This week's Borne the Battle podcast features Dr. Albert Weed, whose career has taken him from enlisted Green Beret Army medic to an Army medical officer to VA surgeon. Weed discussed his name, and how his family’s military background and medical experiences led him to, among other things, peacekeeping in Egypt, swimming in Saddam Hussein's pool, and receiving four different DD-214s.
Weed traces his journey's beginnings from high school and later to Special Forces training, where he volunteered to work as a medic. It was during this training when he realized the medical field was where he wanted to be. He was inspired to become an Army medical doctor while doing his clinical. He had just finished a late shift helping labor and deliveries and was planning to take a nap when he was called to the operating room to help. After the operation, Weed went out for a run instead of taking his nap. In that moment, he realized he wanted to pursue a medical career.
Listen as Weed recounts his experiences in the military and medical fields and his current work serving Veterans as a surgeon with the Salem VA Medical Center.
Sometimes, all it takes is a whiteboard and a marker to jump-start a dream into reality. This week’s Borne the Battle features guest Jesse Iwuji, whose creative and hardworking mindset led him to overcome great challenges and become a NASCAR driver.
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Growing up, Iwuji excelled at both track and football. His high school accomplishments led him to the Naval Academy's football team where he played safety. He graduated from the academy in 2010. After seven years active duty, Jesse transitioned to the Navy Reserve.
After his football career ended, Iwuji found competitiveness in racing. However, he was at a disadvantage compared to his peers who started racing at a very early age: Iwuji started in his mid 20’s. He lacked sponsorship and he wasn’t born into a racing family. Despite this, his determination and led him to a variety of open doors. He funded the first part of his NASCAR K&N racing career through a variety of ways to include starting his own business. Currently he is racing in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series.
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font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:550; line-height:18px;"> View this post on Instagram</div></div><div style="padding: 12.5% 0;"></div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; margin-bottom: 14px; align-items: center;"><div> <div style="background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(0px) translateY(7px);"></div> <div style="background-color: #F4F4F4; height: 12.5px; transform: rotate(-45deg) translateX(3px) translateY(1px); width: 12.5px; flex-grow: 0; margin-right: 14px; margin-left: 2px;"></div> <div style="background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(9px) translateY(-18px);"></div></div><div style="margin-left: 8px;"> <div style=" background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 20px; width: 20px;"></div> <div style=" width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 2px solid transparent; border-left: 6px solid #f4f4f4; border-bottom: 2px solid transparent; transform: translateX(16px) translateY(-4px) rotate(30deg)"></div></div><div style="margin-left: auto;"> <div style=" width: 0px; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-right: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(16px);"></div> <div style=" background-color: #F4F4F4; flex-grow: 0; height: 12px; width: 16px; transform: translateY(-4px);"></div> <div style=" width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-left: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(-4px) translateX(8px);"></div></div></div></a> <p style=" margin:8px 0 0 0; padding:0 4px;"> <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/B3XeVutgB6W/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_campaign=loading" style=" color:#000; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px; text-decoration:none; word-wrap:break-word;" target="_blank">Talladega Superspeedway, here we come😁! 🏁 @rbr_teams #NASCAR #NavyToNASCAR</a></p> <p style=" color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px; margin-bottom:0; margin-top:8px; overflow:hidden; padding:8px 0 7px; text-align:center; text-overflow:ellipsis; white-space:nowrap;">A post shared by <a href="https://www.instagram.com/jesse_iwuji/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_campaign=loading" style=" color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px;" target="_blank"> Jesse Iwuji</a> (@jesse_iwuji) on <time style=" font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px;" datetime="2019-10-08T18:10:34+00:00">Oct 8, 2019 at 11:10am PDT</time></p></div></blockquote> <script async src="//www.instagram.com/embed.js"></script>
Today, Iwuji represents sponsors from several different organizations, which many help Veterans. He uses racing as a platform to advocate for Veterans' rights and he shares his passion in Veteran communities and schools. To Jesse, nothing is impossible if you have vision and hard work behind it.
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This week’s Borne the Battle episode features guest Jeff Struecker, who discusses his life as a soldier, pastor, and author.
In 1987, Struecker enlisted in the army when he was 18. He excelled, serving in the 75th Ranger Regiment, and he played a pivotal role in the Battle of Mogadishu. He also won the 1996 Best Ranger Competition and was also recognized in 1998 as the U.S Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Noncommisioned Officer of the Year.
After his time as a Ranger, Struecker received a commission as a chaplain in April 2000. He continued to serve as a chaplain for the next 11 years, eventually retiring in January 2011 after having served multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
After leaving service, Struecker became a pastor, and in his free time, he has participated in numerous films, written books and speaks to a variety of audiences about his faith and his time in service.
2019 marks the 40th Anniversary of VA's Vet Centers. They started as outreach for Vietnam Veterans who did not utilize the VA as much as WWII Veterans.
This week’s interview is Pennsylvania National Guard Veteran Michael Fisher who is the Senior Readjustment Counselor. He leads and has direct oversight of over 300 Vet Centers, 80 Mobile Vet Centers and the Vet Center Call Center. We broke it all down - how vet centers started, their differences between them and VA Medical Centers, their services and who is eligible.
#BtBattle Veteran of the Week:
On this week’s episode, Borne the Battle features guest Nathan Goncalves, who shares his story of struggle and perseverance.
While Goncalves didn’t have the intrinsic calling to join the military, he enlisted at 23, seeking reform and discipline. It was in the Army that Goncalves sharpened his focus and developed lifelong friendships and mentors.
However, Goncalves' transition back to civilian life was not easy. In fact, it turned out to be some of his lowest valleys--involving addiction, PTSD, and anger management.
But things started to change when Goncalves heard he was going to be a father. In this episode, he discusses how an intense work ethic allowed him to achieve a bachelor’s degree at UCLA in less than three years.
Goncalves applied to UCLA’s Law school to study corporate law. He was accepted, but a bitter divorce hampered those plans. Through his own experiences, Goncalves realized there was no advocacy for situations like his own. So he sacrificed a potentially lucrative corporate law career and switched to family law to offer services to homeless and low-income Veterans.
Goncalves is now hosted by Harriet BuHai Center for Family Law and sponsored in house by Equal Justice Works. He continues to fight for family integration for homeless and low-income Veterans as they transition back into the civilian communities.
For months, I’ve been promising a special bonus podcast episode for when Born the Battle received its 100th rating and/or review on iTunes.
We did it! But, before we get to Mel Brooks and the late Adrian Cronauer.
In five months, our listenership has increased 500%. You’ve allowed more Veterans, VA employees and civilians to hear these amazing stories and to take advantage of all the benefit breakdowns in our archives.
On September 11, 2001, Air Force flight surgeon John Baxter showed up to work at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, to a full load of patients and completing physicals--just like any other day.
Halfway through his morning while getting his next patient, he saw that a civilian airliner had flown into one of the World Trade Center towers.
While with the patient, Baxter said he noticed the background noise in the Pentagon changed. It seemed quieter than usual. Then, he heard shouts. He opened his door and saw people running and shouting, and smoke in the hallway.
At first, Baxter didn't know if there was an explosion, a fire or some other event. Despite the unknowns, he assembled his team of flight surgeons, a nurse and medical technicians. They grabbed medical kits and traveled as a group. Their emergency plan was to meet up with other medics at the Pentagon's DiLorenzo Clinic.
Then they heard the news: there were casualties in corridor 5.
Baxter's team ran to the spot. They found Army Veteran Brian Birdwell, who was in excruciating pain from burns. It was a situation that Baxter was unexpectedly prepared for: Months earlier, in an emergency exercise, the flight clinic trained for the same scenario that unfolded on 9/11: a plane crashing into the Pentagon.
John Baxter still serves at the Pentagon, though now as a civilian flight surgeon. For this week's Born the Battle Podcast, Baxter details his story of 9/11 and the days that followed.
On this week’s episode of Borne the Battle, Tanner Iskra interviews guest Todd Boeding, who shares his past, present and future as a Marine Corps Veteran, as well as his involvement honoring Veterans through Carry the Load.
Born and raised in Texas, Boeding was always known to take unorthodox paths in life. He dabbled in college, left for the Marine Corps seeking structure and discipline, and eventually returned to finish up his degree at The University of Texas at Dallas.
Since leaving the Marine Corps in 2003, Boeding discussed the hardest part of the transition back to civilian life: finding a sense of belonging. Boeding was able to find his purpose of being part of something bigger through Carry the Load.
Carry the Load offers opportunities to learn how to care again and to do it in a way that meaningfully impacts the families who lost their loved ones. Currently, Carry the Load is partnering with the National Cemetery Association on September 11th to help maintain the dignity of cemeteries.
If you would like to learn more or want to help in this movement, click on this link: www.carrytheload.org/NCA.
In episode 157, we spoke with Army Veteran Ursula Draper about her role in the development of an Assistive Technology (AT) program. In this week's Benefits Breakdown, we take a deeper dive into how this program works and who is able to access it.
The AT program will sound familiar to those who know Darwin’s Theory of Adaptation. The adaptation theory--also known as survival theory, or survival of the fittest--is an organism’s ability to adapt to changes in its environment and adjust accordingly. The Assistive Technology program helps Veterans to do just that.
The AT program, which began in 2008, aims to improve the lives of disabled Veterans by allowing them to maintain independence by completing everyday tasks. It helps Veterans with computer use and accessibility, voice activated technologies, drive control for wheelchairs, and even giving them the ability to turn lights on and off.
VA created four main hubs for instructing those granted into the program: Minneapolis, MN; Tampa, Fl; Richmond, VA; and Palo Alto, CA.
School. Military. Streets. In 1996, Curtez Riggs graduated high school and those were his options in Flint, Michigan. By that time, the auto industry that built “Buick City” had moved away. As a kid, Curtez picked up bottles, turned in cans and always had a side gig to bring in extra money. When it came time to make the decision, Curtez figured the Army was the best way to start his future.
His entrepreneurship did not stop when he joined the Army. Curtez continuously started businesses outside of his day job as a career recruiter. In this episode, you will hear how Curtez prepared for his military transition - years before he ended his active service.
Currently, Curtez is the CEO of the Military Influencer Conference (MIC). Started in 2016, the conference is a community of entrepreneurs, influencers, creatives, executives, and leaders who are connected to the military community. Curtez said he sees the conference as a mentorship and connection hub for future and current military Veterans looking to make the military transition with an entrepreneurial mindset. This year’s conference is in Washington, D.C., Sept. 8-10. Starting in 2020, the conference will be placed in a different region each year.
The conference has certain tracks attendees can follow:
This week’s Borne the Battle interview is with Army Iraq War Veteran, David Gowel, a West Point and Ranger School graduate who later became an assistant professor at MIT’s ROTC program. David is currently the CEO of RallyPoint, a military-themed social media network. Which begs the question: just how does a former armor platoon leader become the CEO for a social media company? And, with a crowded social landscape that includes Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, SnapChat and others, why would anyone join yet another social media network?
This week’s guest lays out his case. In the interview, he also shares tips and pointers for expanding your own social media network.
Prior to becoming RallyPoint’s CEO, David and his wife started their own company that helped other companies leverage social media tools to improve their business models. For LinkedIn specifically, David would consult on how to network on the platform without “harassing people.” This experience led him to also write the book, “The Power in a Link: Open Doors, Close Deals and Change the Way You Do Business Using LinkedIn.”
RallyPoint is a social media network that caters to the active duty and Veteran experience. In the interview, David explains how partnering with VA’s Veteran Experience Office has enabled RallyPoint to organize discussions and “Command Post” messages around VA's Veteran’s Journey Map, which portrays the life stage moments--and VA experiences--that Veterans typically experience.
Currently there are 1.7 million RallyPoint members, many of whom, in addition to active duty and Veterans, are family members, caregivers, civilian recruiters, and VA and DoD civilians.
Since some veterans have multiple traumas, known as polytrauma, VA dedicates resources to help Veterans with very complex issues.
This week's Borne the Battle interview is with Army Veteran Ursula Draper, who developed the VA Assistive Technology Program in 2010.
Draper, an Army Veteran, spent six years working as an ophthalmic technician at Martin Army Hospital at Fort Benning, Georgia. Using her GI Bill, Ursula received her bachelor's degree in Occupational Therapy from East Carolina University. She then operated her own private practice in Orlando, Florida, for over 20 years, specializing in Sensory Integration and pediatrics. Wanting to give back to the Veterans, she then pursued a career in the Veterans Health Administration working with spinal cord injuries. In 2009, she began working at the Veterans Administration, specializing in spinal cord injury and traumatic brain Injuries.
The Assistive Technology program tries to meet Veteran needs. The program finds adaptive ways for Veterans to access their environment, such as turning on lights or accessing computers. Specific areas of AT intervention include:
If you have a Facebook or Instagram account, you either follow this week's guest or have seen his work shared on your social media feed. This week’s Borne The Battle episode interview is with Marine Veteran Daniel Sharp, the Chief Executive Officer of PopSmoke Media and podcast host of The Smokepit.
Sharp talks about his transition from the Marine Corps after 11 years of service as an infantryman to starting his own media company, to developing his podcast. We also go into his personal relationship with his local VA Medical Center. He said his experience with Veterans Affairs started out difficult, but he worked to hold himself accountable to identify solutions and make sure the care worked for him. Sharp also talks about the stress of combat and the support network that can help mitigate those stresses.
Currently, his podcast has listeners in 55 different countries.
In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing:
Back in episode 43, Gary gave his original testimony on Borne the Battle.
This week’s Borne The Battle episode provides an update from the Senior Director of Military Programs at Walmart on the hiring initiatives through the company and the Walmart Foundation donating $1 million to Hire Heroes USA.
Profit worked as a defense contractor before hearing of the Walmart opportunity through a retiree network contact. He met with Walmart officials and became the first person to serve in his role—a role that has now spanned a decade. He plans on retiring by the end of this year.
Initially, Walmart wanted to hire 100,000 Veterans through its Veterans Welcome Home Commitment, but later doubled the commitment to 250,000 by the end of 2020. To date, Walmart has hired more than 226,000 Veterans since Memorial Day 2013.
Walmart is also trying to help with the disproportionate unemployment of military spouses, giving hiring preference to spouses who seek employment at Walmart or Sam’s Club through the Military Spouse Career Connection, which started Nov. 12, 2018.
Hire Heroes USA empowers U.S. military members, veterans and military spouses to succeed in the civilian workforce.
Additional Links to this week’s Episode:
#BtBattle Veteran of the Week:
The VA Center of Faith’s and Opportunity Initiative’s mission is “engage, inform and educate faith-based, nonprofit and community/neighborhood organizations in VA programs to better serve the needs of Veterans, their families, survivors, caregivers and other beneficiaries.” Basically, VA understands that sometimes, faith is the best way to reach a Veteran. Therefore, VA set up a resource for local clergy so they can be the one to tell the Veteran what is available to them.
The current leader spearheading this initiative is the acting director of VA Center of Faith and Opportunity Initiative, Conrad Washington. In this episode he breaks down how your local clergy can get involved with the program. Through partnerships, resources and outreach events, the Center of Faith currently have multiple ways for faith-based leaders to get involved.
In addition, he breaks down his own career. Conrad is a former Marine Corps administrator and drill instructor. After leaving service, Conrad went from a security guard to specializing in security education as an Information Security Specialist for the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency – in the same building. Currently in seminary school, he explains how his career combined with his faith eventually landed him in the VA Secretary’s Office and into his current role as the acting director for the VA Center of Faith and Opportunity Initiative.
Additional Links to this week’s Episode:
#BtBattle Veteran of the Week:
Perry Firoz is smart. Not just Air Force smart, but “can I copy off your paper,” smart.
Perry degrees include:
He was an Analytical Scientist for the Air Force. A lot of this episode is trying to figure out what an analytical scientist does, and I think we have it figured out. His entire job was to figure out how to make the Air Force more efficient. Where another service (ahem, Marine Corps) would contract a solution, the Air Force paid Perry to figure out how to fix logjams in career progression education systems.
Since he left active duty, Perry has continued military analytical research for the Rand Corporation. He is also taking what he has learned to become an entrepreneur. Returning to his first love, music, Perry moved out to Los Angeles and started Epic Music LA. Epic Music LA is a music licensing company. They work with experienced composers to create a library that films and television shows, post-production companies, sports/news media, public relations and advertising agencies can license. They have recently signed deals with CBS, MLB and NHL Networks.
Additional Links for this Episode:
#BtBattle Veteran of the Week
National Guard Veteran Dr. Richard Pinsker
There have been many studies that show that nature can be therapeutic for many reasons:
In episode 138, Sean Ricks mentioned a nonprofit called Camp Valor Outdoors. It’s a nonprofit that helps ill, injured and wounded active duty, veterans and their family members. They do this by taking them on fishing, hunting, shooting, archery, four-wheeling and camping. They believe that “healing in the great outdoors…and connecting with fellow warriors is therapeutic and essential to healing.” Nobody is paid on staff and each dollar is spent on the programs that they host.
Although the nonprofit operates out of Kingsville, MO, Camp Valor’s competitive shooting program is located nearby DC in Fairfax. When I found that out, we linked up and I went to shooting clinic and a couple of matches to see what they are all about.
This week we interviewed Camp Valor Outdoors’ Chief Operating Officer, Army Veteran retired Colonel Denise Loring. She is a world class competitive shooter, having shot in a CMP and NRA Nationals, USA Olympic Trials (Air Rifle), and World Championships. We talked about Camp Valor's mission, Denise being recruited to the Army specifically for shooting, what else she did in her 29+ year career, her transition out, and how she came to find a home with Camp Valor Outdoors.
#BtBattle Veteran of the Week:
Army Veteran Charlie Challelea
Additional Links to this Episode:
This week we’re revisiting Reading, PA’s WWII Weekend. For three days (June 7-9) the MidAtlantic Air Museum brought in WWII Veterans, reenactors and a full air show.
READ AND LISTEN TO PART ONE
This week we share two more WWII Veteran’s stories that the gentlemen were gracious enough to share over the weekend.
Walter Stitt was a part of General Patton’s 3rd Armored Division. As an M4 Sherman Tank Gun Loader, he saw time in Normandy, Northern France, the Rhineland Campaigns and he was one of the first tanks to cross the Siegfried Line – receiving a Purple Heart in the process. Later Walter became a pastor and gave the closing remarks to the final 3rd Armored Division Association’s reunion in 2010.
Victor Maurelli is a WWII and Korean War Veteran. He was a Navy Frogman from the early 1940s to 1955. During WWII, Victor served in Guam, Philippines and during the Battle of Midway. Frogmen were underwater demolition-men and are the forefathers to the current Navy SEAL teams. Frogmen were responsible for diving underwater and destroying defensive barriers before an amphibious landing. Frogmen served in both the European and Pacific Theatres. During WWII Weekend, Victor spent some time with Borne the Battle and shared some of his incredible stories.
Enjoy both of these unique stories.
Additional Links for this episode:
#BtBattle Veteran of the Week:
Army and Korean War Veteran Dale Quick
On June 22, VA will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the G.I. Bill. In honor of this historic event, Army Veteran Maxine Henry and Air Force Veteran Mark Connors of the VA’s Loan Guaranty Service team sat down with Borne the Battle to discuss one of the best and most popular Veteran benefits--the VA home loan entitlement.
The VA home loan guaranty has several advantages for Veteran borrowers:
It was WWII Weekend in Reading, PA. For three days, the MidAtlantic Air Museum brings WWII Veterans, reenactors and a full air show to their community. You can step back in time to every major theatre, visit friendly and enemy camps, hear 1940s music, and even see an FDR impersonator.
More importantly, WWII Days include an impressive VIP guest list. Over twenty-five WWII Veterans attend every year and recount their experiences. This year included two living survivors of Pearl Harbor.
Richard (Dick) Schimmel was one of the first soldiers to ever be a radar tech. He enlisted in 1940 and was shipped out to Hawaii to form new formed Signal Aircraft Warning unit. He wasn’t on duty but was stationed on Pearl Harbor during the attack. When he realized the island was under attack, he ran to his post.
William Bonelli was an enlisted B-17 and B-29 mechanic at Hickam Field when the attacks occurred. In 1944, he got his opportunity to fly the “Flying Fortress” as a pilot, flying 30 missions over Italy (21 as squadron leader) and receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions.
Enjoy both of these unique accounts of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Quick Bonus episode reflecting on the 75th anniversary of the D-Day Landings. Features General Dwight D. Eisenhower's speech to the troops of the eve of the operation.
David talks about becoming a Green Beret, being attached to a MIKE Force in Vietnam, being a security contractor in Iraq and Afghanistan as a 55-60 year old man, and helping advocate to reform Arizona's university system to work friendlier with the GI Bill and the VA system.
#BtB Veteran of the Week:
One couple, Marine Veteran Brett D’Alessandro and his partner, Alexa Modero, have made it their mission to help those Veterans that find themselves with nothing but a backpack. In fact, with the nonprofit, Backpacks for Life the first thing they are doing is literally improving the backpacks that rest on homeless Veterans shoulders.
After deploying to Afghanistan in 2014 and exiting his Marine Reserve contract, Brett started experiencing the same problems many Veterans face after deployment. After serving honorably as a turret gunner in country, he found himself without purpose. He was filling the emptiness with unhealthy habits. However, after randomly providing a homeless Veteran with a backpack that allowed the Veteran’s child to have a pack for school, Brett again found a call to serve those that were in need. Upon learning this, his long-time girlfriend Alexa, began supporting his new purpose. Together they founded the nonprofit Backpacks for Life.
They have since patented their very own pack that is created specifically with the homeless veteran in mind. The Bowery Pack features the old sea-bag opening, a stainless cable closing and an iso mat. Their goal is to go to a one-for-one sale model. For each Bowery Pack sold, they can give one to a homeless Veteran.
However, Brett and Alexa believe that the pack is only the first step to getting off the streets. Their overall mission “is to provide Veterans with resources that they have trouble providing for themselves…at the same time fostering self-reliance while assisting Veterans through their hardships…”
Additionally, we talked about how Brett and Alexa met, Brett’s deployment, and how they can afford to make the Bowery Pack in the United States.
Additional Links to this Episode:
#BtBattle Veteran of the Week
Army Veteran Bill Hayes
Fisher houses are a vital part of helping Veterans heal. If there is an open room in a Fisher House next to a VA or military medical facility, a family can join in their Veteran’s recovery at no lodging cost. Today, two new Fisher houses opened at the James J. Peters VA Medical Center in the Bronx, New York City. These two new homes will join the 70+ Fisher Houses currently in operation around the world. By the end of the year, the Fisher House Network will be able to provide for over 1,000 families at any given time.
To mark today’s event, today’s interview is the current President of the Fisher House Foundation, Army Veteran David Coker.
We talked about:
FOR INFO ON LOCAL MEMORIAL DAY CEREMONIES CLICK HERE
#BtB Veteran of the Week:
Army Veteran Todd Cornell
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Not only is Army Veteran Jan a wrestler, he’s a producer of the documentary “Valhalla Club.” The feature documents how three wrestlers, including Jan, formed a wrestling stable based on collectively fighting their PTSD through wrestling.
Recently, Jan and his stablemates were featured on the first episode Comedy Central’s new show, “Klepper.”
Additionally, Jan is a VA employee. We talked about his role in the Office of Business Process Integration.
#BtBattle Veteran of the Week
Marine Veteran Edgar Huff