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.
Jared Lyon, President and CEO
Student Veterans of America
Named National Student Veteran of the Year by SVA in 2011, Jared Lyon has come full circle to lead the organization he credits with his educational success.
Before joining SVA, Lyon was the national program manager at the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University (SU) for the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV) and EBV-Families (EBV-F), providing small business management and entrepreneurship instruction free of charge in workshops held at eight universities annually.
A veteran of the U.S. Navy, Lyon served as a submariner and diver, taking part in multiple deployments around the world in support of the Global War on Terrorism. Upon leaving the Navy with an honorable discharge, he worked for Northrop Grumman Corporation in Melbourne, Florida as an electronic systems administrator while completing his associate’s degree at Brevard Community College. He then managed Florida operations for the Washington Nationals Major League Baseball team for three seasons. Lyon returned to higher education, earning a Bachelor of Science degree from Florida State University (FSU) in December 2011.
Learn more about SVA here!
Ken Falke, Chairman and Founder
Boulder Crest Retreat
Boulder Crest Retreat is the nation’s first privately-funded rural wellness center dedicated exclusively to our nation’s combat veterans and their families. Boulder Crest Retreat is committed to improving the physical, emotional, spiritual and economic wellbeing of this remarkable community of heroes, and ensuring they have the opportunity to succeed in their new mission – a life of passion, purpose and service – here at home.
Boulder Crest Retreat is the vision of Ken Falke and his wife Julia. Ken was seriously wounded in 1989 while serving as a U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Technician and Master Chief Petty Officer. Ken is a 21-year combat Service-Disabled Veteran and the Founder and Chairman of the EOD Warrior Foundation. While visiting many of the wounded EOD warriors and their families since the start of the wars in the Middle East, the Falkes witnessed firsthand the desolation and frustration they experienced while spending time in inpatient and long-term care outpatient units in the Washington, D.C. area.
Watch this great video and learn more here!
Brandon Millett, Co-Founder & President
GI Film Festival
Brandon Millett is an award-winning communicator, writer, producer and media entrepreneur. Millett is currently the CEO of the GI Film Group, which supports military-themed film and television projects and Co-Founder and President of the GI Film Festival, a national non-profit organization dedicated to tell the stories of American veterans. The GI Film Festival is now in its seventh year of operations. Their work has been highlighted by The Washington Times.
In recognition for his creative work, Millett is the co-recipient of the 2010 American Legion National Commander’s Public Relations Award previously presented to the late Tim Russert, Tom Brokaw, Lou Dobbs and the late Jack Valenti, to name a few. On behalf of the GI Film Festival, Millett also accepted the 2012 Carlton Sherwood Media Award from the National Blind Veterans Foundation and the 2007 George Washington Valley Forge Honor Medal from the Freedom Foundation.
Jake Wood, Founder
Jake and Team Rubicon continue to take 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. If they don’t make you want to tread into hurricanes and earthquakes… what will?
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.
We are honored to have Jake as the Event Chair of the HillVets 100 this year!
Get Involved with Team Rubicon Here
Mike Erwin, Founder
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.
Get Running with Team RWB Here
USMC Col.Tom Manion (Ret.), Chairman Emeritus
Travis Manion Foundation
Col. Tom Manion started his career in the Marine Corps – retiring after 30 years as a Colonel. In addition to his military career, Tom joined Johnson & Johnson in 1990 and through the years held various leadership roles before retiring in 2014 after 23 years. Tom is the father of 1st Lt. Travis Manion a Marine leader who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country in April 2007.
After the loss of Travis, the family established the Travis Manion Foundation to support our military, the families of the fallen and to help create the next generation of leaders. Through the foundation, Tom has worked within the community and around the country to inspire people around him, to convey a sense of sacrifice and public service in all they do. Tom’s late wife, founder and visionary of the Travis Manion Foundation, Janet Manion, passed away April 24, 2012, devoting every day to putting service above self.
Learn more about the Travis Manion Foundation here
Seth Lynn, Founder
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. After earning his MPA in International Affairs from Princeton University, Seth came to DC where he founded Second Service and Veterans Campaign, each with the mission of teaching Veterans how to run successful campaigns for political office. Seth understands that Veterans are 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 organization. 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.
Learn More About the Veterans Campaign Here
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.
Learn More About the Wounded Warrior Project Here
Todd Connor & Ray Crowell
The Bunker Labs is a national network of military, veteran, and spouse entrepreneurs and innovators. Their Lab centers between the incubator and accelerator space, obsessed with engaging entrepreneurs to start, innovate, and scale the next generation of high-growth companies.
Todd Connor is the CEO of The Bunker, and Co-Founder of Flank 5 Academy. A Navy veteran who served during Operation Iraqi Freedom aboard the USS BUNKER HILL (CG-52), Todd has held senior leadership roles in the public and private sector. He holds a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from the University of Chicago.
Ray Crowell serves as the director of Bunker Labs DC, is fueling the veteran & spouse-led startup renaissance in DC and providing a peer-learning environment for entrepreneurs to Discover, Grow, Innovate, and Connect. He leads their team of supportive mentors, industry experts, strategic partners, and dedicated founders.
Ray unleashed his entrepreneurial spirit while on active duty in the Air Force, accelerating chapter-driven non-profits. Following a stretch as a Department of Air Force executive and government contractor, he joined the Patriot Boot Camp team as advisor and devoted roadie.
Learn more about Bunker Labs here
Jonathan Silverthorne, Director
Millennium Leadership Program at Atlantic Council
Through the Millennium Leadership Program and the Take Point Initiative at the Atlantic Council, Jonathan Silverthorne develops and manages a portfolio of emerging leaders initiatives. From 2009 to 2011, Jonathan worked at the US Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of International Affairs, leading DHS-wide coordination of Central American policy and working with the White House and Interagency to strengthen regional partnerships and expand security assistance. From 2008 to 2009, Jonathan worked on the Obama campaign, coordinating the campaign’s grassroots fundraising on the East Coast, and at the Presidential Inaugural Committee, helping to organize the committee’s National Day of Service. He graduated summa cum laude from Dartmouth College with a BA in history. He speaks fluent French and Russian and conversational Arabic.
The Veterans Take Point Initiative, with the support of the Bob Woodruff Foundation, was launched in 2014 and offers veterans a pathway to service-oriented civilian careers where they can continue to support American national security. Each class is comprised of ten outstanding post 9/11 veterans under the age of 35 who seek to transition to leadership roles in the foreign policy and national security realm.
Mike Abrams, Founder and President
Mike founded the Four Block Foundation to help bridge the gap between veterans and meaningful careers. The program has expanded into 5 cities and has equipped over 900 veterans to compete in their post-military lives.
Mike is a Marine who served on active duty for eight years and is currently serving in the reserves as the Commanding Officer for Battery M, 3rd Battalion 14th Marines in Chattanooga, TN. He has a MBA from NYU’s Stern School of Business and has co-authored two books: Mission Critical: Unlocking the Value of Veterans in the Workforce, and Business Networking for Veterans. He is also an adjunct professor at Fordham University and an advisor to the Center for Talent Innovation.
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.
Garry Augustine, Executive Director
Disabled American Veterans (DAV)
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.
Join the DAV Here
Verna Jones, Executive Director
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 2014, Ms. Jones was appointed to become the first African-American female Executive Director of the American Legion.
Join the American Legion Here
Bill Rausch, Executive Director
Got Your Six; formerly of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA)
As Executive Director of Got Your 6, Bill works to shift public perceptions so veterans’ leadership and skills are recognized and utilized at home to strengthen communities across America. Prior to joining Got Your 6, Bill served as Political Director of IAVA. He supported the development of IAVA’s annual policy agenda and advocacy campaigns through trusted relationships with Veteran Service Organizations and government agencies. Bill is a former Army Major who served 17 months in Iraq under both Generals Casey and Petraeus while assigned to the Information Operations Task Force.
Prior to his veteran advocacy work, Bill was a Senior Consultant providing services to the Department of Veterans Affairs and most recently to the Department of Defense while assigned to the Pentagon. Bill has broad experience working with veterans and veterans’ issues from his work on several major political campaigns to serving as Team Red, White and Blue Chapter Captain for his local community in Alexandria, VA. Bill received his Bachelor of Science in Geospatial Information Science from the United States Military Academy, West Point, NY.
Bob Wallace, Executive Director
Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW)
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.
Join the VFW Here