Veterans and Supporters Individual Accomplishment

These individuals are some of the most exemplary representatives of the veteran and supporter 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 and achieving great success in all of their endeavors.

Rodney Smith, Raising Men Lawn Care Service

Rodney Smith Jr., a Bermuda native, started Raising Men Lawn Care Service, a foundation that provides free lawn care to those who in need, such as the disabled or single mothers, for free and seeks to inspire young men and women to make a difference. Smith has travelled through all 50 states and this time, on his fifth tour, decided that he wanted to help our Military Veterans. He has been mowing the lawns of veterans all across the country and has received sponsorship and new clients  through social media alone. Smith’s passion also extends to children through a program he calls the 50-lawn challenge. Kids accept the challenge to mow 50 lawns in their neighborhood. In return Smith’s foundation send them a T-shirt, shades and ear protection for the job. They can work their way up to receiving a mower and weed trimmer for free. Smith hopes in the future to complete a tour of all seven continents where he continue spreading his mission and helping people.

@iamrodneysmith

Terry “Mike” Eshenbaugh, Texas VFW

Terry “Mike” Eshenbaugh is employed by the Texas Veterans Commission as the VFW Department of Texas service officer. In his position, Eshenbaugh enabled 4,700 veterans to annually receive more than $80 million in disability compensation and was named the 2019 Accredited Service Representative of the Year by the Veterans of Foreign Wars. In addition, Eshenbaugh serves his fellow veterans in every way that he can. He has been training VFW Post service officers to be more knowledgeable advisers, helps veterans needing financial assistance, uses his criminal justice background to assist at the local veterans’ court, and has helped rescue residents who were left stranded by the flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey. Eshenbaugh is a medically-discharged veteran who served nine years in the Army, to include service in Bosnia and Southwest Asia. He is a member of VFW Post 4709 in Conroe, Texas.

@texasvfw

Amanda Huffman, author and podcaster

Amanda Huffman is an Air Force combat veteran and military spouse who has made it her mission to find, record, and share women’s unique experiences of being in the military. She published a book, “Women in the Military”, and hosts a regular podcast of the same name that will eclipse over 10K downloads by the end of this year. Her podcast has featured prominent women veterans in our community who have made an impact locally and nationally as well as civilian women who have served, such as the former Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James. Her work complements the mission of the Women in Service Memorial by bringing their stories to a wider audience. She has been featured on Fox News and other local and national media.

David Ames, Bergmann & Moore LLC

David Ames is a veterans law attorney who has been leading the charge in gathering and using big data to understand the performance of the veterans benefits appeals system and to recommend improvements.  David has made a career of public service and seeking to assist our nation’s warriors. After graduating from William and Mary Law School, David served 12 years in the Department of Veterans Affairs. His assignments included Counsel/Associate Counsel, Office of Veterans Law Judges, Board of Veterans’ Appeals, Counsel, Office of Quality Assurance, Board of Veterans’ Appeals, and Chief, Office of Quality Assurance, Board of Veterans’ Appeals.  This year David was published in the Stanford Law Review on the quality review process in VA appeals. He currently works with Bergmann & Moore, LLC specifically to ensure that the board of review process is fair for his clients, and using big data analysis to ensure that quality outcomes for veterans are being achieved.

@vetlawyers

Tom Rice, World War II veteran

Tom Rice is a proud World War II veteran, having served in the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division.  He joined the Army following high school in Coronado, California in November 1940. He deployed to England in 1944 before jumping into Normandy on the evening of June 5th.  Following operations in Normandy, Tom and his unit refit before engaging in Operation Market Garden and he ultimately participated in the fighting at Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest in Berchtesgaden, Germany. After his honorable discharge on December 21, 1945, Tom then resumed his studies at the San Diego State University. He taught social sciences and history for nearly 44 years in California. Father of five children, he wrote his memoirs, published in 2004 under the title “Trial by Combat: A Paratrooper of the 101st Airborne Remembers Division the 1944 Battle of Normandy”.  In 2019, at 97 years-old Tom parachuted into Normandy again 75 years after his initial jump.

Derek Blumke, author and advocate

Derek is the Founder of Student Veterans of America. In 2019, Derek detailed his personal struggle with antidepressants, and the negative effects that they had on him. Since then he has written and passed resolutions through the VFW and American Legion Nationally, calling on Congress to investigate the role of antidepressants in causing the veteran suicide epidemic. He broke the story that suicide rates for veterans at the VHA are 32% higher than for veterans who do not use the VA, and that 18-34 year-old vets have experienced a 5x increase in actual suicides who used the VHA — contrary to VA’s public reporting. He has written his personal story of withdrawal from psychiatric drugs and published his story of four years of treatment at the VA. He is an editor with Mad and America and the co-founder of Walk There.

@derekblumke

Kristofer Goldsmith, Vietnam Veterans of America

Speaking truth to power is a mainstay in the world of Veteran advocacy. But it takes more than words to be an instrument of change. Kris put bad paper discharges on the map by highlighting the abuses and the arbitrary nature of some command decisions that were literally leaving would-be Veterans in the streets without a lot of options. More recently, Kris has highlighted the fraud being instigated by nefarious individuals against Veterans online. It’s his attention to marginalized individuals and identifying specifically addressable issues that has made Kris stand out from the crowd over the last few years. Now days, Kris is the chief investigator and associate director for policy and government affairs at Vietnam Veterans of America, a congressionally-chartered veterans service organization. Kris’s policy focus at VVA is “New Veterans,” covering a broad range of issues from healthcare to education, and military personnel policy to post-service employment opportunities for veterans. He is the founder of High Ground Veterans Advocacy, a small nonprofit organization which trains veterans to engage successfully with government on policy changes meant to improve the lives of servicemembers, veterans and their families. Kris is currently a full-time student at Columbia University in the City of New York, and spends his summers living in DC engaging with policy makers on Capitol Hill between semesters.

@krisgoldsmith85

Tim Chambers, The Saluting Marine

Marine Staff Sergeant Tim Chambers served in the Marine Corps in various locations and on various missions including funeral details and being stationed near the Pentagon during 9/11. He felt compelled to assist in recovery efforts in the immediate aftermath of the attack, having literally witnessed American Airlines Flight 77 fly overhead just seconds before impact. He grew up in Silverton, Oregon working on a strawberry farm as the oldest of six. Chambers has dedicated his life to serving others in one capacity or another. However, what he is perhaps best known for is becoming The Saluting Marine. Each year, for nearly 20 years, SSgt Chambers stands at attention in full Dress Blue Bravos on 22nd and Constitution in Washington, DC and holds a salute for anywhere from 2-4 hours as thousands upon thousands of veterans ride on motorcycles as part of Rolling Thunder. This event honors veterans while raising awareness specifically related to POW/MIA issues.

@SalutingMarine