
Now a newly minted graduate, Brown recently transitioned from executive director of Growing Veterans to president of the board of directors — freeing up time to launch his career as a PTSD counselor for veterans.
His professors supported him as he focused many of his research projects on furthering the mission of Growing Veterans. And, though his concentration was in integrative health and mental health practice, Brown also learned about leadership and community building.
“Many of my professors also ran their own foundations and brought their worldly experience to the classroom,” he says. “They helped challenge and refine not only my understanding of how to work with others, but my view of the world, too.”
For more on Growing Veterans visit their website here.
A US air attack in Northern Syria appears to have killed a very senior member of al-Qaeda along with other terrorists on Sunday, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told reporters.
The strike targeted a senior operational al-Qaeda meeting in Northwest Syria and resulted in several enemy kills, he added.
“We assess that al-Qaida’s senior leader, Abu Firas al-Suri, was in that meeting, and we are working to confirm his death. Al-suri is a Syrian national and legacy al-Qaeda member. He fought in Afghanistan in the 80s and 90s and worked with Osama Bin Laden – another founding al Qadea members to train terrorist and conduct attacks globally,” Cook said.
Cook added that no additional details of the attack would be available.
Senior Member of al Qaeda Killed in Somalia
The Defense Department has also confirmed that al-Shabab senior leader Hassan Ali Dhoore was killed in a March 31 U.S. military airstrike in Somalia. As one of the top leaders of al-Qaida’s Somalian affiliate, Dhoore was a member of al-Shabaab’s security and intelligence wing and was heavily involved in high-profile attack planning in Mogadishu, Cook said in a Pentagon statement.
“He has planned and overseen attacks resulting in the death of at least three U.S. citizens,” Cook explained.
Finding good leadership in the military can be difficult. Writing strong interesting characters for movies that audiences respect is a completely separate challenge. But after watching these iconic war films, we’d wager that most ground troops wouldn’t mind serving alongside these screen legends.
So here’s our list of enlisted leaders we’d follow into battle.
1. Gunny Highway (Heartbreak Ridge)
Played by Hollywood icon Clint Eastwood, this career Senior NCO took a bunch of misfits and turned them in hard-charging Reconnaissance Marines in just a few short movie hours. That’s badass and tough to pull off.
“Be advised that I’m mean, nasty, and tired. I eat concertina wire and piss napalm and I can put a round through a flea’s ass at 200 meters” — Gunny Highway. (Source: WB/Screenshot)
2. Sgt. 1st Class Horvath (Saving Private Ryan)
Played by veteran actor Tom Sizemore, this loyal sergeant to his CO just wanted to keep the men in line, fight hard and finish the mission.
Horvath didn’t get the respect he deserved in the film, but we know… we know. (Source: Dream Works/Screenshot)
3. Sgt. Elias (Platoon)
Played by long time actor Willem Dafoe, this seasoned soldier is the voice of his lower enlisted troops and brings a human element to an inhumane world.
4. Sgt. Eversmann (Black Hawk Down)
Played by Josh Hartnett, this newly assigned chalk leader is put to the ultimate test as he spearheads into the legendary Somalia raid and thinks of his men over himself. That’s leadership.
5. Don Collier (Fury)
Played by Brad Pitt and known in the film as “War Daddy,” he strives to keep his men alive and kill as many Germans in the process while not allowing his men see his softer side during the grueling tank battles of WWII.
6. Sgt. Maj. Basil Plumley (We Were Soldiers)
Played by Sam Elliott, this hardcore infantryman isn’t into coddling his men but cares about their health and the importance of taking the fight to the enemy.
7. Michael (The Deer Hunter)
Played by award-winning actor Robert De Niro, no emotional expense was spared when he brought to life this character who suffered great torment to keep his men from going insane while being held captive in a POW camp.
8. Gunny Hartman (Full Metal Jacket)
Played by R. Lee Ermy (retired Marine), Hartman took the audience by storm as he brutally trained his recruits to prepare for the dangers they’d soon face heading off to Vietnam.
This week’s Borne the Battle podcast features Marine Corps veteran Chris Burke and the youngest head coach in NCAA Lacrosse, Mitch Shafer.
Burke discussed his service in the Marines, including his injury and recovery from an IED explosion in Afghanistan. However, Burke’s real story begins on what he did after serving in Afghanistan.
When Burke left service, he went back to school, where he planned on joining the lacrosse program in hopes of playing with his younger brother. But his plans didn’t go the way he had hoped. Instead, he found a new sense of purpose, one that reminded him of the camaraderie that he experienced in the Marines. In time, that new sense of purpose led to Burke accepting the position of defensive coordinator at Maryville University.
Marine Veteran Chris Burke is now mentoring youth as a the defensive coordinator for the Maryville Lacrosse Program.
Now, at Maryville, with Shafer’s help, Burke uses his Marine Corps leadership experience to to mentor and coach his college lacrosse players for more than just on the field. From visiting local VA hospitals to sending care packages overseas, Burke and Shafer lead the lacrosse team in bridging the military-civilian gap.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Paramount released the first trailer for Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, the film adaptation of war correspondent Kim Barker’s 2011 book The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan andPakistan.
Fey plays Barker, a childless, unmarried reporter who volunteers to go to Afghanistan and Pakistan, including an embedded assignment with U.S. Marines in the region. Joining her is Margot Robbie, who of all people explains the “Desert Queen Principle” to Fey’s Barker once in country.
The film also stars Martin Freeman as a Scottish journalist, Alfred Molina (who is not of Afghan descent) as a local Afghan official, and Billy Bob Thorton as the Marine Corps commanding officer. The trailer makes the film seem like a sort of Eat, Pray, Love for reporters, which the film even outright calls “the most American white lady story I’ve ever heard.”
Barker’s original book depicted her own humorous journey from hapless to hardcore. She covered stories about Islamic militants and the reconstruction efforts in the Af-Pak area, along with her fears about the future of the region.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has softened America’s stance on possible talks with North Korea, calling it “unrealistic” to expect the nuclear-armed country to come to the table ready to give up a weapons of mass destruction program that it invested so much in developing. Tillerson said his boss, President Donald Trump, endorses this position.
Tillerson’s remarks Dec. 12 came two weeks after North Korea conducted a test with a missile that could potentially carry a nuclear warhead to the U.S. Eastern Seaboard — a milestone in its decades-long drive to pose an atomic threat to its American adversary that Trump has vowed to prevent, using military force if necessary.
“We are ready to talk anytime North Korea would like to talk. And we are ready to have the first meeting without preconditions,” Tillerson said at the Atlantic Council think tank.
He said that the North would need to hold off on its weapons testing. This year, the North has conducted more than 20 ballistic missile launches and one nuclear test explosion, its most powerful yet.
“Let’s just meet and we can talk about the weather if you want to. We can talk about whether it’s a square table or a round table if that’s what you are excited about,” Tillerson said. “But can we at least sit down and see each other face to face and then we can begin to lay out a map, a road map, of what we might be willing to work towards.”
Although Tillerson said the goal of U.S. policy remained denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, he added it was “not realistic to say we’re only going to talk if you come to the table ready to give up your program. They’ve too much invested in it. The president is very realistic about that as well.”
Baik Tae-hyun, spokesman of Seoul’s Unification Ministry, said of Tillerson’s comments that Seoul wishes for talks to “happen soon” if they contribute to the goal of finding a peaceful solution for the North Korean nuclear problem.
He said Washington and Seoul both maintain a firm stance that North Korea’s nuclear weapons cannot be tolerated and should be completely discarded in a peaceful way.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement later that day that: “The President’s views on North Korea have not changed.”
“North Korea is acting in an unsafe way not only toward Japan, China, and South Korea, but the entire world. North Korea’s actions are not good for anyone and certainly not good for North Korea,” she said.
In public, Trump has been less sanguine about the possibilities of diplomacy with Kim Jong Un’s authoritarian government, which faces growing international isolation and sanctions as it pursues nuclear weapons in defiance of multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions. In October, Trump appeared to undercut Tillerson when he said he was “wasting his time” trying to negotiate with North Korea, just as Tillerson said the U.S. had backchannel communications with the North.
Trump, who has traded insults with Kim, kept up his tough talk. As he signed a $700 billion defense authorization bill that includes additional spending on missile defense, he referred to North Korea as a “vile dictatorship.”
“We’re working very diligently on that — building up forces. We’ll see how it all turns out. It’s a very bad situation — a situation that should have been handled long ago by other administrations,” Trump said.
Tillerson did not indicate that North Korea had signaled a new readiness to talk, but said that “they clearly understand that if we’re going to talk, we’ve got to have a period of quiet” in weapons tests.
Tillerson stressed that the U.S. would not accept a nuclear-armed North Korea, as it flouts international norms and might spread weapons technology to non-state groups in ways that other nuclear powers have not.
In a rare admission of discussion of a highly sensitive topic, Tillerson said Washington has discussed with Beijing how North Korea’s nuclear weapons might be secured in case of instability there.
“The most important thing to us would be securing those nuclear weapons that they have already developed and ensuring that nothing falls into the hands of people who we would not want to have it. We’ve had conversations with the Chinese about how that might be done,” Tillerson said.
It appeared to be the first public recognition from an administration official that the U.S. has discussed North Korean contingencies with China, which fought with the North against the U.S. in the 1950-53 Korean War. The Trump administration has held a series of high-level dialogues with Beijing this year, and U.S. and Chinese generals held rare talks in late November about how the two militaries might communicate in a crisis although U.S. officials said the dialogue wasn’t centered on North Korea.
Tillerson said that the U.S. has assured China that in the event that American troops had to cross northward of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, it would retreat back south once stability returned.
“That is our commitment we made to them. Our only objective is to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, and that is all,” Tillerson said.
Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, said Tillerson’s proposal for direct talks with North Korea without preconditions was overdue and a welcome shift in position, but both sides needed to demonstrate restraint.
“For North Korea that means a halt to all nuclear and ballistic missile tests, and for the United States, refraining from military maneuvers and overflights that appear to be practice runs for an attack on the North,” Kimball said. “If such restraint is not forthcoming, we can expect a further escalation of tensions and a growing risk of a catastrophic war.”
Last week, the United States flew a B-1B supersonic bomber over South Korea as part of a massive combined aerial exercise involving more than 200 warplanes. North Korea says such drills are preparations for invasion.
Throughout the year, the team at We Are The Mighty has the privilege of learning about and meeting people doing extraordinary things in the military-veteran community. This is the inspiration behind our annual Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018 — a list of individuals who are making a difference for military service members, veterans, and their families.
This year, we expanded our list to include not just veterans, prior service members, and reservists, but also civilians who are doing exemplary work in this community.
The Mighty 25 Committee utilized a set of specific criteria to select 25 members of the military-veteran community currently making a significant impact. The committee was comprised of the diverse WATM team of veteran editors, writers, and creators who engage with this community daily. The task force conducted extensive research to identify over 100 initial potential candidates. The top 25 were chosen according to impact and the representation of a diverse variety of social causes, fields of work, and communities affected.
This individuals on this year’s Mighty 25 have dedicated their lives to missions that vary greatly: from developing transitioning service members and their spouses into successful entrepreneurs, to helping veterans heal through stand-up comedy training. Yet these exceptional individuals all share one goal: to improve the lives of those who have sacrificed for their country.
We are excited to share these influencers’ stories, highlight their accomplishments to the world, and cheer them on as they continue to make a difference in the lives of many. The 2018 Mighty 25 list is presented here in alphabetical order.
Dr. Jill Biden
Combining a lifetime passion for teaching with her high-profile role as former second lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden is able to reach millions as a premier advocate for military service members and their families.
Not long after their husbands took office, Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama teamed up to form “Joining Forces,” a non-profit that partners with the private and public sectors to provide military families with tools to succeed throughout their lives. Their initiative, “Operation Educate the Educator,” was designed to help teachers understand what military families go through, and was introduced at 100 teaching colleges across America.
Biden believes that in addition to military members, families also serve – including children. Her book Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops is the story of a little girl coping with her father’s deployment, and is based on the Biden family’s own experiences when their son and father, the late Beau Biden, was deployed to Iraq.
The Biden Foundation, launched Feb. 2017, by Dr. Jill Biden and former Vice President Joe Biden, is a nonprofit organization that looks to “identify policies that advance the middle class, decrease economic inequality, and increase opportunity for all people,” according to its website. One of the organization’s primary focuses is supporting military families.
In April 2017, Biden was appointed to the JP Morgan Chase Military and Veterans’ Affairs External Advisory Council. The council advises the firm on a comprehensive strategy to design programs and products aimed at serving the unique needs of members of the military, veterans and their families.
U.S. Naval Academy graduate and retired Lieutenant Colonel Scott Cooper spent an impressive career in the Marine Corps as an EA-6B Prowler aircrew, serving five tours in Iraq, two in Afghanistan, one in Europe, and one in the Western Pacific. Cooper now serves as the Director of National Security Outreach at Human Rights First, a nonprofit organization that advocates for human rights, especially in encouraging America to be a leader and champion of human rights at home and abroad. In his role, Cooper works to build broad coalitions among military agencies, the national security community, veteran service organizations, and think tanks.
In 2015, Cooper’s passion for advocating for Afghan and Iraqi wartime allies and Syrian refugees led him to found Veterans for American Ideals, a nonpartisan, grassroots, community-based group of veterans aiming to leverage military veteran voices to bridge divides and regain a shared sense of national community. He believes that within this increasingly divisive political climate, veterans can be an important civilizing, unifying force. Their work amplifies veterans’ experiences, leadership abilities, and credibility to combat the erosion of our democratic norms and to challenge the rise of xenophobic, fear-based rhetoric and policies that run counter to our ideals.
In the face of the refugee ban promulgated by the current White House administration, Cooper has dedicated himself to championing the rights of refugees on Capitol Hill, working to educate government officials on the current refugee vetting process, even leading a delegation of refugees to meet with the offices of numerous senators, including John McCain, Jeanne Shaheen, Marco Rubio, Tammy Duckworth, Chuck Grassley, Joe Manchin, and Ed Markey.
Cooper also lends a prominent voice to this public issue as a published author, with his pieces on human rights issues and American values appearing in numerous publications, including the Washington Post, Foreign Affairs, The Washington Quarterly, War on the Rocks, Task and Purpose, The American Interest, and Policy Review.
The crown in Elizabeth Dole’s long and varied public career may not lie in her capacity as Federal Trade Commissioner under President Richard Nixon, Secretary of Transportation under President Reagan, or Secretary of Labor under George H.W. Bush — and possibly not even as United States Senator from her home state of North Carolina.
Rather, it is her foundation that may hold more significance for the ordinary Americans it serves every single day. Through the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, Dole has chosen to use her high-profile platform to advocate for those 5.5 million spouses, friends, and family members who care for America’s ill, injured, and wounded veterans.
While visiting her husband at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Dole first became aware of the needs and challenges facing military caregivers. A veteran of World War II, Bob Dole is the recipient of two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star, and has long suffered from the effects of his injuries. As she visited other veterans suffering catastrophic wounds, Dole was drawn to the families, constantly at the side of their loved ones, receiving little or no support.
Under Dole’s leadership, the Elizabeth Dole Foundation has brought national attention to military caregiver issues through its Hidden Heroes Campaign, launched grassroot support initiatives in more than 110 cities across the nation via Hidden Heroes Cities, encouraged innovation and the creation of direct service programming supporting caregivers through Hidden Heroes Fund, empowered and equipped military caregivers in all 50 states and Puerto Rico with tools to advocate on behalf of their caregiver peers though the Dole Caregiver Fellows program, and advocated for national caregiver support with Congressional and VA leaders. The Foundation also launched HiddenHeroes.org, a first-of-its-kind online tool where military caregivers can connect to a peer support community and directory of 200+ carefully vetted resources.
Dole’s impact doesn’t stop there. In October 2017, she was appointed chair of the Veteran Administration’s new family and caregiver advisory committee, which was formed in response to problems with support programs, and is charged with advocating for improvements to VA care and benefits services.
Marjorie K. Eastman
Her 2017 National Independent Publisher Award-winning book The Frontline Generation: How We Served Post 9/11 not only reframes how many thought about those who served in the conflicts following 9/11, it is the first book to define the timeless legacy of anyone who steps up to serve, declaring the most significant call to action for our time. What started as a memoir project that this former enlisted, direct commission Army Reserve officer took on to cope with her infant son’s battle with cancer, it became an informational and inspiring collection of reflections on those with whom she served, and the aftershocks of service, character, and leadership.
She sought to write a book that would help shape the man she hoped her son will become — yet she succeeded in shaping the narrative of post 9/11 veterans as being far more, and better than, the prevailing themes of hero or broken. And the U.S. Army took notice and placed her book on the recommended reading list for the Military Intelligence Center of Excellence library and museum. A 2018 updated version of her book is now available (audio book set to release in late May), with an additional appendix that empowers readers to find a mission — inciting confidence that every one of us can live with purpose, live for each other, and lead.
Named by PBS’s Veterans Coming Home Initiative as a veteran thought leader, Eastman, who was awarded the Bronze Star as a combat commander, as well as the Combat Action Badge, continues to pioneer new ground by positively reinforcing the value of veterans and service as an unmatched currency. She is a frequent public speaker and her articles on topical issues such as the #MeToo movement, veteran entrepreneurs as a force multiplier in our economy, how veterans can bridge the partisan divide, and the potential impact of U.S. State Department cuts have appeared in publications such as The Washington Post, Task Purpose, and USA Today. Make sure to check out her 2018 Deck of 52 Most Wanted post 9/11 Frontline Leaders, a weekly column that is a spin-off and salute to the original deck (2003 Iraqi Playing Cards), highlighting veterans and military families who have launched exceptional businesses and charities.
On Aug. 21, 2009, while enroute from Camp Victory to the International Zone (IZ) in Baghdad, Iraq, then-Army Col. Carol Eggert’s vehicle was struck by an EFP — an explosively formed projectile. She calls it her Gratitude Day. She and all ten service members riding with her that day were wounded. Eggert was in Iraq on a 15-month combat tour as Chief of the Women’s Initiatives Division and Senior Liaison to the U.S. Embassy, Baghdad. In this role, she conducted an analysis of women’s initiatives and engineered a strategic plan to empower Iraqi women economically and politically.
Now as a retired brigadier general in the private sector, Eggert continues to lead through empowerment. She currently serves as the Senior Vice President, Military and Veteran Affairs at Comcast NBCUniversal, executing Comcast NBCUniversal’s commitment to deliver meaningful career opportunities to veterans, National Guard and Reserve members, and military spouses. Eggert recently announced that the company exceeded its goal of hiring 10,000 members of the military community between 2015 and 2017.
Eggert’s selection for this role comes as no surprise. Eggert herself served across several components, including the Regular Army, the Army Reserve, and the National Guard. She also earned several degrees — two master’s and a doctorate in organizational leadership. In addition to the Purple Heart, Eggert is also the recipient of the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Combat Action Badge, and Meritorious Service Medal with 4 Oak Leaf Clusters.
U.S. Naval Academy graduate and former Navy Seal Nick Etten believes that veterans’ quality of life could be improved — and lives could be saved — through access to cannabis for medical treatment. Through his organization, the Veterans Cannabis Project, Etten champions cannabis as a life-saving treatment option. With the prevalence of chronic pain among military veterans leading to a deadly opioid addiction problem within the community, Etten views Cannabidiol (CBD) products as a viable way to help veterans get off opioids.
Access to medical marijuana for veterans, however, is limited. The laws regulating marijuana are currently murky, since it is illegal under federal law, but legal under the law in some states. And because of the current classification of cannabis as a schedule one drug, research on its potential benefits for veterans is limited, and the Department of Veteran affairs does not allow its providers to prescribe or even recommend it to patients.
The Veterans Cannabis Project has been active on Capitol Hill, working to educate lawmakers, and requesting they take action to help clarify the health benefits of cannabis. Etten’s work to educate, advocate, support research, and partner with like-minded organizations is paving the path for future access to alternative treatment options for veterans.
When Justine Evirs joined the Navy, her plan was to make a career out of it. Her early medical discharge, however, forced her back to square one. She ended up in college to study business then spent numerous years in higher education and veteran services. Evirs is now a mother of three, military spouse, and prominent leader and disrupter in the entrepreneurial and veteran military spouse communities, whose ideas are fast-tracking opportunities for veterans entering the civilian workforce or starting their own businesses.
In her previous role as the Executive Director of the nonprofit Bunker Labs Bay Area Evirs helps provide resources and networking opportunities to military veterans and their spouses who are starting and growing their own businesses. Now in her new role as the National Director of Policy at Bunker Labs she is focused on policy solutions for veteran entrepreneurs across the nation.
The Paradigm Switch, a nonprofit founded by Evirs in 2017, originally provided veterans and military spouses access to prestigious certifications and vocational skills-based programs. Fast forward to today, The Paradigm Switch has recently relaunched and is putting military spouses first. Evirs is building a global digital community for military spouses by military spouses, offering a full spectrum of resources that enable spouses to unleash their unlimited potential both personally and professionally. They discover and provide access to resources and communities that empower military spouses to take control of their careers.
Delphine Metcalf-Foster made history in 2017, when she became the first woman ever elected as the National Commander of the Disabled Americans Veterans (DAV) organization.
Metcalf-Foster, whose father was a Buffalo Soldier, joined the military later in life, when her daughter was in high school. Her daughter was convinced people would laugh at her mom because of her age, but Metcalf-Foster went for it, and ended up retiring from the Army Reserve 21 years later. During her service, she deployed to Saudi Arabia in support of Operation Desert Storm/Desert Shield, where she was injured.
Metcalf-Foster’s passion for serving fellow veterans has fueled her work with DAV. With over 1 million members, this nonprofit organization helps injured veterans access benefits and advocates on their behalf. In her role as the DAV National Commander, Metcalf-Foster aims to spotlight the need to close the health care gap that exists for women veterans, as well as the need to expand government support for caregivers of pre 9/11 veterans.
It all started with this former Army captain’s raw, brutally honest and irreverent blog titled Kaboom: a Soldier’s War Journal, which chronicled his 15-month Iraq deployment leading a scout platoon with the 25th Infantry Division. The controversial and popular blog was eventually shut down by Gallagher’s chain-of-command, but was later published as a critically-acclaimed memoir after he left the Army.
Armed with an MFA in fiction from Columbia, Gallagher went on to write for numerous major publications, including The New York Times, The Atlantic, and Wired. Tackling such dicey issues as whether or not the Iraq War was worth it, the social estrangement of returning veterans, and refugee and immigration rights of Muslims coming to America, Gallagher challenges intellectual and moral complacency. As a veteran directly affected by these issues, Gallagher’s skepticism of the establishment, honest self-reflection, and calls for accountability bring an enormously refreshing and credible perspective to the conversation.
In 2015, Vanity Fair called Matt Gallagher one of the most important voices of a new generation of American war literature. His debut novel Youngblood (2016) portrays a young soldier in his search for meaning during the end of the Iraq War.
As a former intelligence officer in the Navy Reserve, the mayor of Los Angeles has made improving the lives of veterans a priority throughout his tenure. His establishment of the Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs aimed to ensure veterans in Los Angeles can access the services they’ve earned. One of Garcetti’s most impressive contributions to the veteran community during his time as mayor has been through the office’s massive hiring campaign called the 10,000 Strong Initiative.
Garcetti’s groundbreaking initiative formed a coalition between the Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs and companies and community organizations in Los Angeles over the last three years to reach the goal of hiring 10,000 local veterans. The program utilized the services of local nonprofits and government agencies to match qualified veteran candidates with open positions. The initiative also offered job training to veterans to assist them in transitioning into the civilian workforce, as well as training to companies on how to use tax incentives when hiring veterans.
Through the use of these resources and training programs, Garcetti’s 10,000 Strong Initiative ended up beating its own goal, placing 10,500 veterans with more than 200 companies in the Los Angeles region. In Garcetti’s own words from his Aug 29, 2017 Fleet Week speech, “The men and women who served our country in uniform should come home to opportunity, not obstacles. Veterans are some of the hardest-working, most qualified, and prepared people in Los Angeles — and they should have every chance to succeed in the workplace, and make a living for themselves and their families.”
Jason Hall started his career in Hollywood as an actor. Some might recognize him from his recurring role as the lead singer of a band in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. According to Hall, however, the role that truly made a difference in his life was for a University of Southern California student film in which he portrayed a Marine coming to grips with the loss of a troop. This role would serve as his entry into the fascinating and strange world of American military veterans.
Hall’s Oscar nomination for his adaptation of the late Navy SEAL Chris Kyle’s American Sniper novel for the 2014 film version served as his breakout moment as a major creative force. His success in the powerful telling of that story led him to his next project, Thank You for Your Service, a 2017 film he wrote and directed based on Washington Post reporter David Finkel’s nonfiction book by the same name, which follows the real-life plight of four soldiers returning home from the Iraq War.
Finkel, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, had followed these soldiers in the war for 10 months, then continued following them for another 13 months after they came home. What resulted was a gripping account of the challenges faced by veterans following war.
Hall’s film expanded the book’s audience to moviegoers across America, giving a prominent spotlight to the issues faced by returning veterans. It’s his dedication to the careful and accurate depiction of these true-life accounts that demonstrates his commitment to serving veterans through filmmaking. He looks to bring that same accuracy to the story of another well-known veteran: George Washington. He has spent the last year researching and writing the story of Washington’s road to becoming a leader through the French Indian war.
Zach Iscol is a combat decorated Marine veteran who served two tours in Iraq and fought in the second Battle of Fallujah, where he led a combined unit of 30 American and 250 Iraqi National Guard troops, and later helped build US Marine Corps, Special Operations Command.
Through Hirepurpose, Iscol has helped over 50,000 veterans with employment through personalized career guidance, resources, and job matching. Iscol’s Headstrong Project, an affiliate of Weill Cornell Medical Center, has provided cost-free world-class mental healthcare to over 600 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in 14 cities and growing around the Country. Task Purpose is a leading news, culture and lifestyle website with content aimed at military and veteran audiences, and reaching over 50 million people a month.
In 2007, Iscol’s testimony, while on active duty, before the United States Senate, helped establish the Special Immigrant Visa to safeguard and protect our Iraqi and Afghanistan translators.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
Dwayne Johnson comes from a proud military family, and his goal is to give back to the military community. An actor, producer, philanthropist, and former WWE professional wrestler, Johnson uses his super-celebrity status to advocate for the importance of American freedom and to honor its protectors.
At the end of 2016, Johnson was the executive producer and host of the inaugural “Rock the Troops” event at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for 50,000 military personnel in recognition of the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. For this event, which aired on Spike TV, Johnson assembled an epic cast of fellow celebrities — Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Matthew McConaughey, Keegan Michael-Key, Rob Riggle, Nick Jona, Flo Rider, and more all made special appearances to honor the troops.
Johnson continues his support for military members and their families through his partnership with Under Armour’s Freedom initiative, which supports the military and first responder communities by enhancing their physical and mental wellness.
After serving 25 years in the U.S. Air Force as both a public affairs NCO and officer, Mike Kelly continues serving the military community as a passionate advocate for veterans and military spouses. In his role as an executive at USAA, he leads strategic collaborations with key military, government, nonprofit, and for-profit advocacy groups.
Mike is building collaborative relationships that focus on a national dialogue surrounding important veteran and spouse issues such as financial readiness, navigating successful transitions into the civilian workforce, entrepreneurship, and supportive and impactful military spouse communities.
In 2016, The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation selected Mike as the recipient of the annual Hiring Our Heroes Colonel Michael Endres Leadership Award for Individual Excellence in Veteran Employment. He currently serves on the HOH Veteran and Military Spouse Employment Councils, which focus on actions addressing the unique employment challenges veterans and military spouses face.
Mike is dedicated to connecting, equipping, and inspiring opportunities that benefit the military community at large.
Sam Meek served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps as a Nuclear Biological Chemical Defense (NBCD) Specialist, completing two tours in Iraq. After leaving the military, Meek would eventually end up using his passion for technology to help connect members of the military community. His unique mobile app, Sandboxx, helps give new recruits in basic training — as well as deployed service members without access to their social media apps — a way to stay connected to the outside world.
Sandboxx customers, most of whom are already active users of social media apps like Facebook, Instagram, and SnapChat, are easily able to transition to Sandboxx to communicate with out-of-reach military members. They use the app to upload photos, which get converted into a piece of physical mail, which is sent anywhere in the world it needs to go, even remote locations. Most letters are sent overnight and are delivered the next business day.
Meek launched Sandboxx Travel in 2017, which enables service members to book hotels and flights, often with military discounts, through the Sandboxx app and site. The app also helps provide a way for active and inactive members of the military to connect with any unit they have ever served. As the grandson and great grandson of military service members, Meek was intent on maintaining his connection to the Marines. He now helps people around the world do exactly that.
On April 10, 2012, while serving on his third tour with the 82nd Airborne, Staff Sergeant Travis Mills was critically injured by an IED. He lost both arms and both legs in the blast, and is one of only five quadruple amputees from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to survive those injuries.
Mills spent much of his time during recovery at Walter Reed encouraging and hanging out with fellow injured veterans and their families, earning the nickname the “Mayor.” So it’s not much of a surprise that he ended up deciding that he wanted to do something big — not only for veterans, but their families as well. In 2013, embodying the warrior ethos of “Never give up, never quit,” Travis and his wife started the Travis Mills Foundation.
The Foundation supports veterans and their families through programs that help these heroic men and women overcome physical obstacles, strengthen their families, and provide well-deserved rest and relaxation. Mills’ latest effort to support these veterans and their families is through his Foundation’s national retreat center, located in his home state of Maine.
Since June of 2017, the retreat has served injured veterans and their families, who receive an all-inclusive, all-expenses paid, barrier-free vacation where they participate in adaptive activities, bond with other veteran families, and enjoy the 17-acre grounds of the estate.
You might know Bob Parsons as the larger-than-life billionaire entrepreneur who founded GoDaddy, but his legacy extends far beyond the massively successful internet domain registrar and web hosting company. Parsons served in the United States Marine Corps and, at 18 years old, deployed to Vietnam as a rifleman with Delta Company, earning a Purple Heart, a Combat Action Ribbon, and the Vietnam Gallantry Cross.
Parsons is passionate about creating a positive homecoming experience for veterans returning from war. This was also the inspiration behind those who started the Semper Fi Fund, a charity that provides immediate and long-term resources to post-9/11 military members who have been combat wounded, catastrophically injured, or are critically ill.
Semper Fi Fund also provides services aimed at helping vets throughout their lives, including family and caregiver support, PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury care and education, adaptive housing and transportation, education and career transition assistance, mentoring and apprenticeships, and unit reunions.
As one of the highest-rated charities in the country the Semper Fi Fund’s impact is impressive. According to their website, Semper Fi Fund’s 2017 monetary assistance to service members totaled million dollars. Bob Parsons and his wife Renee are also the founders of the nonprofit organization The Bob Renee Parsons Foundation. For the sixth year in a row, the Foundation recently completed its Double Down for Veterans match campaign with the Semper Fi Fund by matching contributions dollar-for-dollar, exceeding their 2017 goal of million. The Foundation has donated more than million in total to the Semper Fi Fund since its creation. This husband-and-wife philanthropic powerhouse have given an astounding 0 million dollars to charity since 2012.
Coming from three generations of military service, Elizabeth Halperin-Perez spent nine years as an Aviation Logistic Specialist in the U.S. Navy. During a deployments to the Middle East, her friend died in a terrorist attack on the U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Cole while it was refueling in Yemen’s Aden Harbor. This event, along with the deep respect for Mother Earth instilled in her from her Mono Indian Native American heritage, sparked her passion for energy policies that advance national security.
Committed to reducing conflict and future wars by furthering sustainable energy practices, Halperin-Perez went on to become the founder and president of the green-build general contracting and consulting firm GCG. Using her experience and network, she also works to help other veterans find clean energy job opportunities, and is passionate about helping them onto an entrepreneurial path. In 2017, Halperin-Perez was chosen by Governor Brown to serve on the California Veterans Board, and most recently was appointed Deputy Secretary of Minority Veterans with the California Department of Veterans Affairs, serving underrepresented veterans in a much larger capacity across California. She was also recognized at the White House in 2013 as a “Champion of Change for Advancing Clean Energy Technologies Climate Security”.
Sam Pressler began his involvement with the veteran community during his time as a student at the College of William Mary, where he majored in government and first learned about the mental health challenges faced by veterans returning from war. Pressler himself had turned to comedy to cope after a suicide in his family, and in response to the challenges affecting veterans and service members he started Comedy Bootcamp, a stand-up comedy class for veterans and their families as a way to help build community and improve well-being through comedy.
This bootcamp eventually grew into the Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP), a non-profit founded and led by Pressler that helps veterans, service members, and military family members reintegrate into their communities through the arts. The organization promotes expression, skill-development, and camaraderie through classes, workshops, and performances across a variety of artistic disciplines. ASAP’s focus on consistent programs and community partnerships ensures that members of our community have continuous opportunities for artistic and personal growth.
ASAP has served more than 600 students, and put on over 800 performances for 50,000+ audience members, including a 2016 comedy show at The White House and a performance for President Jimmy Carter. Through these programs and performances, Pressler has helped to create connections and understanding between veterans and members of their local communities. Pressler was honored on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in 2017, as one of HillVets 100 most influential people in the veterans space in 2016, and as a recipient of the prestigious Echoing Green Fellowship.
His work with ASAP has been featured by numerous media outlets, including the Washington Post, ABC News, NBC, CNN, NPR, PBS, Military Times, Task Purpose, and Stars Stripes.
Jennifer Pritzker (born James Pritzker) enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving in the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions while on active duty, then at various units in the Army National Guard until retiring as a lieutenant colonel in 2001. She was later promoted to the honorary rank of Colonel.
Pritzker has been a massive force multiplier through her philanthropic work as the President and Chief Executive Officer of Tawani Enterprises, Inc., President of the Tawani Foundation, and Founder and Chair of the Pritzker Military Museum Library. In these roles, Pritzker makes significant long-term differences for programs and organizations that advocate the role of military in society.
Among her notable contributions is a id=”listicle-2565932886″.3 million donation to the University of California, Santa Barbara to fund studies on how the U.S. military could openly integrate transgender members into its ranks. In 2017, the Pritzker Military Foundation donated id=”listicle-2565932886″ million to fund key initiatives for Elizabeth Dole’s Hidden Heroes campaign, which supports the caregivers of injured and ill veterans and service members. In 2018, the Foundation gave id=”listicle-2565932886″ million to the Army Historical Foundation to help with the construction of the National Museum of the United States Army in Virginia. In 2013, Pritzker came out as transgender and started living as a woman. She is the only known transgender billionaire in the world.
(Photo by Terrilyn Bayne)
Diana & Daniel Rau
Daniel Rau was inspired to serve his country when he saw the Twin Towers fall on 9/11. He joined the Marine Corps and served as a Marine Security Guard protecting embassies around the world. After his service, based on his and his friends’ experiences, he saw an opportunity to radically change the process of how Veterans enter the civilian workforce.
Diana Rau, who was honored as one of Forbes’ 2018 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneurs, is a Georgetown graduate passionate about solving major social problems. When she met Daniel, the idea for Veterati sparked: build a technology platform to help America’s 1.5 million service members currently transitioning into the civilian workforce as well as 5.5 million underemployed military spouses navigate and break into civilian careers. (A romantic relationship that later led to their marriage also sparked — Veterati’s story is both a startup story a love story!)
Because 80% of job opportunities are never listed, but rather, are advertised and filled through personal networks, the Raus built a digital platform that empower service members and spouses to connect with multiple mentors and build social networks vital to their career search. At Veterati.com, Veterans spouses are matched with successful business people in their area of interest using smart algorithms. Mentors volunteer their time through free, one-hour phone calls facilitated by the platform. Since its 2015 launch, Veterati, which has been called the “Uber-of-mentoring,” has provided thousands of free mentoring conversations for 10k+ members and is partnered with the nation’s leading Veteran Service Organizations and Military Employers to deliver free, on-demand mentoring to our entire military community.
In 2017, Denise Rohan became the first female national commander of the 2 million-member American Legion in its 99-year history. Rohan, who served in the Army’s Quartermaster Corps for two years at the end of the Vietnam War, joined the Legion 33 years ago, working her way up from post-level membership to National Commander.
The American Legion is the nation’s largest veteran service organization and was founded on four pillars: veterans affairs and rehabilitation, national security, Americanism, and children and youth. As their new national commander, Rohan is expanding on those four pillars through her “Family First” platform, which broadens the American Legion’s focus on service members and veterans to include family members as well. As the spouse of a veteran herself, Rohan believes that families serve too; and ensuring those family members are being taken care of at home allows for their loved ones in the fight to focus more on their mission, ultimately strengthening national security.
Rohan’s current special fundraising project is the Legion’s Temporary Financial Assistance program, which awards cash grants to children of veterans in need to help the cost of shelter, food, utilities, and health expenses.
Major Dan Rooney
Major Dan Rooney is a U.S. Air Force Reserve F-16 fighter pilot with the Oklahoma National Guard. It was during his second tour of duty in Iraq that he felt a calling to do something in response to the devastating sacrifices he saw others make fighting for their country. This calling was solidified on a commercial flight Rooney took after returning to the U.S. The plane had just landed and the pilot announced that the remains of Corporal Brock Bucklin were on board. Maj Rooney watched as the flag-draped casket slowly made its way to the awaiting family, which included the fallen hero’s son. Rooney was overwhelmed thinking about the hardship those family members would face due to their loss.
This moment irrecoverably altered Rooney’s trajectory, and he made the decision at that moment to dedicate the rest of his life to helping the family members of those who gave their lives, or were disabled in service to their nation. He recently formed a partnership with Budweiser’s Patriot Beer and in 2007 created the Folds of Honor Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps the more than one million dependents adversely impacted by war through educational scholarships.
Rooney, who is also a PGA golf pro, realized that he could use his platform to help achieve the goals he had for his foundation. The first Folds of Honor golf tournament raised ,000. Since, then Folds of Honor has raised over 0 million and given away over 13,000 educational scholarships. Rooney continues to his work to uphold the mission of his foundation: “Honor their sacrifice. Educate their legacy.”
Actor and humanitarian Gary Sinise has been a strong advocate of American service members for nearly 40 years, starting with his Veterans Night program, which offers free dinners and performances to veterans at the Steppenwolf Theatre, which he co-founded in Chicago. Later, his portrayal of Lt Dan in the film Forrest Gump would create a lasting connection with the disabled military community. Following 9/11 he took part in many USO tours, which led him to form The Lt. Dan Band, which entertains troops at home and abroad and raises awareness at benefit concerts across the country.
Sinise established the Gary Sinise Foundation in 2011, through which he continues to serve and honor America’s defenders, veterans, and first responders as well as their families and those in need. Whether they’re sending WWII veterans to New Orleans to tour the National WWII Museum through its Soaring Valor program or building specially adapted smart homes for severely wounded veterans through its R.I.S.E. (Restoring Independence, Supporting Empowerment) program, Sinise continually demonstrates just how much one person’s commitment can do for an entire community. His Foundation recently added the annual Snowball Express event to its roster of programs. The annual event brings together the children and spouses of fallen military heroes each December for a fun-filled four-day event at Disney World.
Sinise’s forthcoming book Grateful American, which features the author’s life story and passionate advocacy for military service members, is slated for release in 2019.
Jon Stewart, comedian and former host of The Daily Show, is nothing less than passionate about his support for the troops. He continually uses his public platform to stress that the country does not do enough to support service members and veterans. His persistent message to America and its institutions is that supporting the troops shouldn’t be an empty saying, but rather a call to action. Stewart backs up his words with his own remarkable commitment, proving himself a truly dedicated advocate for this community.
During his long tenure as the host of the massively popular satirical news show, Stewart established an internship program for veterans trying to break into the television industry, which continues on to this day. He has also toured with USO three times, entertaining service members all over the world, bringing them laughs and a touch of home. Stewart regularly participates in benefits and campaigns aimed at raising money and awareness for issues impacting veterans.
In 2016, Stewart attended the Warrior Games, an adaptive sports competition in which injured and ill service members and veterans participate. He later pitched the idea of broadcasting the games on television to ESPN — and in 2017, they did exactly that, with Stewart serving as the emcee.
Airmen from the 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing and the 26th Weapons Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, made history earlier this week by employing the first GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munition from an MQ-9 Reaper.
While the JDAM has been around since the late ’90s, the munition has just recently been validated and now proven for real world engagements marking a significant step in the Reapers’ joint warfighter role.
“We had a great opportunity to drop the first live GBU-38s in training,” said Capt. Scott, a 26th WPS weapons instructor pilot. “The GBU-38 is a weapon we’ve been trying to get on the MQ-9 for several years now and we had the opportunity to be the first to drop during training.”
While waiting for the aircraft to approach the target area, members of the weapons squadron waited anxiously. After the bombs successfully struck their practice targets in a controlled environment, the entire room cheered.
For the past 10 years skilled MQ-9 aircrew have been employing AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and GBU-12 laser-guided bombs, but the JDAM brings new global positioning system capabilities to the warfighters.
“The GBU-38, just like the Hellfire and GBU-12, is a very accurate weapon and the fact that it’s GPS-guided gives us another versatile way to guide the weapon, specifically, through inclement weather onto targets,” Scott said.
The JDAM being added to the arsenal is another step in furthering the attack capabilities of the MQ-9 Reaper force.
“There’s definitely times when I could’ve used the GBU-38 in combat prior to this,” Scott said.
Not only does the GBU-38 perform through poor weather conditions, it also helps the munitions Airmen and the weapons load crew members who load them.
“The GBU-38 has a 20 minute load time compared to the GBU-12, which has a 30 minute load time,” said Senior Airman Curtis, a 432nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron load crew member. “The GBU-38 is a quicker load compared to the GBU-12 and gets the plane in the air quicker.”
Incorporating this new munition into the total strike package will give MQ-9 aircrews additional capabilities.
“Our job at the weapons school is to train to the highest standard possible,” Scott said. “We’re going to take the GBU-38 and incorporate it into our advanced scenarios, prove the weapon and integrate with all Air Force assets. What that gives us is the ability to take it downrange and employ in the most demanding circumstances possible.”
The JDAM will add flexibility and efficiency to the targeting process. Aircrews will continue to employ the AGM-114 Hellfires and GBU-12s downrange in addition to the GBU-38 that is now ready for combat.
“The overall impact of the GBU-38 is aircrew will have more versatility for the commanders to provide different effects and make a difference for the guys on the ground,” Scott said. “It has a different guidance system and it opens the bridge to more GPS-guided weapons in the future.”