I first met Rory Cooper at the VA Medical Center in Pittsburgh. He was showcasing a number of products he helped research and develop. I called upon him to join me on the podcast when I saw he was a top 12 finalist for the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America People's Choice Award. He's also nominated in the science and environment category. Rory is going to talk to us about his service in the Army, his spinal cord injury, accommodations for people using wheelchairs, and his research that is benefiting those with similar disabilities.
Rory Cooper, PhD, founder and senior researcher at the University of Pittsburgh Human Engineering Research Labs (HERL), is a world-renowned expert in wheeled mobility and the pioneer in wheelchair selection and configuration. Dr. Cooper is developing technology to increase the independence of people with spinal cord injury or disease (SCI/D) and equipping them with the skills necessary to operate new technology.
Dr. Cooper founded HERL at the University of Pittsburgh in 1994. Today, HERL conducts more than 74 clinical studies in eight customized labs with 50 staff members, who include engineers, physicians, therapists, research specialists and rehab medical interns. HERL’s mission is to continuously improve the mobility and function of disabled patients through advanced engineering in clinical research and medical rehabilitation.
Covered in Episode 43:
In the Veteran community, there are people you hear of and hear about over and over but never meet or engage with. Mark Rockefeller was on my radar for years. I heard about Street Shares, the company he co-founded, when they first started. I never had the opportunity to interview him for my former programs, so he made the short list when we launched This Week at VA. Just a couple weeks ago, I finally got the opportunity to talk with him. I visited Street Share's cozy space in Reston, VA and talked with him about serving in the Air Force, being an entrepreneur, Veteran owned businesses, and much more.
Mark began his career as a military officer, and later as an attorney. Following service in Iraq, Mark worked briefly on a pro bono micro-finance project in Africa before joining the prominent global financial services law firm Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP. His law practice focused on securities, financial restructuring, and international investment disputes. Inspired by his experience in Africa and a desire to reinvigorate small businesses in the United States (particularly veteran-owned small businesses), Mark left the law firm in 2013 to co-found StreetShares. He holds a B.S. in Finance, and advanced degrees in Finance and Law. Mark provides strategic leadership and vision to StreetShares and ensures our talented team has what it needs to serve our customers. Mark's favorite American Main Street is Main Street, Breckenridge, CO.
Covered in Episode 43:
This week's featured interview is with retired Army General Gary Profit. Gary is the Senior Director of Military Programs at Walmart. Walmart is a leading employer for Veterans and their spouses. Gary connected with us to talk about Walmart's initiatives to improve the experience of their Veteran employees, the importance of employing Veterans, his service in the Army, and more.
After more than 31 years of U.S. Army service, Brigadier General Gary M Profit retired on February 28, 2006, and, until October 2008, he was Director of Human Capital Management Solutions; International Programs; and Department of Defense Business Transformation Agency Programs, Civilian and Homeland Security Solutions, General Dynamics Information Technology, in which capacities he led a premier provider of lifecycle human capital management technology/service solutions and international technology transfer/export control service solutions for federal agencies and strategic communications service solutions at DOD BTA, respectively. He is currently Senior Director of Military Programs, Walmart, where he directs a synchronized enterprise strategy and complementary implementing programs to attract, recruit, and hire; grow and develop; and retain talent from military community constituencies and leads a collaborative team of military employment brand, reputational interests, and consumer brand professionals focused on veterans and military families for the leading global retailer.
Covered in Episode 43:
I remember watching Brian Stann fight in the UFC, thinking it was so cool to see a Marine in the octagon. Now, I think its even cooler to see a decorated Veteran taking a leadership position that allows him to influence the lives of so many other Veterans and spouses. Brian is the CEO of Hire Heroes USA. They do amazing work with Veterans looking for employment and career advancements. They proudly claim more than 50% success rate for all users that register on their website. That's amazing considering how many visitors come to the site "just to check it out." Hire Heroes USA is positively affecting our economy and the Veteran community with the services they offer. Brian even offers his opinion on the upcoming Mayweather/McGregor fight.
Brian Stann is President and Chief Executive Officer of Hire Heroes USA, a decorated Marine, and a nationally recognized analyst for the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship).A Naval Academy football player and graduate, he served two deployments with 3rd Battalion 2nd Marines in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM and was awarded the Silver Star, the nation’s third highest award for valor, for his actions near the Al-Romana Bridge during Operation MATADOR in May 2005. Stann took over as President and CEO of Hire Heroes USA, which is headquartered in Alpharetta, Ga., in 2008 and has grown the nonprofit organization to a total of seven offices across the country. Under his leadership, Hire Heroes USA has built a national reputation of excellence and is recognized as a best-in-class veteran service organization by the USO, Call of Duty Endowment and the George W. Bush Institute.
Covered in Episode 42:
I've known Justin Brown for a couple years now and one thing I've always admired about him is how many people know who he is and know of his efforts. Justin founded HillVets with the intent to bring more Veterans to Capitol Hill in Washington D.C.. Justin believes Veterans can contribute greatly to our government and that they should take advantage of those opportunities. Just swung by our central office and chatted with us about service, transition, HillVets, and more.
Justin Brown is a senior staffer on Capitol Hill with more than a decade of Veterans’ focused experience and advocacy. He has been fighting on behalf of Veterans and their families, trying to increase educational and employment opportunities, while expanding access to benefits and healthcare. Justin began his commitment to public service at the age of 17 when he enlisted in the United States Navy. There, he completed one deployment in support of Operation Southern Watch and two deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Following Justin’s service, he attended the University of Utah, graduating with dual bachelor’s degrees in three years. He became active in the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) where he served as the youngest All-American District Commander and Department Chief of Staff in its history.
Covered in Episode 40:
VA works with many Veteran Service Organization to serve our Veterans. One of those longstanding partnerships has been Disabled American Veterans, an organization that has been around since World War I. DAV helps Veterans navigate the VA system, primarily by assisting with claims. They also provide a network and community for Veterans to thrive in. This week's featured guest is with DAV's National Adjutant, Marc Burgess.
Covered in Episode 40:
It's always humbling to speak with a combat Veteran and even more inspiring to speak with one like this week's guest, Travis Mills. Travis joins the podcast this week to talk about his service, his injuries, his foundation, being a motivational speaker, and being a "re-calibrated warrior."
Covered in Episode 39:
I'm sure everyone enjoyed bathing in the glory of our nation's freedom as we celebrated our Independence Day this week. I hope everyone's holiday was safe and joyful. This week's podcast features Darren Sherrard. Darren is an Army Veteran that served two decades and is now putting his skills to work for VA. He serves as VA's Associate Director for Recruitment Marketing. Darren helps drive the initiative that is VA Careers and helps communicate the value in working for VA to its potential employees.
Covered in Episode 38:
One of my favorite things about podcasting is learning about different parts of life and new concepts. Last week we learned about the positive effects roleplaying games have on Veterans, and this week we will learn about powerlifting. Enter: Steve Goggins.
Steve served in the US Army from September of 1983, until May of 1990. While in the Army, he served in the 82nd Airborne and was a member of the Armed Forces Powerlifting Team. He has competed in powerlifting for over 25 years and was the first powerlifter to squat 1100 pounds. he has won many titles since he started powerlifting as a teenager.
Covered in Episode 37:
Episode 36 brings us Joshua Heath. Josh served in the Army from 2006 to 2011 as a 91J Quartermaster and Chemical Equipment Repairer. While he was in, he ran a Dungeons and Dragons game for MWR while in Iraq, helping soldiers destress and escape. Now, he uses his company Reach Out Roleplaying Games to help connect people and create communities through gaming. Josh is going to talk to us about the benefits of playing RPGs and the effects he's seen in Veterans.
Covered in Episode 36:
This week's podcast features Army Veteran Jeremy Paris. Jeremy served in the '90s in personnel. He is currently with Veteran Artist Program and hosts the Veteran Resource Podcast. He helped coordinate the 2017 Women Veteran Art Exhibit in collaboration with VA's Center for Women Veterans.
Jeremy Paris was born in Buffalo, NY and joined the US Army immediately after graduating from high school. After ten years as a Personnel Administration Sergeant he left the military to become a government contractor performing computer support to the Department of Defense. Although the initial plan was to be a contractor for two years and then split, he spent the next 16 years supporting the same customer within different rolls. Jeremy has been on the staff of Veteran Artist Program (VAP), a non-profit Veteran Service Organization since 2010. While at an event in Washington DC with VAP Jeremy shook hands with people representing so many veteran-focused organizations that he was blown away. It was the realization that most veterans had no idea that these organizations existed that prompted Jeremy to start this podcast. The new mission of the Veteran Resource Podcast is that every single one of the 20,000 veterans transitioning out of the military each month will have the opportunity to learn about the veteran organizations that are available to them.
Covered in Episode 35:
This week's podcast focuses on the announcement made by Secretary Shulkin on Monday. The Department of Veterans Affairs will be adopting the same electronic health record system used by the Department of Defense. The podcast features audio from SECVA at the White House press briefing. He provides remarks on the announcement originally made at VA's central office earlier that day, followed by questions from the media.
Covered in Episode 33:
I hope everyone had a safe and solaced Memorial Day. I had the opportunity to meet with hundreds of Veterans and other members of our community at Sunday's Rolling Thunder demonstration. It was humbling hearing riders talk about their fallen comrades and whom they were riding for. It's moments like those that keep me grateful for our nation's service members and Veterans.
This week's podcast features retired Army Brigadier General Henry Huntley. Henry I are colleagues in the Office of Public Affairs at VA's central office. Each time I speak with Henry, my respect for him grows. Henry had a long, decorated career in the Army before coming over to VA. He's going to talk to us about his time in the service, his transition out, and how VA fulfills his post-military service to Veterans.
Covered in Episode 33:
Each year, at their national convention, Student Veterans of America announces a Student Veteran of the Year. This award is competitive and quite prestigious as the Veterans considered have impressive resumes as service members and as student Veterans. 2017's Student Veteran of the Year is Kate Tillotson, a Marine Veteran currently attending University of Tulsa.
Kate served in the Marine Corps for four years as a Radio Operator. After she got out, she began pursuing higher education. Now, she's the president of her Veterans group on campus. Kate talks to us about growing and developing her SVA chapter to be one of the most active groups on campus.
Covered in Episode 32:
Episode 31 of This Week at VA is another "best of" type episode. This volume of Meritorious Segments includes soundbites from AMVETS National Director Joe Chenelly, Team Rubicon Chief Operations Officer Art delaCruz, and Team RWB Executive Director Blayne Smith.
Even if you've heard each episode, I know you'll appreciate hearing these stories and sentiments again.
Covered in episode 31:
Joe Chenelly describes AMVETS' service to Veterans
We are 30 episodes into the podcast and I'm going to do something a little different with this one. This is going to be a "best of" episode. I pulled four clips from our more popular interviews to feature in what I'm calling "meritorious segments."
Even if you've heard each episode, I know you'll appreciate hearing these stories and sentiments again.
Covered in episode 30:
Jared Lyon on the value that student Veterans bring to a campus
John Lee Dumas about why he chooses VA in Puerto Rico
I was introduced to Bob Wright by an organization named Us Too. Us Too is an organization that supports and advocates for men at all stages of prostate cancer. Bob is an Army Veteran having served in Vietnam. He is going to talk to us about his time in the military, discovering he had cancer, and become a support group leader for men.
Bob served as a Battalion Surgeon`s Assistant as First Lieutenant Medical Service Corps with 101st Airborne Division. He was in Vietnam from 1969-1970. During his time in service, his efforts were recognized with a Combat Medical Badge, Bronze Star , Vietnam Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, and National Defense Service Medal.
Covered in Episode 29:
When you're active in the Veteran community, you tend to hear names repeated in conversation and mentioned on social media. Recently, one of those names is Skye Marshall. I saw Skye in Got Your 6's #shesbadass campaign and knew she'd make a great feature on the podcast. Skye talks with us about serving in the Air Force, following her dreams to Hollywood, working with Al Pacino, and more.
Covered in Episode 28:
The Women In Military Service For America Memorial (WIMSA), is the only major national memorial honoring all women who have defended America throughout history. It sits at the end of the road as you approach the gates of Arlington Nation Cemetery near Washington D.C. Today's podcast features Army Veteran Dee McWilliams, the current president of WIMSA. Dee talks to us about her 29 years in the Army, retirement, serving as WIMSA president and the significance of the women's memorial.
MG Dee Ann McWilliams retired from the Army in 2003, later joining the Office of the Director of National Intelligence where she served until 2010 as Director of the Lessons Learned Center.
MG McWilliams holds degrees from Lon Morris College, Stephen F. Austin University where she was named a distinguished alumnus, Texas Woman’s University, and the National War College.
IIn 2007, MG McWilliams joined the board of directors for the Women In Military Service for America Memorial Foundation, assuming the position of Vice Chair in 2014. She formerly served as President of the Army Women’s Foundation, a Director on the Army Historical Foundation Board, and on the Lon Morris College Board of Trustees.
She was the 2013 recipient of the American Veterans Center Lillian K. Keil Award for outstanding contribution to women’s service in the United States military and was named a Trailblazer by Women Veterans Interactive.
Covered in Episode 27:
My interview this week is with Army Veteran Doug McCormick. I've been very fortunate in the past couple months and have received a lot of opportunities for interviews. My cup has run over, and finally, after sitting on it for six to eight weeks, I finally have opportunity to release my interview with Doug. We talk about a few important topics, to include Veteran community, entrepreneurship and money.
Note: We are not providing any financial advice and VA does not official endorse Doug’s guidance on money, but we did invite him onto the podcast because it is an important topic and respect him as a subject matter expert. If you have any questions or want to explore the ideas Doug brings, consult your family’s financial adviser or contact Doug directly using the contact information he provided.
Before joining HCI Equity, Doug worked in the Investment Banking Division of Morgan Stanley & Co., where he was involved in the completion of numerous mergers and acquisitions and acquisition-related financing transactions. Doug previously served as a Captain in the U.S. Army's 25th Infantry Division, receiving numerous awards for performance and achievement.
Doug serves as a board member of Team Red White and Blue and Bunker Labs, both veterans service organizations, and is a Henry Crown Fellow.
Covered in Episode 26:
Episode 25 is here! This is a fun milestone for us and we're happy to continue this great program. This week's interview features two Veterans involved with the Veterans Community Project in Kansas City.
Kevin Jamison retired after 20 years of service in the Marine Corps. He served three tours in Iraq, was part of the embassy evacuation in Albania in 1997, and was part of the US operation in Haiti in 1994. He is now the Chief Operations Officer for Veterans Community Project.
Bryan Meyer is a prior Marine Corps helicopter Crew Chief. He deployed twice to Iraq and participated in Operations Shining Express. he is now the Chief Legal Officer for Veterans Community Project.
Covered in Episode 25:
When Got Your 6 first got on my radar, I wasn't sure what they did. Years later, I still wasn't convinced I understood their mission. Then, a few weeks ago, their Executive Director Bill Rausch interviewed Secretary Shulkin for our YouTube Live event. After the event, I invited him to join me on the podcast and he enthusiastically agreed. We had a very informative and fun conversation regarding his service, Got Your 6, the Veteran space, collaboration among organizations, a conflict of guilt some veterans have, and even beards.
Bill Rausch is the Executive Director at Got Your 6. He is a former Army Major with over ten years of service including 17 months in Iraq serving under Generals Casey and Petraeus while assigned to the Information Operations Task Force. Prior to joining GY6, Bill was Political Director at Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America where he oversaw policy and advocacy campaigns.
Bill is also an active community leader and volunteer serving as Chapter Captain for Team Red, White & Blue (Team RWB) in his local community in Alexandria, VA. He also serves on the Board of Directors at Volunteer Alexandria, an organization promoting volunteerism across all charity sectors.
Covered in Episode 24:
When I first conceptualized VA's podcast, I knew Team Rubicon would be an early feature. Team Rubicon has had a significant impact on the world by providing natural disaster relief and it has had an even bigger impact on the Veteran space by providing a renewed purpose for Veteran volunteers. This week's guest is the Chief Operating Officer for Team Rubicon, Art delaCruz.
Art delaCruz served honorably for more than 22 years in the United States Navy and enjoyed a career that included a broad range of assignments. Art commanded a Navy strike-fighter squadron, spent one year with McKinsey & Co. as a Secretary of Defense Corporate Fellow, served as a Topgun instructor, and made six combat deployments. After retiring, he spent two and a half years in the aerospace and defense sector in the roles of business development and strategy and planning.
Covered in Episode 23:
This week's podcast features another participant in the 2017 Women Veterans Art Exhibit, Navy Veteran Debra Russell. The exhibit is traveling to ten different VA medical centers throughout the month of March to celebrate and honor Women's History Month and how Veterans use art for personal expression.
Debra joined the military in 1984 and served until 1997. She worked in supply early on and went on to work on the staff for an Admiral. She was "med-boarded" after a running accident and was separated from the military. Around that same time, she was dealing with a sexual assault she experienced with a superior. Debra opens up regarding her service, her transition, and how she uses art and photography for therapy.
Covered in Episode 22:
The podcast continues to grow and it is thanks to our wonderful audience. Thank you for taking the time to listen to these powerful Veteran stories. This week's guest is Army Veteran Pamela Corwin.
Pamela served in the Army for six years. She went on to complete a Masters in Biology from The Citadel. She now works full-time as a wildlife and fisheries biologist for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.
I asked Pamela to join me on the podcast because she is one of ten artists being featured in 2017 women Veterans art exhibit. The exhibit is traveling to ten different VA medical centers throughout the month of March to celebrate and honor Women's History Month and how Veterans use art for personal expression.
Covered in Episode 21: