An Army cadet from Michigan State University recently set a Guinness World Record for the most chest-to-ground burpees completed in 12 hours, an effort that helped him raise more than $7,800 for his nonprofit group for wounded veterans.
4,689. That’s the number of burpees Bryan Abell, a 23-year-old ROTC cadet, accomplished July 7, 2019, in his hometown of Milford, Michigan. His original goal was 4,500, the minimum number required by Guinness to set the record, but Abell kept going when there was time to spare.
Abell’s drive to push forward is rooted in the Army’s core values, he said. Before becoming an ROTC cadet his sophomore year, Abell originally enlisted as a National Guard infantryman in 2015, assigned to the 126th Infantry Regiment for the Michigan National Guard.
“If I wasn’t in the military, I wouldn’t have broken the record,” he said. The Army has taught me “to be proud of what you’re doing and to keep moving forward. I wanted to prove to myself I could do it.”
Abell not only proved it to himself, he proved it to the world.
Cadet Bryan Abell, Michigan State University ROTC, rests during a work out Aug. 16, 2019, at Fort Knox, Ky.
(Photo by Reagan Zimmerman)
Guinness officially certified his record shortly before he started Cadet Summer Training-Advanced Camp at Fort Knox, Kentucky, last month. CST is a must-pass field training program for cadets and a stepping stone in becoming an officer in the Army.
Training for a world record
No stranger to physical activity, Abell is a veteran of multiple ultra-marathons, often running more than 50 miles through the winding wooded trails of Michigan’s countryside.
At first, Abell planned to vie for the record of “most burpees in an hour,” but after seeing nobody had accomplished the 12-hour record, he changed his mind.
After planning his record setting goal, Abell started a training regimen in his parents’ backyard. He initiated training by doing more than 500 burpees a day and over time he increased his daily total to more than 1,500. During the six weeks he trained, Abell did nearly 33,000 total burpees.
A dirt hole, where Abell trained, formed in the grass of his parents’ backyard. As the hole became deeper, it served as a testament to his will to set the world record. Although Abell was stronger with each passing day, his dad “wasn’t very happy with the hole,” he joked.
Today, the yard is back in the pristine condition his dad generally maintains it at, and the once deep, dirt hole has become a faded memory.
Burpees for a purpose
Milford, a Detroit suburb with a population of more than 6,000, was handpicked by Abell as the location for the world record attempt. The reason was simple — Abell said “it was home,” and he “just wanted to see it in the record books.”
That said, the clerical tasks of setting a world record weren’t as simple. Breaking a record can be a tedious job, he admitted, “It became pretty stressful. I didn’t realize how much time would go into (filling out paperwork).”
In addition, with CST on the horizon, Abell needed to speed up the application and training process. Luckily, Guinness offered two options: 12-week review or a priority, five-day application review. Abell opted for the quicker option.
“I chose the priority option because I didn’t have much time,” Abell said. “I wanted to (attempt the record) before I came to advanced camp. The application came back within five days and basically from there, I had to set a date.”
After establishing the application process, the next step was his favorite part: gunning for the record books.
Cadet Bryan Abell, Michigan State University ROTC, shows off his Guinness World Record plaque at his home in Milford, Michigan.
“I just wanted to do the burpees,” Abell joked.
With hometown pride, the day finally came. From 7:05 a.m. to 7:05 p.m., and only resting periodically, Abell averaged at least six to seven chest-to-ground burpees a minute.
“I could only rest for 20-30 seconds,” said Abell, who also took short restroom breaks during the timed event.
In lieu of a witness from Guinness, Abell took a different route to provide proof of his record. He set up multiple cameras from different angles to watch his proper form, and he had six individuals working two-person, four-hour shifts while he contended for the world record at the Carls Family YMCA.
At least one of the witnesses, at any given time, was required to have a fitness-related certification.
The event was live streamed on social media from his nonprofit organization’s page, Stronger Warrior Foundation, where he also received donations.
A good cause
Stronger Warrior Foundation, officially incorporated in January, is a nonprofit Abell founded with his sister, Katelyn, during his sophomore year in college.
The siblings started “from the ground up”, he said, and their main purpose is to help servicemembers and veterans who have been wounded or have suffered disabilities from combat-related service.
The live streamed, half-day challenge raised more than id=”listicle-2639958942″,300, with more donations generated after he set the world record.
Abell doesn’t plan to give up his record anytime soon.
When asked what he’d do if someone does 5,000 chest-to-ground burpees and breaks it, he laughed and said, “Then I’d have to do 5,001.”
The UK and Japan are carrying out their first joint military exercise in the latter country, as both look for ways to counter China’s growing influence in the region.
Soldiers from Britain’s Honourable Artillery Company are at a training camp near Mt. Fuji in Japan, where they are drilling with troops from Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force during Exercise Vigilant Isles.
The exercise started with a joint rapid-reaction helicopter drill and will continue for two weeks in Ojijihara, north of Sendai on Honshu, which is Japan’s largest island.
Japanese and British soldiers will be deployed to a rural training area there for drills focused on sharing tactics and surveillance techniques, according to The Telegraph.
Japanese forces have carried out joint drills with the British navy and air force, “but this is the first time anyone in the regiment or indeed the British army has had the opportunity to train alongside the Japanese Ground Self Defence Force,” said Lt. Col. Mark Wood, the commander of the HAC.
“There’s always a commonality with soldiers — equipment, interest in each other’s weapons, each other’s rations — so I think that always gives any soldier a basis for a discussion, a common point,” Lance Sgt. Liam Magee told the British Forces Network.
The exercise comes roughly a year after British Prime Minister Theresa May visited Japan to discuss trade and defense issues. During that trip, May toured Japan’s largest warship and became the first European leader to sit in on a meeting of Japan’s National Security Council.
The two countries released a Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation, in which they pledged to enhance cooperation in a number of areas, including military exercises. May also said three times that the countries were “natural partners,” and “each other’s closest security partners in Asia and Europe.”
The UK has in recent months also taken a more active approach to countering China, whose growing influence and assertiveness in the region has put it at odds with many of its neighbors.
A British warship sailed through the South China Sea in March 2018, and British ships accompanied French vessels through the area in summer 2018. At the end of August 2018, a British ship had a close encounter with Chinese frigate as it sailed near the Chinese-occupied Paracel Islands.
In Japan, which is also watching China warily, Abe’s hawkish government has made a number of moves on sea and land to build military capacity.
The country’s 2017 military budget was its largest ever, and this year saw the Ground Self-Defense Force’s largest reorganization since 1954. Japan’s military has also said it would raise the maximum age for new recruits from 26 to 32 to ensure “a stable supply” of personnel. The force is also looking to bring in more women.
1st. Lt. Misashi Matsushima, the first woman fighter pilot in Japan’s Air Self Defense Force.
Earlier in 2018, Tokyo activated an elite Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade for the first time since World War II, and it has carried out several exercises already in 2018.
Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ships joined a US carrier strike group for drills in the South China Sea at the end of August 2018, and September 2018 saw a Japanese submarine join surface ships for an exercise in the same area — Japan’s first sub deployment to the contested region.
Tokyo has made moves farther afield to counter China as well.
It can carry six large rockets and hurl them 90 miles against enemy targets, raining death and destruction on America’s enemies that can slaughter entire enemy units in one fierce volley. The High Mobility Artillery Rocket System has real teeth, and the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, as well as the Romanian and Polish militaries, are about to get a lot more of them.
And HIMARS really is highly mobile. Not only can it drive itself onto the battlefield from a base or depot, but it can also ride on planes as small as the C-130, drive off the back, and get right into the fight. The Marine Corps actually practiced using HIMARS in “air raids” where a transport plane delivered a launcher to a forward airbase, and then the crew rapidly prepared and fired the weapon.
Alternatively, they can carry a single Army Tactical Missile System. This bad boy can fly over 180 miles and packs a 500-pound warhead. The missile made its combat debut in Desert Storm. The U.S. won that one. We’re not saying that it happened because of the ATACMS, but the math adds up.
With increased HIMARS capability in NATO, it would be much more complicated for Russia to invade. And if it did another destabilizing mission like it’s still doing in the Donbas region of Ukraine, HIMARS would still be pretty useful. Those Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine have proven pretty reliant on Russian artillery, and the extra range and precision of HIMARS would allow them to hit back with pinpoint accuracy while out of Russian range.
Too bad for Ukraine that it’s not part of this contract.
The U.S. Army is refining a plan to extend by two months the service’s 14-week infantry one station unit training, or OSUT, so young grunts arrive at their first unit more combat-ready than ever before.
Trainers at Fort Benning, Georgia will run a pilot during summer 2018 that will extend infantry OSUT from 14 weeks to 22 weeks, giving soldiers more time to practice key infantry skills such as land navigation, marksmanship, hand-to-hand combat, fire and maneuver, and first aid training.
Currently soldiers in infantry OSUT go through nine weeks of Basic Combat Training and about 4.5 weeks of infantry advanced individual training. This would add an additional 8 weeks of advanced individual training, tripling the length of the instruction soldiers receive in that phase.
(Photo by Ashley Cross)
“It’s more reps and sets; we are trying to make sure that infantry soldiers coming out of infantry OSUT are more than just familiar [with ground combat skills],” Col. Townley Hedrick, commandant of the Infantry School at Benning, told Military.com in a June 21, 2018 interview. “You are going to shoot more bullets; you are going to come out more proficient and more expert than just familiar.”
A better trained infantry soldier
The former infantry commandant, Brig. Gen. Christopher Donahue, launched the effort to “improve the lethality of soldiers in the infantry rifle squad,” Hedrick said.
“In 14 weeks, what we really do is produce a baseline infantry soldier,” said Col. Kelly Kendrick, the outgoing commander of 198th Infantry Brigade at Benning, who was heavily involved in developing the pilot.
This works fine when new soldiers arrive at their first unit as it is starting its pre-deployment train-up, Kendrick said.
Unfortunately, many young infantry soldiers arrive at a unit only a few weeks before it deploys, leaving little time for preparation before real-world operations begin, he said.
“I was the G3 of the 101st Airborne and if a [new] soldier came up late in the train-up, we had a three-week train-up program and then after three weeks, we would send that soldier on a deployment,” he said.
With 22 weeks of infantry OSUT, “you can see right off that bat, we are going to have a hell of a lot better soldier,” Kendrick said. “I will tell you, we will produce infantry soldiers with unmatched lethality compared to what we have had in the past.”
The new pilot will start training two companies from July 13 to mid-December 2018, Kendrick said. Once the new program of instruction is finalized, trainers will start implementing the 22-week cycle across infantry OSUT in October 2019.
(Photo by John D. Helms)
The effort follows an Army-wide redesign of Basic Combat Training early 2018 designed to instill more discipline and esprit de corps in young soldiers after leaders from around the Army complained that new soldiers were displaying a lack of obedience, poor work ethic, and low discipline.
“If there are two things we do great right now, that’s physical fitness and marksmanship; I really think everything else has suffered a little bit,” said Kendrick. “If you went and looked at special operations forces … the SOF force has realized they have to invest in training and teaching. And they have done that, so we have been the last ones to get it.”
The Army has prioritized leader training for both commissioned officers and sergeants.
“[But] the initial entry, soldier side of the house, has not [changed] whole lot from the infantry perspective for a long, long time,” Kendrick said.
A new emphasis on land navigation training
Currently, soldiers in infantry training receive one day of classroom instruction on land navigation and one day of hands-on application.
“We put them in groups of four and they go and find three of about four-five points — that’s their land navigation training,” Kendrick.
The new land-nav program will last a week.
“They are going to do buddy teams to start with, and at the end, they will have to pass day and night land navigation, individually,” he said.
One challenge of the pilot will be, “can I get to individual proficiency in land-nav or do I need more time?” Kendrick said.
(Photo by John D. Helms)
“Part of this what we haven’t figured out is hey, how long do those lanes need to be — 300, 600, 800 meters?” said Kendrick, adding that it would be easy to design a course “and have every private here fail.”
“Then I can turn around and have every private pass no matter what with just a highway through the woods,” he continued. “We’ve got to figure out what that level is going to be — where they leave here accomplished in their skills and their ability and are prepared to go do that well wherever they get to. That is really the art of doing this pilot.”
A new marksmanship strategy
Currently, infantry OSUT soldiers train on iron sights and the M68 close combat optic at ranges out to 300 meters.
“We don’t do much ACOG training; you go out to most rifle units, the ACOG is part of the unit’s issue,” Kendrick said. “It’s a shame that we don’t train them on the optic that half of them when they walk into their unit the first day and [receive it].”
Soldiers will train with these system and their weapons “day and night with qualification associated,” Kendrick said.
The new program will also increase the amount of maneuver live-fire training soldiers receive.
“Everything from a buddy-team to a fire team to a squad, we are going to increase the time and sets and repetitions in getting them into live-firing, day and night,” Kendrick said. “Today when you do a fire-team, react to contact live fire, you do that twice — daytime only. At the end of this thing, when you are done, we will be doing live-fire [repetitions] on the magnitude of 20-plus.”
As with land navigation, Kendrick said, the time allotted for additional marksmanship training is not yet finalized.
“Like anything else, with being an infantryman, it’s sets and reps that make you proficient,” he said. “So now we are talking about the time to do that amount of sets and repetitions that will give them the foundation that can they can work in the rest of their career.”
More combatives and first aid training
Infantry OSUT trainees receive about 22 hours of combatives, or hand-to-hand combat training.
“We are going to take that to 40 hours,” Kendrick said. “At the end of 40 hours, we are going to take a level-one combatives test, so every soldier that leaves here will be level-one combatives certified.”
Level-one certification will ensure soldiers are practiced in basic holds instead of just being familiar with them, Kendrick said.
“We are talking about practicing and executing those moves.”
It will be the same with first aid training, he said.
Soldiers will spend eight days learning more combat lifesaver training, trauma first aid and “how to handle hot and cold-weather injuries … which cause more casualties than bullets do right now in some of these formations,” Kendrick said.
“You will have a soldier that understands combat lifesaver, first aid and trauma, all those things because right now you just get a little piece of that,” he said.
Infantry trainees will also receive more urban combat training and do a 16-mile road march instead of the standard 12-miler, Kendrick said.
The plan is to “assess this every week” during the pilot and make changes if needed, Kendrick said.
“Is it going to be enough? Do we need more? Those are all the things we are going to work out in this pilot,” he said. “In December, there will be a couple of 14-week companies that graduate at the same time, so part of this is to send both of those groups of soldiers out to units in the Army and get the units’ feedback on the product.”
The effort is designed to give soldiers more exposure to the infantry tasks that make a “solid infantryman here instead of making that happen at their first unit of assignment,” Kendrick said. “This is really going to produce that lethal soldier that can plug into his unit from day one.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
For better or worse, you’re going to find out basically everything about your brothers- and sisters-in-arms. The longer you serve with them — the more field ops, the more deployments, and the more random BS — the more you’re going to learn all the tiny, little details about your fellow troops.
But if you want a crash course on the personal life of any other troop, look no further than how they dress whenever they’re given the option to show up in civvies instead of the uniform. Sometimes it’s at the recall formation at 0200 on Saturday morning and everyone’s just rolled out of bed. But when it’s a “mandatory fun” day with the unit, troops tend to get a bit… uh… creative with their wardrobe selection.
Here’s what your choice of mando-fun outfit says about you.
Look at them. Being all successful and sh*t.
(U.S. Coast Guard photograph by Aux. Barry Novakoff.)
Average civilian clothes
Nothing really stands out about this troop. They’re probably the type to stay in, honorably discharge, get into a nice school under the GI Bill, and become a productive member of society. There’s nothing really bad you could say about them but, man, these guys are boring as hell.
They may fit in with world when they’re on leave, but in the unit, they’re the odd one out — because they’re not what society considers odd like the rest of us.
There’s a 50% chance that all of these guys’ military stories are about other (more interesting) people.
They’re probably 98% more likely to also being too lazy to even change from the work day before…
(U.S. Army photo)
Basically the uniform, but with blue jeans and without the top
If this troop has been in any longer than one pay period beyond basic training and still dresses like they’re barely satisfying the minimum requirement to be “out of uniform,” then they’re lazy as f*ck. The longer this troop has been in, the less of an excuse they have — they get a clothing allowance that specifically includes extra cash for civilian clothes.
It’s literally the one time the military gives you money and says, “go buy yourself something nice” and this troop wasted it on booze, video games, or strippers.
These bums have a 98% chance of asking you to spot them until payday, saying they can “totally” get you back (but never will).
If they do wear a kilt in formation, they have a 100% chance of asking you, “do you know the difference between a kilt and a skirt?” before mooning you.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by SSgt. Marc R. Ayalin)
Over-the-top, ridiculous clothing
This troop has been eagerly awaiting the moment they’re told they can wear civilian clothes. This dude is the platoon’s joker while in uniform, so don’t expect that to change when they’re given the freedom to wear whatever.
You can never really predict what they’re going to show up in. Maybe they’ll wear a Halloween costume in April. Maybe they’ll show up in a fully-traditional kilt. Maybe they’ll just wear that mankini thing from Borat.
These bros also have a 69% chance of repeating a joke if you don’t laugh at it, insisting that you must have missed it the first time two times.
Overtly moto clothes
It’s not entirely uncommon for troops to start up clothing lines when they leave the service. Hell, we even got into the veteran-humor t-shirt game to help pay the bills. Warning: shameless self-promotion here.
But there’s just something odd about troops who wear overly-Hooah, I’m-a-Spartan-sheepdog-who-became-the-Grim-Reaper-for-your-freedoms shirt when everyone in the unit knows you’re a POG who just got to the unit. We’re not knocking the shirt (because that’s something we should probably start selling sooner or later…) but, you’re not fooling anyone.
These boots are 1% likely to actually be a grunt.
This was your first sergeant ten years ago… and ten days ago…
Same style you had before you enlisted
That moment you enlist is probably the last time you really give a damn about clothing styles. So, your closet is (probably) still full of clothes that you might get around to wearing some day. We get it. But it gets kinda sad the longer you’ve been in the military.
Dressing like a background actor in Avril Lavigne’s “Sk8r Boi” music video may have been cool back in the day, but when you see a salty, old first sergeant try to rock that look it’s… just depressing.
These dudes have a 75% chance of reaching 10 years, saying, “what’s another 10 anyways?” to themselves, and immediately regretting that decision.
Civilian clothes don’t have a standard, but if they did…
(U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. John Ross)
Business casual with a “high and tight”
When the commander puts out the memo saying troops can wear whatever they want as long as they’re in formation, these guys kind of break down. Freedom of choice is a foreign concept to them.
What they chose to wear is, essentially, another kind of uniform: a muted-color polo tucked into a pair of ironed khakis, a brown belt, and loafers — and maybe a branch hat that they picked up at the PX because they’d have an anxiety attack if the open wind touched their bare head.
This guy has a 99.99% chance of also trying enforce some sort of clothing standard when there isn’t even a need for it.
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.
Billi Doyle was a military kid with a dream, one that her family nurtured and supported growing up in Oklahoma. Doyle saw her parents’ deep commitment to service in the military, which really impacted her. They continuously stressed the importance of values and working hard.
Doyle’s mother retired in 2018 as a Lt. Colonel from the Air Force Reserves after 20 years of service as a dentist. Her father, who is now deceased, was a medically-disabled Army veteran. Her step-father served overseas with the Navy during the Vietnam War. Sacrifice and hard work was ingrained in her.
“My grandma taught me how to sew and I was always interested in design…I spent a lot of time with her as a kid. She was very artistic so maybe that rubbed off on me. I moved to Dallas from Oklahoma so I could go to design school,” she shared. The first thing Doyle ever made as a teenager was a dress, which she laughingly described as “awful.” But that didn’t deter her and if anything, made her more committed to succeed.
Doyle graduated from the Art Institute of Dallas in 2007 and started her business immediately. “The first three or four years, I didn’t really know what I was doing,” she said with a laugh. When asked if she ever thought about quitting, Doyle laughed again and said, “Every day.”
Doyle launched Honey Bee Swim after her graduation and began designing bathing suits and cover ups, eventually adding yoga and athletic wear. What’s unique about her creations is that they are made in America with fine Italian fabrics. With much of what America purchases being made with cheap labor and fabric from China, Doyle’s business stands out.
“It is really difficult and frustrating to be an American designer. People want everything so cheap now. Other companies get everything made in China and it’s really hard to compete with them,” said Doyle. The negative impacts from sourcing and manufacturing in China have also really affected her business the last few years.
Now, businesses in China are also actively committing fraud.
“I’ve been getting knocked off by China for the last couple of years. They steal my pictures and sell knockoffs with my pictures on them and you can’t fight them. I would go out of business if I did,” she said. Doyle finds it hard to deal with it all, saying that watching someone take something you created and pretending it’s theirs is “beyond frustrating.”
The Covid-19 pandemic has also significantly impacted Doyle’s business as well. Typically, the late winter and spring seasons are where she does the majority of her business. But with the virus causing worldwide quarantines, no one is vacationing. This means people aren’t purchasing luxury line bathing suits, which was always the bulk of her business. “It’s our busiest time. We’d normally be selling 100 bathing suits a month and right now we are selling five,” Doyle said.
So, she started making masks.
A lot of thought went into the making of the masks. Doyle shared that she spent a lot of time researching the fabrics that were most effective and chose polyethylene which is woven tighter than cotton. “We made probably 10,000 masks. We gave some away and sold the rest of them,” she said. Her masks are safer and she even sells filler packs for them.
Although it appeared things were looking up business wise, pretty soon masks made in China were eventually restocked in most stores. “People are not buying American-made masks now because they can get a three or four dollar mask at Wal-mart because it’s made in China,” said Doyle.
“More things need to be made here in America, but how can you promote and encourage people to do creative things here when no one can make money doing it,” she said. Doyle continued on and explained that the country is in this trend of buying everything cheap and only worn once for social media posts.
A 2019 New York Times article interviewed Gen Z teenagers who admitted they want things cheap and much of what they buy is for a one-time photo op. Another article featured on Business Insider showcased that this type of shopping is on its way to killing brands because the number one motivator is the price.
Doyle hopes that when people make a choice to shop, they will begin to question sustainability and even the conditions of the shop where their clothing is made. Although the current trend is fast and cheap, the cost is much higher than the purchaser realizes in terms of devastating impacts to the environment and economy.
To learn more about Billi Doyle and shop her sustainable and American made clothing, click here.
Just one year after President Trump signed Executive Order 13822, VA has made significant strides forward in its mission to provide mental health care to transitioning service members and veterans during the first 12 months after separation from service, a critical period marked by a high risk for suicide.
The executive order mandated the creation of a Joint Action Plan by the departments of Defense, Homeland Security and VA. The plan was accepted by the White House in May 2018 and has been underway since that time.
According to Dr. Keita Franklin, executive director, suicide prevention for VA’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, all 16 tasks outlined in the Joint Action Plan are on target for full implementation by their projected completion dates, seven out of the 16 items are complete and early data collection efforts are showing positive results.
Transitioning service members can now register for VA health care early
Partnerships within the Veterans Health Administration and the Veterans Benefits Administration’s Office of Transition and Economic Development, are actively providing, through the Joint Action Plan, transitioning service members with the opportunity to register for VA health care pre-transition during the Transition Assistance Program. This is a new option for service members, who before were provided with information for independent registration, however, were not provided with the opportunity for facilitated registration.
“In a single month, more than 34 percent of the nearly 8,000 transitioning service members who attended the TAP modules in person registered for VA health care before, during or after their class attendance date,” Franklin said. “One of the joint goals of this effort is to reduce barriers to care. By getting transitioning service members registered into the VA health care system earlier, we are able to get them the mental health care they need much quicker.”
The TAP curriculum is also modified to incorporate a new military lifecycle module on community integration resources. This module informs transitioning service members about community organizations as well as how to identify and check them.
“Because of the updates to TAP, 81 percent of the transitioning service members in TAP during the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2018 said they felt informed about the mental health services available to them,” Franklin said. “This modification reinforces the important role of community partners, such as Veteran Service Organizations.
Emergent mental health care available to more service members than ever before
Through the coordinated efforts of DoD, DHS, and VA, certain former service members may receive emergent mental health care from VA. Additionally, any newly transitioned veteran who is eligible can go to a VA medical center, Vet Center, or community provider and start receiving health care right away.
As part of the effort to provide mental and behavioral health care, VA is using telemental health technology to reach those service members who may not have easy access to a VA facility and implementing eligibility training for employees at the field level.
“Mental health care is something that we want to make available as widely as possible,” said Dr. David Carroll, executive director, Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention. “The efforts under this executive order are one way that we can make that happen. We have the greatest respect for the men and women who have served in our nation’s armed forces, and we will not relent in our efforts to connect those who are experiencing an emotional or mental health crisis with lifesaving support.”
Looking ahead: Early contact and predictive analytics
While proud of how far the program has come since May, Franklin acknowledged that there is still some time before all of the Joint Action Plan goals will be fully implemented. However, there are several goals underway that will be complete in the coming months, including:
Within the next six months, the veterans Benefits Administration will establish caring messaging and reach to all transitioning service members and veterans to inform them about a variety of resources including health care enrollment, education benefits, and more.
By April 2019, DoD, DHS and VA will establish a way forward for an integrated data environment and inter-agency analytical platform that can support development of a joint approach to predictive modeling.
“This executive order was established to assist in preventing suicide during a critical period – the first-year post-separation from military service. However, the completed and ongoing work of the executive order and Joint Action Plan will likely impact suicide prevention efforts far beyond the first year,” Franklin said. “We are working diligently to increase coordinated outreach, increase access to care and focus our efforts beyond just the first-year post-separation. We are working to promote wellness, increase protective factors, reduce mental health risks, and promote effective treatment and recovery as part of a holistic approach to suicide prevention.”
The efforts created under Executive Order 13822 and the Joint Action Plan are all key components of VA’s public health approach to suicide prevention. Combined with VA’s other suicide prevention programs, these efforts will provide a full continuum of evidence-based mental health care that can help prevent a suicidal crisis before it occurs. Using a public health approach to suicide prevention, VA continues to focus care on high-risk individuals in health care settings, while also encouraging comprehensive collaboration with communities to reach service members and veterans where they live, work, and thrive.
“Just as there is no single cause of suicide, no single organization can end suicide alone,” Franklin said. “We’ve been able accomplish and implement some great things from the executive order and Joint Action Plan in the last year, but there other important and valuable efforts ongoing and in our future, too. That’s why VA is working to educate partners, other government agencies, employers, community organizations, and more, on the available mental health and suicide prevention resources available – both inside and outside of VA.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
One of the greatest tragedies of war is when a troop falls and is lost amidst the chaos of combat — the troop’s body, for whatever reason, cannot be properly identified. To pay homage to these unknown troops who made the ultimate sacrifice in World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. Anonymous troops who have fallen in some of America’s greatest wars are interred within a tomb to honor those unaccounted for.
Every year, approximately four million people travel to Arlington National Cemetery to pay their respects to these men and women. Most gather in solemn awe as they watch the proceedings at The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which stands atop a hill overlooking Washington, D.C.
Highly-trained Tomb Sentinels protect every inch of the hallowed ground, 24 hours a day. Although the site is rich with history and tradition, there are many facts about the Tomb that most don’t know.
Edward F. Younger recreating his selection at the Arlington National Cemetery, VA.
The first soldier chosen
In March of 1921, Congress approved a plan to return an unknown soldier from the first World War, burying him with full honors in a tomb at the memorial amphitheater in Arlington.
On Memorial Day of that same year, four American troops were exhumed from cemeteries in France. The deceased were placed in four identical caskets and placed in front of Army sergeant and World War I veteran, Edward F. Younger, who was wounded in combat and given the distinct opportunity of choosing the first unknown soldier to be buried.
At the chapel, Younger paced around the caskets, holding roses. The coffin upon which he placed the roses was his choice. He made his selection and the casket sent back home aboard USS Olympia and buried at Arlington. The others remained in France and were transported to the Meuse-Argonne Cemetery and laid to rest.
The second soldier chosen
After the end of World War II, it was time to begin the selection process anew in order to honor those who fell. Unfortunately, the Korean war had also reared its ugly head, postponing the process. It wasn’t until 1958 that proceedings resumed.
On May 15, 1958, four unknown heroes were placed in identical caskets before Master Sgt. Ned Lyle, a Distinguished Service Cross recipient who had proved his valor in Korea. It was up to him to select the soldier to be entombed and represent those lost in the Korean War.
The decorated master sergeant placed a wreath atop his selection, followed by an honorary hand salute.
The two Unknown’s casket as they make their trips to Arlington
The third unknown soldier, who would symbolize those lost in World War II, was selected aboard the USS Canberra just 11 days later. Hospital corpsman and Medal of Honor-recipient William R. Charette made the final selection.
Two unknowns were presented to Charette — one from the Pacific theater, the other from the European. The selected casket was returned to Arlington and the other was given an honorable burial at sea.
The unknown soldiers from World War II and the Korean War were placed into the tomb at the same time.
The final soldier chosen
The Unknown soldier from the Vietnam War was selected by Medal of Honor-recipient Sgt. Maj. Allan Jay Kellogg Jr. during a military ceremony at Pearl Harbor in 1984. The Unknown arrived at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, May 28, 1984.
President Ronald Reagan presided over the funeral and awarded the Unknown with the Medal of Honor.
In 1998, the body was exhumed and the DNA was tested. The body was later be identified as Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie, who was shot down in Vietnam, 1972.
The Greek sculptures depicting peace (left), victory (center), and valor (right).
The sarcophagus is built using seven rectangular pieces of white marble and weighs 79 tons. The west-facing panel reads, “here rests, in honored glory, an American soldier, known but to God.” The north and south-facing panels display six inverted wreaths, signifying the major campaigns of World War I.
On the east-facing are three Greek figures, representing peace, victory, and valor.
The Tomb Sentinels
In April 1948, the 3rd US Infantry Regiment proudly took on the responsibility of guarding the tomb 24 hours day. The guard changes every 30 minutes during the hot summer and every hour during the cold winter.
Those who wish to become a Sentinel are hand-picked and undergo strict training. 60 percent of the hopefuls will not graduate the rigorous program.
2017 ended as Mexico’s most violent year in recent memory, with 25,339 homicide cases — more than during the peak year of inter-cartel fighting in 2011.
Crime and violence have steadily increased in Mexico over the past three years, and the bloodshed over the past decade has come despite, and often because of, the Mexican military’s and federal police’s presence in the streets.
Speaking before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Feb. 13, Army Gen. Robert Ashley, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, described a key trend that has contributed to the violence.
Asked what threats US officials saw in Mexico and how the situation there had changed over the past decade, Ashley told the committee what has “transpired over the last couple of years is you had five principal cartels; we alluded to the number of captures [of cartel leaders] that had taken place, over 100. Those five cartels have kind of devolved into 20, and [as] part of that outgrowth, you’ve seen an increase in the level of violence.”
The dynamic Ashley described — the removal of criminal leaders leading to fragmentation of their groups and further violence — has been recognized as a failing of the “kingpin strategy” pursued, with strong US backing, by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and his predecessor, Felipe Calderon, who deployed troops to confront domestic insecurity in 2007.
‘What’s happening, it’s like ants’
The kingpin strategy targets high-profile criminal leaders, with the idea that their capture or death will weaken their organization.
Ashley noted that under Peña Nieto, Mexico has brought down more than 100 high-profile cartel figures — among them Sinaloa cartel chief Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman (twice), Knights Templar founder Servando “La Tuta” Gomez (captured because his girlfriend brought him a cake), and Hector Beltran Leyva and Alfredo Beltran Guzman, both of whom lead of the Beltran Leyva Organization, an erstwhile Sinaloa cartel ally.
But the hoped-for security gains haven’t materialized.
“What actually happens is that if you take out the head of organization and it creates power vacuums and leads to … both internal schisms and encroachment … and creation of new spaces for other actors that can come, until we see a multiplication effect, or a proliferation, of smaller, regional groups,” David Shirk, a professor at the University of San Diego and director of the school’s Justice in Mexico program, told Business Insider in late 2016.
After a decade of Mexico’s drug war, several large cartels are thought to still be operating in Mexico, though two — the Sinaloa cartel and the Jalisco New Generation cartel— are believed to be the most powerful. But smaller groups, often splinters of larger cartels, have proliferated. (Sinaloa cartel infighting caused violence to spike in northwest Mexico in 2016 and early 2017.)
Information obtained from the Mexican attorney general in 2017 by journalist Nancy Flores indicated there were nine large cartels with 36 smaller related groups present in Mexico — fewer than the 88 total groups the attorney general’s office identified in 2014, and even fewer than the 200 drug-trafficking cells identified by Mexican political scientist and crime analyst Eduardo Guerrero-Gutierrez. Such groups are fluid and hard to define, making an exact number hard to determine.
Smaller groups are also less capable of transnational drug trafficking and rely on local-level crimes, like kidnapping and extortion, which drives up crime levels and increases insecurity.
This dynamic can be seen throughout Mexico, especially in places like Tamaulipas, where factions of the Gulf cartel are competing for control of drug trafficking and other criminal rackets, and in Guerrero, a hotbed for heroin production that is home to a plethora of local and regional criminal groups and larger groups like the Sinaloa cartel that are involved in the cultivation and transportation of drugs as well as local criminal enterprises.
Official photograph of the President of México, Mr. Enrique Peña Nieto.
“What’s happening, it’s like ants,” a Tamaulipas state police officer told Vice of the kingpin strategy’s effects in late 2016. Taking out the “queen ant” without following up, he said, means they can regroup and return — or others take the queen’s place.
‘To recover peace and calm’
But the fragmentation and proliferation of criminal groups aren’t the only trends contributing to insecurity in Mexico.
A lack of economic opportunity for marginalized communities creates amenable operating conditions for criminal groups, which also thrive on high profit margins created by drug prohibition. Corruption, particularly of local government officials and police forces, is rampant, inhibiting efforts to crack down on criminal groups and undermining the rule of law.
Deep-seated impunity allows many crimes to go unpunished. According to the 2016 Global Impunity Index, only seven of every 100 crimes in Mexico are reported, and just 4.46% of reported crimes actually result in convictions. All told, “less than 1% of crimes in Mexico are punished,” the Center for Impunity and Justice Studies, which calculated the index, estimated.
Despite its failings, the Mexican government has not scrapped the militarized approach to fighting crime. A controversial law formalizing the military’s role in domestic law enforcement was signed late last year, though it is being evaluated by the supreme court.
And at the end of January 2018, days after final crime data showed just how violent 2017 had been, Mexico’s national security commissioner said more soldiers would be deployed to crime hotspots — “to recover peace and calm for all Mexicans.”
We all know that when you leave the military, it can be a cruel employment world out there.
Despite the confusion that often comes with transitioning from service, there’s potentially never been a better time to take a stab at becoming your own boss. And fortunately, there is a host of organizations out there to help former service members crack the code on starting a successful business.
At the end of March, the organizers behind VETCON are hoping their roster of A-Listers in the tech and business world will open more than a few veterans’ eyes to the opportunities out there. Billed as an “annual gathering of visionaries, hustlers, and game-changers from around the world,” the folks at VETCON say they represent a wide community of so-called “vetrepreneurs” that want to pass on their secrets to their military brethren.
“Military veteran entrepreneurs are an untapped market with huge potential,” said Ian Faison, VETCON co-founder, West Point graduate and former U.S. Army Captain. “Despite mutual interest from both venture capitalists and veteran founders, there’s never been a conference that delivers true ROI to entrepreneurs, mentors, and investors at the same time – until now.”
Hosted in Redwood City, California, this year’s VETCON is slated to feature more than 200 veteran entrepreneurs and more than 35 professional investors, including “The Godfather of Silicon Valley” Steve Blank, Mike Maples of Floodgate Ventures, Trae Stephens of the Founders Fund, as well as leaders from Andreessen Horowitz; Facebook; GrowthX; Wildcat Ventures; HubSpot; IBM; Salesforce; and Indiegogo.
Held between March 23 and March 25, the conference is intended to “develop a 30-day plan to take your business to the next level … [with] a mixture of fireside chats, workshops, solo talks, networking events, and Action Hours.”
“VETCON changes the game for veterans and investors alike,” VETCON’s Faison said. “With programming that rivals any startup event in the country, we’re catalyzing the nationwide veteran ecosystem, providing investors with genuine business opportunities and helping entrepreneurs boost their customer pipeline and raise funding faster in 2017.”
It was a good year for the war-military movie genre. There weren’t many of them made this year, but the quality was much, much better than in years past. There could be many reasons for this; the rise in military veterans wanting a say in how their lives are depicted onscreen, Hollywood looking to real-world stories for source material, or just a general focus on what works and what doesn’t in filmmaking.
Whatever the reason, it was a good year. To show our appreciation, we’re presenting to you nine of our favorites. After all, a good, old-fashioned war movie marathon is the perfect New Year’s Day recovery tactic.
9. ‘7 Days in Entebbe’
This film recreates the hijacking that led to one of the most daring rescue operations of all time, Israel’s now-famous Raid on Entebbe. 7 Days In Entebbe is a story set from the point of view of the hijackers. It’s not a great film for its depiction of what it’s like to be a hijacker or hostage, but the action is good, and the film really brings the era to life.
World War II is a great setting for any film of any genre. You can set any story in any place on Earth, and it will be slightly believable because Nazis are the ultimate insane, evil villains. While everyone loves a great WWII drama, every now and then, someone gives the World War II sub-drama a spin and adds an element that is surprising and fun. This time, it’s zombie horror.
Paul Rudd stars a baseball legend Moe Berg in the WWII drama “The Catcher Was A Spy.”
7. ‘The Catcher Was A Spy’
By now, America knows what to expect from a Paul Rudd movie. The Marvel alum’s wry smile and sharp wit are fun and appealing in comedies and action-adventure movies. But The Catcher Was A Spy is a dramatic take on the life of Red Sox legend Moe Berg, who famously supplied information to the Allied war effort in Japan and Eastern Europe.
A great cast backs up Rudd, whose depiction of the anti-heroic Berg in this film based on Berg’s real exploits.
This is one of only two movies on the list that isn’t based on a true story, but much of what went into making the film was real. For example, Butler and crew really lived on a submarine with U.S. sailors. In the movie, a submarine commander assembles a team of SEALs to prevent a coup in Russia and prevent a potential World War III. What’s the most fun about this movie though, is the way the producers drummed up buzz for it. Gerard Butler visited troops, gave a Pentagon press briefing, and even played Battleship with We Are The Mighty.
A Private War is the story of war correspondent Marie Colvin, one of the world’s best war photographers. She had seen action in Chechnya, Kosovo, Sri Lanka, Sierra Leone, and more. She is famous in the world of journalism for repeatedly coming under attack for just being a journalist. Colvin was one of the last journalists to interview Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi as she covered the Syrian Civil War.
4. ‘Operation Finale’
Operation Finale was the name the Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad, gave to the capture, imprisonment, and extraction of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann from Argentina. He hid there as a factory worker at a local Mercedes-Benz plant under the name Ricardo Klement. Once the Mossad found out where he was hiding, it wasn’t long before they hatched a daring plan to put “The Architect of the Holocaust” on trial in Israel.
This year was the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I and Hollywood did not miss the chance to remember the brave men — and canines — who fought it. Stubby was a stray who also happened to have fought in 17 major battles, saved an entire regiment from a chemical attack, and then pulled everyone out of an artillery barrage before he went back to find the missing and wounded.
World War I had quite the effect on author JRR Tolkien. His most legendary works, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are based on his time there, a way for the veteran to make sense of the horrible killing. So, it makes sense that the director who brought those works to the silver screen also brings a bit of Tolkien’s own experiences along with it. Though They Shall Not Grow Old has nothing to do with Tolkien, Jackson’s closeness to the material is apparent in this documentary film, as his grandfather served in the Great War.
The critically-acclaimed documentary uses previously unseen film reels from the archives of the UK’s Imperial War Museum.
1. ’12 Strong: The Declassified Story of the Horse Soldiers’
In the days following the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. sent its most capable insurgent-wrangling troops into Afghanistan with the intent of supplying and coordinating those who were already aligned against al-Qaeda and the Taliban. These Special Forces troops provided air cover and strategic planning to the Afghan Warlord-led Northern Alliance who had been struggling to oust the Taliban since they took control of Kabul in 1994.
But to get there and be effective, the Green Berets had to adapt to the environment and technology available to them, and their success came at a real cost.