Meet the Vets

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PAUL RIECKHOFF. New York, NY.  Paul is the Executive Director and Founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. Paul served as a First Lieutenant and infantry rifle platoon leader in the Iraq war from 2003-2004. He is also the author of the critically acclaimed Chasing Ghosts, and a nationally recognized authority on the war in Iraq and issues affecting troops, military families and veterans. Prior to going to Iraq, Paul worked as a high school football coach and an Investment Banking Analyst on Wall Street. He received a BA in Political Science from Amherst College in 1998 and lives in New York City.
ROBERT ACOSTA. Santa Ana, CA. Rob deployed to Baghdad in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom where he served as an ammunitions specialist. During his deployment, he suffered extensive injuries when an Iraqi threw a grenade inside his Humvee and it exploded in his hand as he attempted to dislodge it from the vehicle.  Retired from the service, Rob is an advocate for wounded warriors.  He lives in Santa Ana, CA.
TIREAK TULLOCH. Huntington, NY. Tireak served in the Marine Corps with Alpha Company, 6th Communication Battalion as a tactical data network specialist from 2000 to 2008.  In January 2003, his entire battalion activated in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom for the invasion. Tireak works as a Network Engineer for the MTA Long Island Rail Road, and is currently pursuing a degree in Computer Programming and Information Systems at Farmingdale State College.  He is a native of Brooklyn, NY.
CHANDRA BANKS. Hagerstown, MD. Chandra deployed to Iraq from March 2003 to 2004 in support of the initial surge with the 440th Signal Battalion. She was then stop-lossed and redeployed to Baghdad, Iraq in September 2005 to 2006. She is currently using the Post 9-11 GI Bill to obtain her B.A. in Psychology at Hood College. After she graduates she intends on pursuing a Doctorate in Counseling Psychology, with a special focus in PTSD and Major Depressive Disorder. She is a native of Neodesha, Kansas.

                 

                                                                        

TIM EMBREE. St. Louis, MO. Tim serves as IAVA’s Legislative Associate working as a liaison to members of Congress, Veterans Service Organizations and other government agencies. He joined the United States Marine Corps Reserves in 1999 and served two combat tours in Iraq before being honorably discharged in 2007. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Political Science from Spring Hill College in Mobile, AL. He has extensive professional experience working in local government administration in the Midwest.
MARK MARTINEZ. Seattle, WA. Mark deployed twice in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom serving as a tank commander with the USMC. Since graduating with a B.A. in Accounting from Seattle University in 2008, Mark has held numerous jobs and struggled to find gainful employment.  Currently, he works at a manufacturing company in Seattle, but hopes to use his degree as a CPA.  In his spare time, he enjoys wood-working, scuba diving in Puget Sound and being a scout leader for his kids.

LAURIE EMMER. Sycamore, IL. Laurie joined the Army in 1981 and deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan in January 2003 where she served as a medical platoon sergeant in Kandahar and Khost provinces.  In November 2005, she retired from the Army.  Laurie has a B.A. in Business Administration, and is currently pursuing a second degree in History and Political Science at Northern Illinois University to earn her teacher certification. A San Diego native, Laurie is married to an Iraq veteran and has four children, including two who served in the Army.

EDWARD DENNIS. Allegany, NY. Edward deployed to Iraq where he served as the commander of an EOD company.  He works as the Military and Corporate Relations Manager for a private college, overseeing enrollment of military students, veterans and their family members. As an advocate, he is committed to helping new veterans translate their life experiences and leadership skills to the classroom.  He earned his B.A. in Employment Relations at SUNY-Potsdam and an MBA at the University of the Incarnate Word. He plans to pursue a Doctorate in Business Administration.


                 

                                                                   

TOM TARANTINO. San Anselmo, CA. Tom is a former Army Captain who left service in 2007 after 10 years. He returned from Iraq in 2006 after a deployment with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. Tom served in combat as both a cavalry and mortar platoon leader, and was awarded the Combat Action Badge and Bronze Star. Tom graduated from UCSB in 2002 with a degree in Global Studies and International Relations. As Senior Legislative Associate, Tom assists with IAVA’s research and policy through coordination with Congress, Veterans Service Organizations, and governmental organizations.
QUAN NGUYEN.  San Jose, CA. Born in Saigon, Vietnam in 1972, Quan has served in the Marine Corps on active duty and reserve since 1990. Following the terrorist attacks on September 11, he volunteered to go back on active duty with his reserve unit. As part of Regimental Combat Team 1, he served in the initial wave of Operation Iraq Freedom in 2003. Quan is a successful small business owner managing a headhunting company that works with venture capital firms to staff high tech startups. He is an active outdoor athlete and a frequent volunteer with Habitat for Humanity.
MARIA CANALES. Brooklyn, NY. Maria deployed to Balad, Camp Anaconda in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from October 2005 to 2006. She served with the 266th Finance Command out of Germany where she was assigned to provide finance support to the FOB. Maria earned a degree in Business Management and is currently pursuing her MBA from Long Island University. A full-time student, she is working to raise awareness about the challenges she and other veterans face finding full-time employment during the economic crisis.

JUSTIN FORD. Tallahassee, FL.Justin enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2000, and served as an Airborne Combat Engineer in the 20th Engineer Brigade until late 2004. He participated in NATO peacekeeping missions during the Kosovo conflict, and later served as a NCO during the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the proceeding year. Justin supports IAVA’s Strategic Partnerships team in the research, development and execution of all partnerships. He has prior experience working in both the military and political arena working on local, state, and federal campaigns. He is currently pursuing his degree in political science at Thomas Edison State College.

                 

                                                                        

TODD BOWERS. Fairfax, VA. Todd serves as IAVA's Deputy Executive Director and works as a liaison to members of Congress, Veterans Service Organizations and other government agencies. Todd served two tours in Iraq as a Civil Affairs Team Sergeant with the Marine Corps, and was awarded the Purple Heart and Navy Commendation medal with “V” device for Valor. In April 2009, he redeployed for a third tour to Afghanistan as a Staff Sergeant in the Marine Corps Reserves.  He studied Middle Eastern Affairs and Arabic at George Washington University.
JOHN KAMIN. New York, NY. John served two tours in Iraq with the U.S. Army.  During his first tour in 2007, he deployed to Ramadi, where he was part of a police transition team embedded in police stations across the city.  After being called off the IRR in 2010, John served a second tour attached to the 256th infantry brigade of the Louisiana National Guard.  Recently home, he is finishing a cross-disciplinary major at American University.  He hopes to pursue a career in law or political journalism.  He is a native of New York City.
CHRISTOPHER GOEHNER. Cashmere, WA.  Chris deployed twice in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in September 2004 and August 2005.  During his first tour, he was assigned to the 2nd Medical Battalion, Bravo Company, where he taught Combat Lifesaver Classes to over 1,200 troops. During his second deployment, he worked out of a hospital in Al Taqqadum as a medic and anesthesia tech. Currently, he is pursuing a B.S. in Public Policy and a B.A. in Political Science from Central Washington University.  He lives in Cashmere with his service dog Pele.
PELE GOEHNER. Cashmere, WA. Trained by Puppies Behind Bars, Pele knows over 100 commands and has traveled extensively with Chris. In 2010, he interned for Senator Patty Murray’s office where he carried forward a resolution raising awareness about service animals for veterans.  More recently, he had the honor of saluting the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen and two Medal of Honor recipients.  With Chris, he has made the rounds at Camp Lejeune and Navy boot camp in Great Lakes.  He has also played basketball at the Supreme Court, rolled on the rug at the Marine Corps Commandant’s house, and walked the Vegas Strip, Hoover Dam and White Sands.  For dinner, he enjoys sterile bones filled with peanut butter.  He turns 3 next month --on Tax Day-- and is currently considering a career in the Navy SEALs. His motto: Never quit!
DONNA BACHLER. Plainfield, NJ.  After aiding the recovery effort at Ground Zero, Donna deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.  In Kuwait, she served as a Postal Policy and Operations Chief; she also served in support of Operation Noble Eagle overseeing IRR reprocessing.  She currently works as a freelance charity coordinator and writer for several websites.  Donna earned a degree in History from Rutgers University, and is now applying for MFA programs in hopes of writing a novel.

                 

                                                                          

DON GOMEZ, JR. Bellrose, NY. Don is a former Sergeant in the Army, serving from 2001 to 2006. He deployed to Iraq twice. On his second tour, he served as the driver for the Deputy Commanding General of Multi-National Corps-Iraq. In May 2010, he earned his B.A. from the City College of New York (CCNY), where he studied International Studies with a concentration in Middle Eastern Studies. Currently, Don is pursuing his M.A. as a Truman Scholar in International, Near and Middle Eastern Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.
NICOLE GREEN. Alexandria, VA. Nicole is a former Captain and U.S. Air Force Academy graduate who served on active duty from 2002 to 2006.  She helped establish initial Air Force combat operations at Balad Air Base, Iraq, where she deployed from November 2003 to March 2004.  After her military service, she earned an M.A. in Diplomacy while teaching English in Russia.  She currently works as a consultant in Washington, D.C. and is active in helping other veterans successfully transition to civilian life.  A native of Dunwoody, GA, she enjoys CrossFit, hiking and photography in her free time.
ERIC SMITH. Baltimore City, MD. In 2006, Eric deployed with the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines to Al Amariyah, Iraq. Eric deployed again to Fallujah in 2007.  Since returning home, Eric has worked as contractor but is currently seeking full-time employment.  He intends to use his GI Bill to earn a degree in History or Political Science, and pursue a career in the government sector. In addition to veteran employment, he hopes to raise awareness about troops’ exposure to burn pit toxins in Iraq and Afghanistan. He resides in Baltimore City, MD.

NICK COLGIN. Wisconsin Rapids, WI.  Nick served as a combat medic for Bravo Company of the 82nd Airborne in Afghanistan. He took part in over 700 combat patrols within the Bagram security zone, and later moved to Firebase Morales-Frazier.  He received the Bronze Star for meritorious service. Upon return home, Nick was diagnosed with a TBI, but is now almost completely recovered.  After a long employment search, he now works as the Cinema Coordinator at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point where he is earning his B.S. in English. He is a native of Chesterfield, VA.

                 

                                                                  

MATTHEW COLVIN. Hagerstown, MD. Matt served two tours in support of Operation Enduring Freedom with the U.S. Air Force. After his tours, he co-founded a successful custom longboard company called Bustin Boards.  Currently, he is pursuing his degree in marketing at the University of Phoenix while working as the Marketing Director at Ogden Clothing and the Director of Veterans Affairs at the nonprofit Adaptive Action Sports.  As a small business owner, he is interested in helping other veterans start their own companies. He currently resides in Hoboken, NJ.
SARA SKINNER. Augusta, GA. Sara served as a Captain in the Army, and deployed to Iraq twice as an MP platoon leader. In 2003, she led her platoon on managing EPWs, convoy escorts, civil disturbance response and patrolling operations. In 2004, her platoon frequently served as first responders to IED and VBIED attacks. Suicide hit her platoon hard during the transition home.  A 2002 West Point graduate, she is earning her Masters in Social Work at the University of South Carolina, and intends to work as a clinical social worker in mental health for veterans.  A Michigan native, Sara is married to a fellow Iraq veteran.

JUDID ESCOBAR-CORDELL. Lewis McChord, WA.  In 2004, Judid deployed to Mosul with the Air Force.  She assisted in the execution of over 350 convoys to deliver food, water and fuel to war-torn areas.  She was awarded the Bronze Star by the Army for meritorious achievement. Judid works as a Retirement Assistant Officer at Joint Base Lewis McChord where she works closely with community leaders and organizations guide and assist veterans during the transition home. Judid holds a degree in social work from Pierce Community College and is a native of DeLeon Springs, FL.
TYLER TANNAHILL. Overland Park, KS.  Tyler deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom with the USMC to northeastern Afghanistan in 2006. In 2007, Tyler deployed as a squad leader to Barwanah, Iraq where his unit patrolled for IED and weapons caches and trained Iraqi Police. He is pursuing a degree in political science at Kansas State University, and is active in both Kansas State Collegiate Veterans and Student Government on campus.  He hopes to start a career in government after graduation.  An avid outdoorsman, he enjoys hunting.

                 

                                                                           


MARCO REININGER. New York, NY. Marco enlisted in the Army National Guard on his 23rd birthday and deployed to Afghanistan in 2008.  Upon returning from Afghanistan he enrolled at Columbia University in New York City where he is using the Post-9/11 GI Bill to pursue a Bachelor’s in Political Science and Psychology.  Marco has traveled to over 40 countries and is proficient in German and French. After graduation, he hopes to combine his passion for International Affairs and media by working for a television news show. 
TRACEY COOPER-HARRIS. Pasadena, CA. In 2002, Tracey deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom to provide veterinary care to Military Working Dogs (MWDs). In 2003, her unit was reassigned to provide MWD services for the push into southern Iraq. Tracey graduated from Cal State Northridge with a degree in Kinesiology.  She is now applying for jobs while exploring plans to pursue further education andhopes to work with agencies to ensure veterans and their families know about, and take full advantage of, the benefits available to them. Tracey is in the process of obtaining a service dog.
HUGH CONLON IV. Augusta, GA. Hugh deployed to Baghdad in 2006 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom as a Brigade Medical Advisor to Iraqi National Police and subordinate Iraqi units. Since retiring, he has worked as a manufacturing site manager for a pharmaceutical company and a sub-contractor for the Army’s AW2 program.  However, medical complications related to his service have impacted his employment. He holds a degree in Political Science from Augusta State University.
CHRISTOPHER MARZONI. Destrehan, Louisiana. Chris deployed to Fallujah, Iraq in late 2007 where he conducted mounted and foot combat patrols as an infantry fire team leader.  He coordinated patrols with Iraqi Police and served as the Sergeant of the Guard for security at a building in the industrial area of the city.  Chris also conducted patrols to hand out food to Iraqi civilians and to collect information on neighborhood infrastructure needs including roads and electricity.  He is currently pursuing his degree in Criminal Justice at Northern Virginia Community College and hopes to go to law school.