PREVENTS offers organizational and individual options for desired levels of engagement. Pledge Supporters, Strategic Partners, and Ambassadors will work in collaboration with PREVENTS to ensure message and mission alignment.
Pledge Supporters are community members who are inspired to change the national conversation on suicide and understand the risk and protective factors that exist for Veterans and fellow community members. Pledge Supporters will take a personal pledge to help prevent suicide in their community and will encourage others to join their efforts.
PREVENTS Pledge to REACH
I pledge to do my part to help change the national conversation around mental health and suicide.
PREVENTS State Proclamation
Encourage and support your Governor in the signing of your state’s Proclamation Pledge.
View the PDFs linked below to see the states and territories that have already signed on to support the PREVENTS Mission.
Alaska State Proclamation
Alabama State Proclamation
Arkansas State Proclamation
Arizona State Proclamation
Colorado State Proclamation
Connecticut State Proclamation
District of Columbia Proclamation
Florida State Proclamation
Georgia State Proclamation
Hawaii State Proclamation
Idaho State Proclamation
Indiana State Proclamation
Iowa State Proclamation
Maryland State Proclamation
Massachusetts State Proclamation
Minnesota State Proclamation
Mississippi State Proclamation
Missouri State Proclamation
Montana State Proclamation
Nebraska State Proclamation
Nevada State Proclamationn
New Hampshire State Proclamation
New Jersey State Proclamation
North Carolina State Proclamation
North Dakota State Proclamation
Ohio State Proclamation
Oklahoma State Proclamation
Pennsylvania State Proclamation
Rhode Island State Proclamation
South Carolina State Proclamation
South Dakota State Proclamation
Tennessee State Proclamation
Texas State Proclamation
Vermont State Proclamation
Virginia State Proclamation
Washington State Proclamation
West Virginia State Proclamation
Wisconsin State Proclamation
Wyoming State Proclamation
These states have also signed the PREVENTS State Proclamation. PDFs will be uploaded shortly.
Strategic Partners will provide the highest level of engagement, with a signed memorandum of understanding or memorandum of agreement with PREVENTS. These partnerships will serve as force multipliers for the work of the PREVENTS Task Force in specific subpopulations and audiences. Partners will contribute to shaping the national conversation about mental health and suicide prevention by proactively engaging in larger public conversations, online, and at community (state or local) events, as well as identify and pursue opportunities for cross-collaboration within their networks, communities, and partnerships.
PREVENTS National Ambassadors
PREVENTS National Ambassadors are individuals at the national level with a sustained connection to PREVENTS and its campaigns. Ambassadors will share approved PREVENTS messaging during their existing day-to-day duties, within their organizations, and/or through personal “influencer” channels. Ambassadors will leverage their personal networks to extend the reach of PREVENTS efforts to academia, employers, members of faith-based and other communities, non-governmental, and non-profit organizations, and the Veteran community.
Congressman Jack Bergman
Congressman Jack Bergman proudly represents the First District of Michigan and serves on the House Armed Services Committee and the Veterans’ Affairs Committee in the 116th Congress. Prior to taking office in January of 2017, Congressman Bergman was a small business owner, commercial airline pilot for 22 years, and a United States Marine Corps officer. During the Vietnam War, he flew CH-46 helicopters, and later was assigned as a flight instructor at Whiting Field, Florida. In 2005, Congressman Bergman assumed command of Marine Forces Reserve/Marine Forces North, and he retired from the Marine Corps in December 2009 at the rank of Lieutenant General. The Congressman is the highest ranking combat Veteran ever elected to Congress. He and his wife Cindy have called Watersmeet home since the early 1990’s. They have eight grandchildren and aim to leave the world a better place for them.
Bonnie Carroll founded the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) in 1994, at a time when there was no national support network for the families of America's fallen heroes. Through her own loss of her husband, Brig. Gen. Tom Carroll, she turned her tragedy into a purposeful effort to create what is today the major national program providing compassionate care for all who are grieving the death of a service member.
In addition to serving as the President of TAPS, Carroll also served as the White House Liaison at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) under President George W. Bush, Executive Assistant to the President for Cabinet Affairs under President Reagan, and in Baghdad, Iraq, as the Deputy Senior Advisor for Programs in the Ministry of Communications.
Carroll retired as a Major in the Air Force Reserve and has served on the Board of Directors of the Association of Death Education and Counseling, the Department of Defense Military Family Readiness Council, the VA Advisory Committee on Disability Compensation, and she is past co-chair of the Department of Defense Task Force on the Prevention of Suicide by Members of the Armed Forces.
In addition to receiving the 2015 Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama, Carroll was featured in People Magazine as a “Hero Among Us”; was named a recipient of the Community Heroes Award by the Military Officers Association of America; has been recognized by the Defense Department with the Office of the Secretary of Defense Medal for Exceptional Public Service; and has received the Army's Outstanding Civilian Service Medal and the Navy's Distinguished Public Service Award.
RDML James L. Hancock
A native of Illiopolis, Illinois, Rear Adm. Hancock enlisted in the Navy in 1982 serving in Navy nuclear power, he graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1990, earning a Bachelor of Science in Engineering. Additionally, he holds a Doctor of Medicine from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS).
Operationally, Hancock served as command flight surgeon, VMFA(AW)-332; group surgeon, Marine Aircraft Group 31 (forward) in support of Operation Noble Anvil; officer in charge, Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort Health Services; and officer in charge, Fleet Surgical Team 7/Commander Amphibious Group 1 surgeon/Task Force 76. Additionally, he served as task force surgeon, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines where he developed and deployed the tactical trauma team concept, moving advanced resuscitative capabilities to the point of injury, and subsequently developed, tested, and deployed mobile trauma bays in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). His staff assignments include Command Surgeon, U.S. Fleet Forces Command and assistant deputy chief, medical operations, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED).
Hancock completed his family medicine residency at Naval Hospital Pensacola and an emergency medicine residency at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth. He served as staff physician and director of medical services, Naval Hospital Beaufort; director of medical services, Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune; Deputy Commander, Naval Medical Center Portsmouth; and as commanding officer, Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune, where he established the Navy's first trauma center. Additionally, as the Navy and Marine Corps representative to the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff Gray Team, he deployed multiple times in support of Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom, improving the policy and treatment of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Hancock's last staff tour was as deputy chief of transition, BUMED.
RDML Hancock is currently serving as the Medical Officer of the Marine Corps / Director, Health Services, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps with additional duty as the 13th Chief of the Medical Corps.
Hancock is qualified as a naval flight surgeon, fleet marine force medical officer, and surface warfare medical department officer. In addition to numerous unit and campaign awards, his personal awards include the Legion of Merit (four awards), Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal (four awards), Joint Service Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (two awards), Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (three awards), and the Combat Action Ribbon. Hancock maintains board certification with the American Board of Emergency Medicine and is a fellow of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine. His academic appointments include assistant professor of military/emergency medicine and assistant professor of neurology at USUHS.
Representative Vicky Hartzler
Vicky Hartzler proudly represents the good people of Missouri's 4th Congressional District which is comprised of 24 counties in West-Central Missouri.
Vicky grew up on a farm working alongside her family and graduated from Archie High School, earned a Bachelor of Science in Education from the University of Missouri, and a Master of Science in Education from the University of Central Missouri. She taught junior and senior high school for 11 years, coached track, and served as a co-director of a program for at-risk students in the high school. In this role, she worked with families and school officials to connect teens dealing with addiction, depression, suicidal ideations, or other problems with the help they needed.
Vicky began her public service in 1994 when she successfully ran for State Representative in the Missouri General Assembly, serving for six years. During that time, she championed legislation advancing adoption, additional testing for drugs/alcohol in fatality accidents, and agriculture.
In 2005 Governor Matt Blunt appointed her to be Chairwoman of the Missouri Women's Council where she served for three years helping women achieve their economic goals.
She was elected to Congress in 2010 and serves on the House Armed Services and Agriculture Committees. She currently serves as Ranking Member of the Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee on the House Armed Services Committee and is the Chairwoman of the House Values Action Team.
Suicide prevention is a priority for Rep. Hartzler as too many of our selfless heroes are taking their own lives. She has been working to identify programs that work and wants to expand their reach so every veteran and active-duty military personnel can access the programs they need that bring healing and hope.
Vicky, her husband Lowell, and their daughter, Tiffany, are small business owners and farmers living near Harrisonville, Missouri.
Jewel went from a girl who grew up with no running water on an Alaskan homestead, to a homeless teenager in San Diego, to an award winning, Multi-Platinum Recording Artist who released one of the best-selling debuts of all time.
Through her career Jewel has sold over 30 million albums worldwide, earned 26 Music Award nominations, including The Grammys, American Music Awards, MTV Awards, VH1 Awards, Billboard Music Awards, and Country Music Awards, winning 8 times. Jewel has been featured on the cover of TIME Magazine, Rolling Stone, performed on Saturday Night Live, at the Super Bowl, the NBA Finals, for The Pope and The President Of The United States. She has experimented with several genres over her career with top hits in Folk, Pop, Club, Country, Standards, Children's and Holiday music.
Mental health and mindfulness has been a lifelong passion of Jewel’s. She offers free mindfulness exercises and an online mental health community at JewelNeverBroken.com.
2020 marks a momentous year for jewel — she is celebrating the 25th anniversary of her multi-platinum debut album, “Pieces of You” with an exclusive Anniversary package of the album to be released later this year by Craft Recordings. It will give listeners a vivid insider’s look at how this album came to be, collecting all relevant rarities and previously unissued tracks in one place. In addition, Jewel has been hard at work on a new studio album and a forthcoming book. Both will be released next year with a live tour to support.
Rear Admiral Matthew E. Kleiman
In January 2021, RADM Kleiman was selected to the rank of Rear Admiral and assumed the role of Assistant U.S. Surgeon General. He will continue his work as an executive-level leader within DoD serving as the National Guard Bureau’s Director of Psychological Health, a position he has held since 2016. In this role, he designs, develops, and directs an enterprise-wide system for psychological health fitness and resilience for over 450,000 National Guard members and their families. He is responsible for providing oversight, implementation, execution, and quality control for psychological health, resilience, and suicide prevention operations across the joint services. Additionally, in 2019 RADM Kleiman was selected by the Chief of the National Guard Bureau to lead the new Warrior Resilience and Fitness (WRF) Office. In this role, he directs the National Guard Bureau’s efforts to synchronize and implement well-being, resilience, and prevention programs across the Air and Army National Guard and throughout the 54 states, territories, and DC.
RADM Kleiman is a commissioned officer in the U.S. Public Health Service. Prior to his assignment at the National Guard Bureau, he was detailed to the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) for six years, where he served as the USCG Chief of Behavioral Health Services at their Headquarters Office in DC. Previously, RADM Kleiman served in the Office of Health Affairs at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as a principal advisor on resilience and behavioral health policies across DHS. Prior to that assignment, he was assigned as the National Mental Health Coordinator for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, responsible for coordinating the mental health care for all detained undocumented migrants in the United States. RADM Kleiman began his career as a Public Health Services Officer working emergency response operations for the Department of Health and Human Services, coordinating disaster response efforts for large scale emergencies such as Hurricane Katrina and the London Bombings.
Prior to transferring to the Public Health Service in 2005, RADM Kleiman was a commissioned officer in the United States Air Force, where for six years he provided a broad array of direct behavioral health clinical services to Airmen and their families at multiple duty locations. He has a Bachelor’s of Arts Degree in Psychology from the University of Tennessee, received his Master of Social Work degree from the University of Georgia, and is a licensed clinical social worker and board certified diplomat.
Dr. Robert Koffman
Retired Navy Captain Robert Koffman, MD, MPH, is Senior Medical Adviser for Warrior Canine Connection. Capping an acclaimed 30-year career as a naval medical officer, psychiatrist and preventive medicine physician, Koffman’s terminal assignment was the Chief of Clinical Operations at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) aboard the Walter Reed campus in Bethesda, Maryland. Koffman, lauded for his work in integrative medical practices, had the unprecedented opportunity to craft the nation’s renown, evidenced-based, holistic recovery program for combat wounded Veterans. A board certified psychiatrist, he obtained his doctorate from the University of Santo Tomas, and his Master of Public Health from the Harvard School of Public Health.
Among his many clinical, operational, and leadership positions, he was appointed as the Navy’s first head of Combat and Operational Stress Control (COSC). While serving in this capacity, he also advised the Navy Surgeon as Navy Medicine’s inaugural Director for Psychological Health where, during the ramp-up of war efforts for the “hidden wounds of war,” Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and mild Traumatic Brain Injury, he oversaw the management of over $100 million in military campaigns and proposals for tackling the burgeoning problem of psychological health issues and blast-related TBI. Koffman was the former Navy lead on the blue ribbon panel authoring the DoD/VA Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Clinical Practice Guideline.
Prior to his arrival to NICoE, he served as a Navy collaborator and investigator to the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, where he continues to conduct research as a recognized name in military medicine and operational psychiatry. A subject matter expert in deployment health, Koffman has dedicated himself to improving the delivery of mental health care in operational settings. Deploying to Desert Storm, Operational Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, he has provided behavioral health care services for service members in a multitude of maritime, combat, and peace-keeping operations. Koffman is a passionate advocate for increasing access of non-stigmatizing psychological services.
Following a 2010 deployment to Afghanistan where he headed up the first naval medical Behavioral Health Needs Health Assessment Team, Koffman and his Mobile Care Team (also a concept of expeditionary healthcare he developed) conducted the first battlefield mental health assessment of more than a thousand combat-deployed Sailors.
Highly militarily decorated, among his most treasured awards, Koffman is the 2013 recipient of the prestigious USSOCOM Patriot Award for significant and enduring support for USSOCOM’s wounded warriors and their families.
Chairman Cheryl L. Mason
Cheryl L. Mason, after being nominated by President Donald J. Trump and confirmed by the U.S. Senate, was sworn into office as the Chairman of the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board) on December 3, 2017. The Board is the Secretary’s designee to decide appeals arising from all three administrations and General Counsel: Veterans Benefits Administration, Veterans Health Administration, and National Cemetery Administration. Ms. Mason is accountable for the efficient and effective management of Board resources, including approximately 1200 personnel and executing a budget in excess of $190 million. Ms. Mason is the spouse of an Air Force Veteran, married to a Lieutenant Colonel, USAF (retired), and is the daughter of a World War II Navy Veteran who died by suicide. Chairman Mason is proud to be named a PREVENTS Ambassador and looks forward to helping change the culture and discussion surrounding mental health and suicide. Chairman Mason is also a key champion in the military spouse employment initiative, working to share best practices across enterprises to increase the hiring and retention of military spouses in the federal government. Ms. Mason received her B.A. with Distinction in Political Science and Psychology from Ohio Northern University and her J.D. from Creighton University School of Law.
The Honorable Robert A. McDonald
Robert A. "Bob" McDonald was nominated by President Obama to serve as the eighth Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and he was confirmed unanimously by the United States Senate on July 29, 2014. Secretary McDonald led the Department in its ambitious transformational journey to be a world-class service provider and the No. 1 customer-service agency in the Federal government. Before joining VA, Bob McDonald was Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer of The Procter & Gamble Company (P&G).
Bob McDonald graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in the top 2 percent of the Class of 1975. In 1978, Bob earned his MBA from the University of Utah. An Army Veteran, Bob served with the 82nd Airborne Division. He completed Jungle, Arctic, and Desert Warfare Training, and he earned the Ranger tab, the Expert Infantryman Badge, and Senior Parachutist wings. Upon leaving military service, then-Captain McDonald was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal.
In 2010, the University of Utah Alumni Association named Bob a Distinguished Graduate. The West Point Association of Graduates named McDonald for its admired Distinguished Graduate Award in 2017. In 2014, The President of the Republic of Singapore awarded Bob the Public Service Star for his work helping shape Singapore's development as an international hub connecting global companies with Asian firms and enterprises.
Bob McDonald is Chairman of the Board of RallyPoint Networks, Inc. and serves on the Board of Directors of the Partnership for Public Service, Audia International, Inc., the Association of Graduates of the United States Military Academy, the Boulder Crest Retreat Foundation, and the McCormick Research Institute in Orlando, Florida. Bob and his wife, Diane, are the founders of The McDonald Conference for Leaders of Character at West Point. In July, 2020 Bob became the April and Jay Graham Fellow of the George W. Bush Institute. In this endowed role he serves as a key member of the Bush Institute’s Military Service Initiative team, advocating for post-9/11 Veterans and building awareness for the issues that affect their successful transitions to civilian life including employment, education, and health and wellbeing. He is a member of Vice President Biden’s Transition Board.
Bob McDonald and his wife are the parents of two grown children and the proud grandparents of three grandsons and three granddaughters.
Hollyanne Milley was born in Pennsylvania and grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. She has been a nurse for 32 years, spending eighteen years as a critical care nurse in hospital intensive care units and emergency rooms. During the last 14 years she has specialized in cardiac nursing, and is currently a cardiac nurse in Northern Virginia.
Hollyanne has frequently volunteered with Remote Area Medical in the Appalachian Mountains, and supported approximately 3000 people in need who cannot afford medical care, with other doctors, dentists, and nurses.
She also serves as a Red Cross Disaster Volunteer, assisting people and communities suffering from natural disasters, fires, and floods. She volunteered at the West Texas explosion site, and provided food and shelter to victims of the Fort Hood shooting as part of the Red Cross effort. At her local Red Cross Chapter she served as a triage nurse for victims of the Texas and Florida Hurricanes.
Hollyanne has served as a Senior Advisor for many organizations, including the Red Cross, United Service Organizations (USO), Parent/School Liaison, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, Easter Seals, and Army Emergency Relief, to name a few. While her husband was deployed she was also a liaison at Walter Reed, greeting all wounded 101st soldiers on arrival. Hollyanne has served as a Family Readiness Group leader at all levels of command. She always seeks opportunities to conduct community outreach and has done so with several organizations.
General Milley and Hollyanne have been married for more than 34 years, and have two children, both of whom recently graduated from MBA programs.
DJ Nash is the Creator & Executive producer of the dramedy “A Million Little Things” which just wrapped its second season on ABC. The show is based on DJ’s experiences losing a friend to suicide. Last May, the Television Academy awarded the series its 12th annual Television Academy Honors, which represents “some of the most powerful and impactful television.”
General John W. “Mick” Nicholson, Jr., U.S. Army (Retired)
Four-star General John W. “Mick” Nicholson, Jr., U.S. Army (Retired) joined the PenFed Foundation as President in April 2019 after serving as the longest-serving commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and NATO’s Resolute Support Mission. General Nicholson’s service to his country has spanned 36 years. Thanks to his extensive work in the international, non-governmental and development agency arena, General Nicholson has been praised as a “warrior-diplomat.” He has worked with the State Department, law enforcement and the national security staff. As an infantry officer in the U.S. Army, General Nicholson commanded at all levels to include command of the 82nd Airborne Division and NATO’s Allied Land Command.
Antonio E. Puente PhD
Antonio E. Puente, PhD was born in La Habana, Cuba and emigrated to the US in 1960. Puente received his Ph.D. from the University of Georgia. He has taught at University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) since 1981 and prior to that at St. George’s University School of Medicine. His primary teaching activities include Brain and Behavior, Clinical Neuropsychology and History of Psychology. Puente is founding director of UNCW’s Centro Hispano and his research focuses on the interface between culture and neuropsychology. Puente founded and edited the journals Neuropsychology Review and Journal of Interprofessional Education & Practice as well as a neuropsychology book series. He has published 10 books, 85 chapters and 112 scientific articles in several languages.
Puente is Professor of Psychology at the University of North Carolina Wilmington and also maintains a private practice in clinical neuropsychology is the founder and co-director of mental health services at the Cape Fear Clinic, a bilingual multi-disciplinary health center serving the indigent.
Puente served as president of the N.C. Psychological Association, N.C. Psychological Foundation, the Hispanic Neuropsychological Association, National Academy of Neuropsychology, and Society for Clinical Neuropsychology (Division 40 of APA) as well as President of the American Psychological Association.
Admiral Charles W. Ray
Admiral Charles W. Ray assumed the duties as the 31st Vice Commandant on May 24, 2018. As the Vice Service Chief and Chief Operating Officer, Admiral Ray executes the Commandant’s Strategic Intent, manages internal organizational governance and serves as the Component Acquisition Executive.
His previous flag officer assignments include: Deputy Commandant for Operations, Pacific Area Commander, Deputy Pacific Area Commander, the Fourteenth Coast Guard District Commander, service with U.S. Forces Iraq advising the Ministry of Interior, and the Military Advisor to the Secretary of the Department Homeland Security.
A native of Newport, Arkansas, he graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in 1981. After an assignment as a deck watch officer aboard Coast Guard Cutter ACUSHNET (WMEC-167), he was selected for Naval Flight Training and earned his wings in 1984.
He served at six Coast Guard Air Stations from Alaska to the Caribbean accumulating over 5,000 hours of helicopter flight time. Admiral Ray is the longest serving active duty Coast Guard aviator which has earned him the distinction of being Coast Guard’s 25th Ancient Albatross.
His staff assignments include a tour as Chief of the Office of Performance Management at Coast Guard Headquarters followed by a tour as the Chief of Staff of the Fourteenth Coast Guard District. Admiral Ray earned a Master of Science Degree in Industrial Administration from Purdue University and a Master of Science Degree in National Resource Strategy from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in Washington, D.C.
Admiral Ray’s awards include the Coast Guard Distinguished Service Medal, five Legion of Merit Medals, one Bronze Star Medal, two Meritorious Service Medals, one Coast Guard Air Medal, and various other personal and unit awards.
Lisa Marsh Ryerson
Lisa Marsh Ryerson is President of AARP Foundation, the charitable affiliate of AARP. A bold, disciplined and collaborative leader, she sets the Foundation’s strategic direction and steers its efforts to realize an audacious vision: a country free of poverty, where no older person feels vulnerable. Since she took the helm, AARP Foundation has implemented pioneering initiatives, explored new avenues for collaboration, and secured unprecedented funding to support programs and services that truly change lives.
She also has served on the boards of numerous higher education and nonprofit organizations, including the Council of Independent Colleges, Southern New Hampshire University, Shriver Center on Poverty Law, the Congressional Hunger Center, and L.A. Kitchen, of which AARP Foundation is a founding partner.
Ms. Ryerson has spearheaded innovative partnerships with other organizations to create and advance effective solutions that help vulnerable older adults increase their economic opportunity and social connectedness. Before joining AARP Foundation, Ms. Ryerson served as the president and CEO of Wells College in Aurora, N.Y.
Dr. Altha J. Stewart
Altha J. Stewart, M.D., Senior Associate Dean for Community Health Engagement at UT Health Science Center in Memphis is Associate Professor/Chief of Social/Community Psychiatry and Director, Center for Health in Justice Involved Youth at the UTHSC. In 2018-19 she served as the 145th President of the American Psychiatric Association, the first African American elected to this position in the 175-year history of the organization. Prior to UTHSC, she served as Executive Director of the Memphis/Shelby County System of Care program. A native of Memphis, Dr. Stewart worked for decades as CEO/Executive Director in large public mental health systems in Pennsylvania, New York, and Michigan. She received her medical degree from Temple University Medical School and completed her residency at what is now Drexel University. She has received honorary degrees from Regis College and Christian Brothers University in Memphis. She is past president of the Black Psychiatrists of America, Association of Women Psychiatrists and American Psychiatric Association Foundation. She is the recipient of the Black Psychiatrists of America Lifetime Achievement Award.
Danica Thomas is the widow of US Army SSG Allen Thomas. In March of 2010, her husband was severely injured in Afghanistan and brought to Walter Reed. Danica was pregnant with their first daughter. She became a caregiver overnight and quickly learned they had a very long road to recovery. They were stationed back at Fort Bragg in August 2010, where he would rehabilitate and transition to medical retirement at the Warrior Transition Battalion and Womack. They had their first daughter in October. Danica experienced the hard trials and errors of being a new mom and caregiver, as well as Army wife. They welcomed a second daughter in April of 2013. Tragically in the late Summer of 2013, her husband lost his long battle to suicide. As a widow and mother of two, she has now made it a mission to work closely within the Military community. Danica is the Board Chair of the Susan M. Tillis Foundation, an organization that provides necessary baby items to junior enlisted service members. She is an ambassador of The Independence Fund, where she volunteers at their Operation RESILIENCY program to combat Veteran Suicide. Danica also delivers speeches on suicide and the effects it has on families to educate the public.
Brigadier General Marianne Watson, Army National Guard (Retired)
General Watson continues exploring opportunities to empower people to make great choices. Following retirement as the National Guard Bureau Director of Manpower & Personnel, she has worked for and advised nonprofit organizations in the Veteran job space and women career transition programs. She serves on the Purdue University Military Family Research Institute Advisory Council and serves as an advisor to Give-An-Hour and the Campaign Change Direction.
Stephen Whitehead, a disabled Minnesota Army National Guard Veteran of the Iraq War, was elected National Commander for the more than 1 million-member DAV at the organization’s 2019 national convention in Orlando, Florida.
A native of Trimont, Minnesota, Whitehead in his full-time job, is the DAV Department of Minnesota Executive Director of the Disabled American Veterans of Minnesota Foundation. He is also in the MN National Guard where he serves as the Division Command Sergeant Major of the 34th Infantry Division.
Whitehead joined the Army in 1991. He received a Bronze Star in 2007 for service in Iraq. Other military awards include a Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, five Army Acheivment Medals, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Medal and the Humanitrian Service Medal. In 2012, he was awarded the Veterans Voices award by Governor Dayton.
He earned a Bachelor’s of Science business degree from the University of Phoenix in 2009.
Whitehead and his spouse, Kim, live in Rosemount, Minnesota. He is a life member of Chapter 10 in Mankato, Minnesota where he serves as the Sr. Vice Commander for the chapter.
Representative Susan Wild
Susan Wild is a member of the House of Representatives from Pennsylvania’s 7th district. Congresswoman Wild built a successful legal practice while raising her two children in Lehigh Valley and became the first woman to be appointed as Allentown City Solicitor. In November 2018, Congresswoman Wild was elected as the first woman to represent Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Since the loss of her partner to suicide in May 2019, Congresswoman Wild has become an outspoken advocate for mental health and suicide prevention initiatives both federally and locally. In September, she introduced two bills — the Greater Mental Health Access Act and the Enhancing Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Through Campus Planning Act — legislation to expand access to mental health care for people impacted by suicide and improve mental health and suicide prevention programs on college campuses. Her amendment to the Dignity in Aging Act to provide for mental health screenings in seniors was included in the final package signed into law by the President. Additionally, she has co-sponsored the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2019 and the Mental Health in Schools Excellence Program Act. She is also a member of the Congressional Mental Health Caucus and the Suicide Prevention Task Force.
White House Fellows as REACH Champions
Founded in 1964, the President's Commission on White House Fellowships is one of America's most prestigious programs for leadership and public service. White House Fellowships offer exceptional young men and women first-hand experience working at the highest levels of the Federal Government. Selected individuals typically spend one year working as a full-time, paid Fellow to senior White House staff, Cabinet Secretaries, and other top-ranking government officials. Fellows also participate in an education program consisting of roundtable discussions with renowned leaders from the private and public sectors. Fellowships are awarded on a strictly non-partisan basis.
2020-2021 White House Fellows
Steve Clagett, Jr. is from Chesapeake Beach, Maryland, and is placed at the United States Department of Labor. Steve is a Lieutenant Commander in the United States Navy Reserve and a Navy SEAL. Since February 2020, Steve has worked with the Baltimore Ravens Player Personnel Department. In this position, he assisted with talent selection and preparations for the virtual NFL Draft. In the previous 13 years, he deployed to the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and the Pacific in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Steve's military awards include citations for combat deployments in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Africa. Steve is a Commissioner with Maryland's Veterans Home Commission and a small business owner. He volunteers with Farming 4 Hunger, which is a non-profit organization that provides local produce for food banks in Southern Maryland while building a stronger community. Steve earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology with a minor in Public Service from the University of Notre Dame. He was a 4-year letter winner and 2-time captain on the lacrosse team. He is finishing a Master of Business Administration from the University of Virginia Darden School of Business.
Pia Dandiya is from Jupiter, Florida, and is placed at the United States Department of Education. Pia is the founding principal of Democracy Prep Endurance High School in Harlem, New York. Every single graduate of her school went on to attend college despite nearly all living below the poverty line. Pia founded her high school at 28 years old, making her among the youngest principals in the country at the time. Her school remains one of the highest performing in New York and has earned the title of "Recognition School" for its high academic achievement. Pia began her career in Boston with Teach For America as a middle school math teacher, where she led her students to the highest growth percentile in state assessments at her school. Before transitioning to school leadership, Pia was a Manager of Teacher Leadership Development for Teach For America in New York, and a teacher at the first all-boys charter school in the country, Excellence Boys Charter School. She has been featured in national news pieces on effective teaching and speaks three languages, including Spanish and Hindi. Pia earned a Bachelor of Arts in Government from Harvard University and has a Master of Education from Boston University.
Lindsey Gerheim is from Alpharetta, Georgia, and is placed at the United States Department of Commerce. Following family tradition, she is the sixth to serve in law enforcement, seventh in the military, and first to combine paths as a United States Army Military Police Officer. Lindsey has deployed and led combat missions in Iraq, trained the Army's newest officers, and served as Operations Officer for criminal investigators serving over 1 million personnel across 5 continents. As a Major in the United States Army, Lindsey previously served in Kuwait as Aide-de-Camp for the Army Central Command's Deputy Commander, where she worked with United States Ambassadors and host nation military leaders in support of security initiatives across 20 nations. In Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, her unit was responsible for security of all high-value detainees and earned the Army's Superior Unit Award. Lindsey has earned two Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medals for her mentorship with youth softball and 'Sisters in Arms' programs. Lindsey earned a Bachelor of Science from the United States Military Academy at West Point, where she was an All-American Scholar-Athlete and co-captain of Army's Division-1 softball team. She earned a Master of Arts from Webster University and a National Academy Certificate from the Federal Bureau of Investigations.
Aleksas Juskys is from Wilmette, Illinois, and is placed at the Office of the Chief of Staff at the White House. Aleksas is a senior director of business operations at Rapid7, a leading cybersecurity company, where he is focused on strategic long-term growth for global go-to-market initiatives. Aleksas has worked at GE Aviation, where he was the Chief Financial Officer and operations leader for a $1.5 billion military jet engine division. Aleksas also served in the United States Air Force as a fighter pilot, where he logged nearly 2,000 hours in the F-16, including combat missions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Aleksas served as an F-16 Instructor Pilot at the United States Air Force Weapons School. There, he planned and led large missions utilizing over $12 billion of assets, served as a tactical mentor to international exercises involving more than a dozen countries, and developed and taught academics in collaboration with the Navy, Army, and Marine Corps. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Finance from the University of Illinois, a Master of Arts in International Studies from the Lauder Institute at the University of Pennsylvania, and a Master of Business Administration from the Wharton School.
Brian Kitching is from Lincoln, Nebraska, and is placed at the White House Office of Management and Budget and the United States Office of Personnel Management. Brian is a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army and has spent over 50 months deployed to combat since 2002. He has served in key roles within Special Operations and Infantry units, including assignments to the 75th Ranger Regiment, 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions, and 3rd Infantry Division. His military awards include two Bronze Stars for Valor and the Silver Star. His experience in the Middle East includes numerous kinetic combat operations, as well as economic development and social assistance missions over nearly 20 years. Brian served as a General Wayne Downing Scholar at the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point and is a term member for the Council on Foreign Relations. Brian most recently served as a Special Assistant to the 40th Chief of Staff of the Army. Brian earned a Bachelor of Science in Economics from Alabama A&M University, a Master of Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and Master of Arts in International Affairs from the Fletcher School at Tufts University.
Daniel Kurtenbach is from Nevada, Iowa, and is placed at the United States Small Business Administration. He was previously a program manager for new product introduction at Apple, where he worked on the company's flagship products for the iPhone and Core Technologies Product Operations team in Silicon Valley. Before Apple, he served as an Army Special Forces officer and led both special operations and conventional forces in the Middle East, Europe, and South and Southeast Asia. He served as an Infantry platoon leader in Iraq, commanded the Special Forces "A" team responsible for conducting humanitarian and rescue operations during the 2015 Nepal earthquake crisis, and led a special operations element in United States Embassy-Dhaka in 2016 during Bangladesh's spike in terrorism. Dan is active in advocating for mentoring service members as they separate from the military. Dan earned a Bachelor of Science in International Relations from the United States Military Academy at West Point, a Master of Business Administration from MIT's Sloan School of Management, and a Master in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School.
Josephine Nguyen is from Burke, Virginia, and is placed at the United States Department of Health and Human Services. Josephine is a Commander and Physician in the United States Navy. As the former Deputy Chief Medical Executive for the CAPT Lovell Federal Health Care Center, she oversaw a $100 million dollar budget and led an integrated Veterans Affairs/Department of Defense team of 1,140 staff. A board-certified dermatologist with over 20 publications, Josephine is the United States Navy Surgeon General's senior dermatology consultant. Passionate about patient advocacy, she holds national-level leadership positions in several medical organizations, served as a Dermatology World contributing editor, and she earned the Department of Defense's 2018 Female Senior Physician Leadership Award. Josephine served as a flight surgeon in the Indo-Pacific Theater, forward-deployed on the USS Kitty Hawk in direct support of aviation squadrons. She was a Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellow and a physician advisor to Congressman Kevin Brady. She graduated second in order of merit from the United States Naval Academy, earned an M.D. from Stanford University, a Master of Science in Healthcare Delivery from Dartmouth University, completed a dermatology residency at the University of Pennsylvania, and is a graduate of a 2-year Wharton School Executive Education program.
Michelle Ruehl is from Lincoln Park, Michigan, and is placed at the United States Department of Transportation. Michelle is a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Air Force Reserves. She is an instructor pilot and aerospace policy specialist who has flown over 800 combat hours in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. Michelle served as an English professor, theater director, and sexual assault victim advocate for the United States Air Force Academy. She is the founder of the Social Impact Theater Project, an interactive intervention program for military members. Michelle used her certification as a Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship riding instructor to create and direct the nonprofit Parwana LEADership Legacy, which uses horses, sports, and music to provide leadership and resiliency programs for veterans and their families. She has served as a volunteer teacher in Ghana, Tanzania, and Nepal, and was a Visiting Senior Fellow at the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies. She has been appointed to several boards, including for Mt. Carmel Veterans Service Center, the Colorado Springs Airport Commission, and New Summit Charter Academy. Michelle earned a Bachelor of Science in English from the United States Air Force Academy, a Master of Arts in Psychology from North Central University and a Master of Arts in English from the University of Colorado.
Wes Spurlock is from Norco, California, and is placed at the United States International Development Finance Corporation. He is a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Air Force. Wes served as the Squadron Commander of the 344th Air Refueling Squadron at McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, Kansas. As the Commander, Wes was responsible for leading a team of more than 100 military and civilian personnel that delivered and operated the Air Force's newest aircraft, the KC-46 Pegasus. Before that assignment, Wes was the Military Aide to President Obama and President Trump, where he was responsible for the Presidential Emergency Satchel (football) and assisted the President in implementing command and control of the United States' Nuclear Arsenal. He has served overseas on multiple deployments, including Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, and Unified Protector. Wes is very involved with the Gold Star community. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from the United States Air Force Academy with military distinction, a Master of Business Administration from Mississippi State University, and a Master in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
David Strong is from Novi, Michigan, and is placed at the United States Department of Defense. David is a board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician with specialty certification in Emergency Medical Services. He is a staff physician at Henry Ford Hospital, a non-profit institution with a tripartite mission of patient care, education, and research. David served as the Medical Director for the TCF Regional Care Center, an alternate care site built to care for Detroit's patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. While completing residency training at the University of Cincinnati, he volunteered as the resident assistant medical director for the Blue Ash Fire Department and the Cincinnati Police Department Special Weapons And Tactics Team. He was also a Flight Physician for Air Care, the University of Cincinnati's air medical transport service. David earned an M.D. and Ph.D. in Immunology from Washington University in St. Louis, where his thesis work focused on the identification of viral determinants of pathogenesis of the Murine Norovirus. He attended Johns Hopkins University where he earned a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Science with a concentration in Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience.
Travis Thul is from Winona, Minnesota, and is placed at the Export-Import Bank of the United States. Travis is a Lieutenant Commander in the United States Coast Guard, an educator, an engineer, and an entrepreneur. He has led national level security operations and disaster response, including maritime Deputy Incident Commander for the 2020 Democratic National Convention, infrastructure reconstitution in Puerto Rico post Hurricane Maria, and Hurricane Florence triage operations. Travis served as Dean of Trades and Technology at Minnesota State College Southeast. He and his team of 35 faculty reimagined vocational-technical education. This included the Rural Advanced Manufacturing Education Hub, deploying tech-college education to regional high schools; the Advanced Manufacturing Infrastructure Initiative, raising over $1M to build rapid prototyping labs; and the world's first Bicycle Design and Fabrication degree, providing vocational training to Generation Z. Travis has chaired the American National Standards Institute Working Group for Wireless Power. Travis is a licensed Professional Engineer and holder of multiple patents. He earned an Associate of Applied Science from Fox Valley Technical College, a Bachelor of Science from the Milwaukee School of Engineering, a Master of Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a Doctor of Engineering from George Washington University.
Jonathon Westbrook is from Kansas City, Kansas, and is placed at the White House Office of American Innovation. He is a police officer for the Kansas City, Kansas Police Department (KCKPD). Jonathon was awarded the "Stanley Fisher Award" for dedication to the field beyond the classroom. He volunteered as a mentor at Leavenworth Penitentiary through the Life Connections program and served as Youth Director and mentor at Bread of Life Outreach Ministries. In 2016, Jonathon was selected to lead the KCKPD OK mentoring program, empowering black men and boys to lead their community. Jonathon was selected to the Professional Standards Unit, where he wrote policy, operational standards, and addressed the local and national media on behalf of the KCKPD. He was appointed by Governor Sam Brownback to the Kansas Human Rights Commission and appointed by Ron Ryckman, Kansas Speaker of the House, to the Kansas African American Affairs Commission. Jonathon earned both an Associate Degree in Political Science and a Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Leadership from Donnelly College, as well as a Master of Public Administration from the University of Kansas.
Cathryn Yerage is from Goldsboro, North Carolina, and is placed at the United States Department of State. She is a Major in the United States Air Force and most recently, served as the Chief Executive Officer to the 437th Airlift Wing Commander at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, Air Mobility Command's largest and busiest strategic airlift wing. She was a direct representative of the Commander for all staff matters and led the front office through Hurricane Dorian evacuation and COVID-19 response. A C-17A pilot, she deployed as the Director of Operations for the only C-17A combat squadron, leading more than 26 aircrews in executing sorties resulting in the movement of 34.7 million pounds of cargo throughout the Middle East, Southwest Asia, and North Africa regions. With over 2,300 flight hours, 600 in combat, CJ has deployed four times in support of contingency operations and has extensive international exercise experience. She is commissioned through the United States Air Force Officer Training School in Montgomery, Alabama. CJ earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Master of International Relations and Conflict Resolution from the American Military University.