Office of Communications

May 22, 2012

White House Highlights Vietnam Veterans as “Champions of Change

WASHINGTON, DC – On Thursday, May 24th, the White House Office of Public Engagement will honor eleven individuals within the veterans’ community, especially those who served in Vietnam, who are Champions of Change.  These individuals have shown continued support for efforts to end veterans’ homelessness, boost veterans’ employment, treat problems with substance abuse, and develop treatment programs for those dealing with PTSD.

“Today’s Vietnam Veteran Champions of Change represent some of the best of their generation – those who served with dedication and courage.  These American patriots continue to serve in their communities today, improving the lives of their fellow veterans and military families,” said Rosye Cloud, the White House Director of Veterans, Wounded Warrior and Military Family Policy.  “As we mark the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, we are reminded of their unwavering commitment to their country yesterday, today and tomorrow.”

The Champions of Change program was created as a part of President Obama’s Winning the Future initiative. Each week, a different sector is highlighted and groups of Champions, ranging from educators to entrepreneurs to community leaders, are recognized for the work they are doing to serve and strengthen their communities.

To watch this event live, visit <> at 12:00 pm ET on May 24th.

The White House Champions of Change are:

Hernán Luis y Prado is founder and president of Workshops for Warriors, a 501(c)3 dedicated to helping returning veterans prepare for civilian life by learning job skills such as welding, machining and milling. The organization’s goal is to provide viable skills to veterans that enable them to gain employment, while developing a skilled manufacturing force in the United States. Previously, Hernán was a Naval Officer and has completed tours in Afghanistan, Iraq, and throughout the US. Hernán makes his home in San Diego with his wife Rachel and two beautiful daughters.

Stephen Sherman is 91 years old and one of the few surviving African American veterans of World War II, having served with honor in both the European and Pacific theatres of war. For more than 12 years, Mr. Sherman made it his mission to offer his help to countless disabled veterans across the Nation.  He has worked tirelessly to locate and help homeless, disabled, and mentally ill veterans living on the streets of America. Mr. Sherman established the Dorie Miller Memorial Foundation, which works to connect veterans with evidence-based healthcare, telemedicine, wellness and family consultation, employment programs, and more.

Gail Belmont is the founder and Executive Director of Quilts of Honor America. She began her service in the military in 1969, playing Taps in the US Army Corp Band. Since that time, Gail has played a prominent role in the support of her fellow veterans and warriors. She currently holds the position of District Director at the Jenny Lind Veterans Memorial and continues her service playing Taps at the services of fallen soldiers. Since Quilts of Honor America began in 2010, they have awarded over 700 quilts to veterans. Gail lives and runs Quilts of Honor America from her home in Valley Springs, California.

Samuel Luna, a Vietnam veteran, is Founder of Vets’ Journey Home Texas, Inc., a non-profit organization that provides a weekend retreat at no to cost to veterans and active duty military personnel. The weekend is a safe place where the participants can come to learn about what their war experience did to their body. They learn the role that experience continues to play in their daily lives and in their quest to co-exist peacefully. Mr. Luna is the Chapter Service Officer for four veteran organizations and helps veterans navigate the Veterans Administration to obtain medical care and compensation. In the VFW, he also does Color Guard duty on the burial detail and is the Department of Texas Commander for the Military Order of the Purple Heart. Additionally, Luna serves on the board of Spaulding for Children, a special needs adoption agency.

Richard S. Kornegay serves as Commander & Regional Director for The National Association for Black Veterans, Inc. (NABVETS) Region VIII, a veteran service organization officially recognized by the U. S. Department of Veteran Affairs to assist veterans with filing claims for VA benefits. Richard is Chairman of the Veteran of Foreign Wars (VFW) Ending Homelessness among Veterans Initiative and received an honorable discharge from the U.S. Army after serving more than twenty years of active duty. He completed his military career as the Operations/Liaison Sergeant for Directorate Plans & Training, responsible for all logistical support & training areas for ROTC, ARNG, & US Army Reserve Units that received training on Fort Jackson, SC.

Jeff Hanson is President of Palmetto State Base Camp, Inc. (PSBC), a non-profit organization incorporated in 1992 to provide transitional residential housing for homeless veterans supported by a program designed to return veterans to independent living and self-sufficiency.    As a co-founder, Jeff continues his voluntary leadership and advocates on behalf of homeless veterans in South Carolina.  Jeff served eight years active duty with the United States Marine Corps and retired a Master Sergeant in 2003 from the South Carolina Air National Guard with just under twenty-two years total service.  Jeff currently serves as corporate risk manager for United Infrastructure Group, Inc. and is part-owner of Hanson Safety Services, LLC – an occupational safety and health services firm he founded in 2005.

John Reynolds, of Mill Valley, CA, founded the non-profit Veterans2Work in 2008 to help returning veterans find and keep good jobs by helping businesses tap veterans’ productive potential. Troubled by high unemployment among younger and disabled veterans, he became convinced that a business-focused approach could complement the work of public agencies to put returning service members back to work. Veterans2Work proactively encourages businesses to hire veterans, matches qualified veterans to open jobs, and hires veterans directly into its virtual service center to meet companies’ outsourcing needs.Mr. Reynolds served in the Vietnam War as a rifleman with the 5th Infantry Division’s A/4/12 Cavalry, earning a Combat Infantryman Badge and two Army Commendation Medals.

Robert Curry is a combat veteran of Vietnam and Laos. In an effort to help our newest generation of soldiers transition as they returned from Iraq and Afghanistan, he founded, which has grown rapidly in locations and services and helped an increasing number of veterans and their families.

T.J. Breeden serves as Chairman of eMerging Entrepreneurs, Inc., a North Carolina based non-profit organization that provides small business training and entrepreneurial developmental services to military and minority communities. The organization provides a grassroots approach to assisting those who seek to advance their small business interests, partnering with state & federal agencies, local chambers of commerce, and military installations. T.J. developed a comprehensive servicing and web-based training program that caters specifically to the needs those in the initial, “startup” stages of building their businesses.

As an Army Brat and an Air Force Veteran with an MBA in Marketing and International Business, Cassaundra St. John has developed a team of leaders who provide resources, support and mentoring to women of all military eras, all branches of service and the women in military families (moms, spouses, sisters, daughters). Cassaundra has a passion for building bridges through her organization, the F7 Group: from bridges between active duty women and spouses to closing the language barrier gap between military and civilian entities. Her one-of-a-kind comprehensive corporate training program, VetPro, teaches companies to attract, retain and market to the military and veteran community. Through retreats, business boot camps and corporate training programs, Cassaundra’s mission is to create communities of service through comprehensive and cohesive programs that are productive and sustainable.

Director Joey Strickland was appointed to head the Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services in July 2008 after serving more than 10 years as the Deputy Secretary and Executive Director of the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs. Director Strickland, who is American Indian of Choctaw-Cherokee-Lumbee descent, also served as Louisiana Director of Indian Affairs from 1996 to 2004 and served on several state commissions including the Governor’s Military Advisory Board.  At the national level, Director Strickland has served as chairman of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Advisory Committee for Minority Veterans and is a past president of the National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs. During his nearly 29-year military career, Director Strickland served in the enlisted, noncommissioned officer and commissioned officer ranks.  He saw two combat tours in Vietnam and retired from the Army in 1994. Director Strickland is a life member of the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States and of the Disabled American Veterans.