2024 Military Life Cycle and Transition Summit

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The Summit brings awareness to military servicemembers and veterans during their time in service, transition, and post-military life. It will carry you through the entire military life-cycle model, encompassing an array of unique experiences, challenges in service, and the complexities of transition. This summit is intended to showcase the resilience and strength of our military community, provide valuable resources and insights, and foster connections among servicemembers, veterans, and their families. Join us as we explore strategies for successful transitions, highlight support systems, and celebrate the contributions and achievements of those who have served.

Doug G. Perry

US Navy Vice Admiral, Commander, Joint Force Command Norfolk /Commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet/Director Combined Joint Operations from the Sea Centre of Excellence

Vice Adm. Doug G. Perry is a 1989 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. As a flag officer, Perry commanded Submarine Group Nine and Task Group 114.3, and served as director, Joint and Fleet Operations, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, and Director, Undersea Warfare Division, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (N97).

He served at sea as division officer and Navy diver aboard USS Pittsburgh (SSN 720); executive officer/operations officer aboard Submarine NR-1 and executive officer of USS Maine (SSBN 741). His deployment experiences span the Caribbean, Mediterranean, Arctic, Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic and Pacific.

As commanding officer of USS Pasadena (SSN 752), he led the ship on highly successful deployments to the Eastern and Western Pacific. Perry served as, Commander, Submarine Development Squadron Five where he led Submarine Force development of unmanned systems tactics and employment in subsea-seabed warfare, and commanded the Navy’s squadron of Seawolf-Class Fast Attack submarines.

Ashore, he served as Submarine Force Atlantic chief of staff; branch chief for Director Undersea Warfare; combatant commander, Joint Staff; Joint Exercise Engagement division chief and subsequent chief of staff for the Director of Joint Force Development; executive assistant to Commander, Submarine Forces Pacific Fleet; deputy commander, Submarine Squadron 7; congressional liaison in the Navy Office of Legislative Affairs and Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps instructor at Marquette University.

Vice Adm. Perry is a graduate of the Joint Force Maritime Component Commander Course, Combined Forces Land Component Commander Course and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government Senior Managers Group Course.

Greg Sanchez

Veterans Restorative Justice Project Liaison, MA Candidate at the Harris School of Public Policy

Greg Sanchez served in the U.S. Navy from 2002 to 2007, completing two deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. Following his service, he faced legal challenges and was placed into Veterans Treatment Court (VTC), a specialty court supporting criminally convicted veterans.

Since completing VTC, Greg earned his undergraduate degree in U.S. History from the University of California, Riverside (UCR). While at UCR, Greg served as president of the Underground Scholars Initiative – a student led organization supporting justice impacted scholars. Recognized for his perseverance and advocacy, he has participated in round table discussions on student veteran education and restorative justice with members of Congress.

Now residing in Chicago, Greg serves as the liaison for the Veterans Restorative Justice Project at the University of Chicago, under the Office for Military-Affiliated Communities (OMAC). In this role, he collaborates with key stakeholders to rehabilitate justice-involved veterans. Concurrently, Greg is pursuing graduate studies at the Harris School of Public Policy, furthering his commitment to addressing systemic issues affecting military communities.

Connor Christensen MPP'22 and MA'22

US Navy Veteran and OMAC-VRJP Scholar

Connor Christensen served in the U.S. Navy from 2012-2017. As a Hospital Corpsman, he served in Naval Station Rota, Spain and Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy. Following his enlistment, Connor attended Saint Louis University's Madrid Spain, Campus. He studied as a U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholar in Baku, Azerbaijan and as a Fulbright Scholar in Nigde, Turkey. Connor completed a Master of Public Policy and a Master of Arts in Middle Eastern Studies, both from the University of Chicago, this Spring. During his studies he worked as a researcher with Corioli Institute, conducting field work on Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration efforts in Colombia, Sierra Leone, Ukraine, and Afghanistan. He currently serves as a Veterans Restorative Justice Project Scholar at OMAC. 

Machelle Vieux

Associate Vice President, Facilities Services at University of Chicago

As Associate Vice President for Facilities Services, Machelle Vieux, PE, leads a team of 300 employees across four units: Facilities Services Operations, Capital Project Delivery, Campus Planning and Sustainability, and Finance and Business Services. 

The Facilities Services team includes operations for 134 buildings and 10 million square feet of built environment across the 217-acre Hyde Park campus; design and construction processes for delivery of renovation and new major projects; management of space and master planning, campus landscape design, and sustainability initiatives; and financial management and business services. 

Vieux was appointed to her role in January 2023 and has thirty years of experience leading teams in facilities, utilities, and project management. Prior to arriving at the University of Chicago, she was the Director of Facilities and Operations at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) laboratory operated by Stanford University in Menlo Park, California. At SLAC she led a division of 200 personnel managing a $24 million budget for 350 real property assets on 426 acres. She was the project director of a utility infrastructure revitalization project to address aging infrastructure and modernization challenges. She volunteered in several groups supporting employees and students, including serving as the Executive Sponsor for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Plus Employee Resource Group (ERG); Executive Committee member for Science Accelerating Girls’ Engagement in STEM, and mentor for the Women at SLAC ERG. She was selected for DOE’s Oppenheimer Science and Energy Leadership Program, and is a member of the Facilities Advisory Council for Sanford Underground Research Facility, in Lead, South Dakota. 

Her experience includes senior facilities leadership roles as the Strategic National Accounts Director for ABM Industries, Santa Clara, California, and Director/Deputy Director of General Services for the County of San Luis Obispo, California. She served in the U.S. Navy Civil Engineer Corps, retiring at the rank of Commander after 20 years of service. While serving as Director of Public Works at Naval Air Station, Lemoore, California, she led master planning efforts to home base the Navy’s Joint Strike Fighter and led a base-wide initiative to reduce energy and water usage receiving the Secretary of the Navy, Energy and Water Conservation Gold Level award. Additionally, she was the 2011 Naval Facilities Engineering Command Federal Military Engineer of the Year.

Vieux holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from the University of Oklahoma and a master’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Nick Macius

MA Candidate, University of Chicago

Nick Macius was an infantry officer in the US Marine Corps for four years and served with 1st Battalion, 4th Marines. Prior to the Marines, he completed his bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Chicago in June of 2018. He is currently pursuing his graduate degree at University of Chicago. Nick also served as a SkillBridge intern with the University's Office for Military-Affiliated Communities during his transition from military service. 

Shamaila (Anny) FitzPatric

MPP Candidate at the Harris School of Public Policy

Shamaila  Khalid Fitzpatric is a retired Army veteran with 15 years of Special Operations experience and 21 years of active military service. Shamaila is currently a second-year student at the University of Chicago's Harris School of Public Policy and a mother of two boys, Elijah and Ibrahim. As a first-generation immigrant who enlisted in October 2002, she was determined to go against the grain and prove that women, even Pakistani ones, can accomplish anything. Shamaila is an advocate for transformative change and realizes that there is no time like the present to tackle challenges that affect millions of people.

Her passion to serve continued with many exciting tours, including three combat deployments to Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and the Philippines. She has served in multiple leadership roles, with her most recent assignment being the honor of being selected as a Senior Instructor and curriculum writer for the 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Warfare Training Group at the United States Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School. There, she continued to pursue her passion for equity by institutionalizing the first gender advisor training and development course. She has led operations, been nominated for senior advisory positions, and broken glass ceilings by being one of the first females to graduate from the Special Operations Combat Medic Course, a course traditionally only open to males until 2011.

Shamaila now lives in Chicago with her husband and two children. She is passionate about veteran advocacy and the inclusion of minorities and marginalized populations. She believes her experience in development and diplomacy from her military career can be effectively translated to benefit the local communities in Chicago. Shamaila is eager to continue serving in various capacities, bringing her unique perspective and experience to make a positive impact in her community, just as she did throughout her military career.

Dr, Abby Kinch

Chief of Staff, Student Veterans of America

As the Chief of Staff at Student Veterans of America, Dr. Abby Kinch is responsible for leading and implementing various strategic planning processes across the organization and implementing and managing any organization-wide initiatives and programs. She is also responsible for our internal and external research, including impact analysis and reporting, our catalog of annual surveys, and our published knowledge. Dr. Kinch has participated in SVA as a chapter member and chapter president at Florida State University, an SVA student council member, and an adviser. She has represented SVA in an advisory role to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Department of Education. In Florida, she participated in the push for legislation to provide in-state tuition to veterans and gap fund payments to veterans with financial need during semester breaks.

Currently, Dr. Kinch is also an adjunct professor for the School of Information (“iSchool”) at the University of South Florida teaching courses in data analysis, information strategy, and decision-making. Prior to joining SVA, she served in various program management roles with IEM, a global emergency management and homeland security firm. She also led in the creation of the U.S. Intelligence Studies program within Florida State University’s College of Social Sciences, providing instruction in intelligence analysis coursework to undergraduate and graduate students. In 2013, Dr. Kinch was named a Presidential Management Fellow. Following an enlistment in the U.S. Air Force as an Airborne Chinese Cryptologic Linguist, Dr. Kinch worked for six years in the private sector using the language skills the Air Force provided until ultimately deciding to complete her undergraduate degree.

Dr. Kinch holds a doctoral degree in Public Administration and Policy from Florida State University, specializing in decision making and strategic management. Her dissertation examined the policies, programs, and services of higher education institutions targeting student veterans. She has written extensively on this topic from the institutional, state, and national perspective. She has also earned a Master of Public Administration in 2018, a Master of Arts in Asian Studies in 2013, and a Bachelor of Arts in Chinese Language and Culture as well as Linguistics in 2011.

M.E. (Mark) Johnson

Felony Court Judge (Retired), Riverside County, California

M. E. (Mark) Johnson is a retired colonel of the United States Army. An Iraq War veteran, he received the Bronze Star Medal for his service in Baghdad and often writes of the trauma suffered by our combat veterans. Mark also served as a superior court judge over the Riverside County Veterans Treatment Court for eight years, putting him on the front lines of the battle to heal the post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, addiction and military sexual trauma from which so many veterans suffer. 

Now retired from the bench, Mark has earned a master’s of fine arts degree in creative writing from the University of California, Riverside. “Scars & Strife” is his first novel. In his spare time, he enjoys helping veterans, serving on the boards of veterans charities, rescuing dogs, and traveling with his wife, Kim. 

Jim Seward

Director, Veterans Justice Commission-Council on Criminal Justice

As general counsel for South Dakota Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard, Seward led development of the state’s 2013 criminal justice reforms, as well as historic juvenile system improvements that helped the state cut new commitments to youth facilities by half. A veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, Afghanistan and a former active duty serviceman, Seward is a former enlisted combat arms soldier and now serves as Colonel, U.S. Army.

Ryan Pavel

CEO, Warrior Scholar Project

Ryan Pavel serves as Warrior-Scholar Project’s chief executive officer, channeling a deeply-held conviction that enlisted veterans have unlimited potential to leverage military service into enormous impact in higher education and beyond.

At the age of 17, Ryan enlisted in the Marine Corps, culminating in two non-combat deployments to Iraq. Ryan then earned his B.A. from the University of Michigan and J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law, leading Student Veterans of America chapters at both institutions. His teaching experience includes working as a Teach For America corps member at an inner-city Detroit high school and as an adjunct instructor at Virginia Military Institute. Ryan has also worked for a variety of legal institutions, including legal aid organizations and a large national law firm, and has provided pro bono legal services to veterans.

Ryan is a 2023 cohort member of Obama Foundation Leaders USA, a nonpartisan leadership development program that seeks to inspire, empower, and connect emerging leaders across the country. He also serves on Teach for America’s Military Veteran Council, always on the lookout for veterans with an interest in continuing service in the classroom.

Ryan loves spending time with his beautiful wife and energetic sons. As a family, they enjoy escaping to the outdoors to conquer swing sets or climb mountains.

Jonathan Lu, DBH, NRP

Director, Center for Health Professions at Wright State University, Master Sergeant, U.S. Army (ret.)

Master Sergeant Jonathan Lu is a first-generation immigrant who enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2003 as a combat medic out of Dayton, OH. Throughout his career, Jon demonstrated an unwavering commitment to his comrades, driven by his highest mission: to care for those on his left and right.

As a route clearance patrol medic, Jon witnessed the profound impact of traumatic brain injury and PTSD on his comrades. This experience fueled his determination to effect change within military healthcare: starting with himself. He pursued advanced training, qualified as a Special Forces medical sergeant, and rose to the role of Special Forces Operational Detachment-Alpha Team Sergeant. His military journey culminated as the Chief Medical Operations NCO and Senior Enlisted Medical Advisor for the U.S. Army's 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), where his leadership and vision ensured the medical operational readiness and holistic well-being of his fellow Green Berets and Special Operations Forces soldiers.

A 2020 Tillman Scholar, Jon embodies the mission of the Pat Tillman Foundation, which unites and empowers remarkable military service members, veterans, and spouses as the next generation of public and private sector leaders committed to service beyond self. In his free time, Jon served his rural community as a volunteer firefighter/EMT and as president of his local firefighters’ association. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Clinical Health Sciences and a Master of Public Health from George Washington University, as well as a Doctorate in Behavioral Health from Arizona State University—all of which he completed while serving as an active-duty Special Forces enlisted soldier.

Now making a transition to civilian life, Jon recently accepted a position in his hometown as Director, Center for Health Professions at Wright State University. He is also the founder and CEO of HardHat Wellness, a consulting firm serving the unique workforce health and wellness needs of first responder, healthcare, and high-hazard industries. Though his professional, academic, and volunteer work—and in true Green Beret fashion—he continues to empower agents of political, economic, and social change. He envisions a future where healthcare is not only affordable and accessible, but also more empathetic, interprofessional, and patient-centered in its approach. Jon's dedication to others serves as a lighthouse, shining brightly so others may find their way toward building a more compassionate and equitable future for all.

Dr. Jason Higgins

Author & Assistant Professor of History at Virginia Tech

Dr. Jason A. Higgins is the digital scholarship coordinator for Virginia Tech Publishing and assistant professor affiliated with the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech. He is the author of Prisoners after War: Veterans in the Age of Mass Incarceration (UMass Press, 2024). He also co-edited Service Denied: Marginalized Veterans in Modern American History (UMass Press, 2022). In 2021, he earned a Ph.D. in History and a graduate certificate in Public History from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. At Virginia Tech, he teaches the Vietnam War, Oral History methods, and African American History since 1865. In 2023, he directed a National Endowment for the Humanities K-12 Summer Institute designed to train high school teachers to do oral history projects in their classes with veterans. He is currently carrying out an oral history project with Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets alumni who served in Vietnam, as part of a larger national project in commemoration of the 50-year anniversary of the end of the war. Since 2011, Dr. Higgins has recorded more than 130 interviews with veterans since 2011 and has trained numerous students to do oral histories with veterans. From 2017-2020, he directed the Incarcerated Veterans Oral History Project, recording 60 interviews with formerly incarcerated veterans and advocates for justice.

Jose Vasquez

Board Member, Lived Experience Advisory Committee

Jose “Rufio” Vasquez is a qualitative analyst and clinical research coordinator at the West Los Angeles VA, served as a board member for the Lived Experience Advisory Committee (LEAC) of Los Angeles County, and is a member of the Veteran Experience Team (VET), advising researchers at the West Los Angeles VA from his own experience as a veteran and researcher. He holds a Master of Social Science degree from UCLA and is a 2024 Presidential Management Fellow finalist. 

Rufio served two combat tours in Iraq as a United States Marine, working as a helicopter avionics technician with HMLA 269 and volunteering as a ground forces Marine with 1st Marine Expeditionary Force in Fallujah. After his service, Rufio, like many veterans, had a difficult transition into civilian life, contending with PTSD, physical disability, substance abuse, justice involvement, and years of homelessness.

In his pursuit of education and a mission to overcome generational poverty, Rufio found traction in his own life by helping other veterans navigate their own obstacles as an outreach coordinator and case manager for a non-profit. He has aided California veterans seeking military diversion while providing them with supportive services, and is recently a co-founder of Vet Phoenix, a non-profit dedicated to providing incarcerated veterans access to supportive services and assistance with applying for benefits behind bars.

Katherine Martinez

HillVets Lead Fellow

Katherine Martinez is a pioneering first-generation American and English Second Language learner whose journey is marked by a relentless commitment to service and education. From 2015 to 2019, she served as a Sonar Technician in the United States Navy, defending her country and laying the groundwork for a life dedicated to empowering others.

After her military service, Katherine achieved academic excellence, earning an Associate of Science from Tidewater Community College and dual Bachelor's degrees in Sociology and Criminal Justice from Old Dominion University. Her educational journey exemplifies resilience and determination as a first-generation college graduate.

Katherine's leadership shone as she led Student Veterans of America chapters, earning the title of 2021 Student Veteran of the Year and guiding the Old Dominion University chapter to win the Student Organization of the Year award.

Her dedication extends beyond the campus. Katherine is a staunch advocate for mental health care access and suicide prevention among veterans and their families, serving on boards like Student Veterans of America and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention's Virginia chapter. Her advocacy earned her an Ambassadorship with the National Alliance on Mental Illness in 2023.

Katherine's leadership has been recognized at the state level, with an appointment by the Governor of Virginia to the Joint Leadership Council of Veteran Service Organizations and her election as Vice Chair in 2024. In this role, she collaborates with 35 veteran service organizations and the Virginia Department of Veteran Services.

Currently, Katherine serves as the Mid-Atlantic Regional Lead at the Travis Manion Foundation, where she empowers veterans to teach children about character. Additionally, she is

a current HillVets LEAD fellow, demonstrating her commitment to impactful leadership and advocacy.

As she studies for the LSAT, Katherine aspires to assist marginalized communities, including veterans, in gaining accessible care and equitable treatment in hospitals. Her unwavering determination to excel in new endeavors continues to inspire those around her. Katherine Martinez is an embodiment of dedication, leadership, and a profound commitment to veterans and community. Her story is a testament to the power of resilience and service to others.

Eric Sowers

PhD Candidate, The Ohio State University

Eric Sowers, a 2024 Tillman Scholar, is honored to be part of a community dedicated to leadership and service. As a Forward Observer in the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division, his combat deployment to Afghanistan was transformative. Leading under harsh conditions, Eric experienced a spectrum of leadership styles, from inspiring to toxic, each profoundly shaping his approach to leadership and service. Transitioning from military to civilian life, coupled with academic challenges, instilled in Eric a nuanced understanding of leadership, emphasizing integrity, empathy, and empowerment. These experiences have been crucial in his journey into academia and advocacy, focusing on impacting the lives of veterans within the criminal justice system. After military service, Eric spent the better part of the next decade getting a legal education on the wrong side of the law.

Eric’s personal trials underscored the need for a dramatic life change, propelling him into higher education. He earned paralegal studies and social work degrees and is pursuing a Ph.D. at the Ohio State University. His research focuses on addressing the disproportionate representation of veterans in the criminal justice system and developing evidence-based alternative solutions for their reintegration. He contributed to the creation, introduction, and passage of the STRONG Veterans Act. Beyond legislative efforts, he continues to advocate for holistic approaches to veteran reintegration, emphasizing disciplines like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai for resilience. As a Military Community Advocate, he has supported the military-connected community and led the comprehensive rebuilding and rebranding of the student organization for student veterans, formerly Vets4Vets, now known as the Student Veterans Association. Eric’s role as a Graduate Teaching Associate allows him to inspire future professionals, sharing lessons from his own journey. Additionally, as a facilitator for All Rise, Eric educates court professionals on best practices within the treatment court system, focusing on Veterans Treatment Court initiatives. His goal is to positively impact veterans' transitions into civilian life, ensuring they become community leaders and retain their dignity. This narrative, from a first-generation student to a Ph.D. candidate and advocate for veterans' rights, underscores his dedication to service, education, and the betterment of the veteran community. It highlights Eric’s commitment to making a meaningful difference, driven by authenticity, resilience, and leadership.

Jim Zenner

Director, LA County, Department of Military and Veterans Affairs

Jim Zenner was appointed as the Director of Military and Veterans Affairs by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on August 29th, 2022. Prior to that, he was employed by the Los Angeles  County Department of Mental Health as a Mental Health Program Manager III. In this capacity, he was responsible for the implementation and oversight of the Veteran Peer Access Network. His previous experience includes working for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Director of Homeless Veteran Programs for Vets Advocacy.

Mr. Zenner enlisted in the U.S. Army from April 2004 to April 2008, completing one deployment in support of Iraqi Freedom 2006 -2007 with 1-14 Cav, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division “Second to None”. Hethen went on to serve in the U.S. Army Reserves from April 2008 to May 2011.

Mr.  Zenner holds a Master of Social Work from the University of Southern California and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from St. Martin’s University.

Manuel Gomez

Social Worker

Manuel Gomez, a father, social worker, and advocate, has turned his past experiences into a force for change. A Navy veteran who served from 2005 to 2011, Manuel's service was cut short due to tuberculosis and addiction. He then spent five years in the California Department of Corrections.

Three years into his sentence, Manuel learned about Veteran Treatment Courts. Realizing his sentence could have been possibly avoided, Manuel chose to focus on making a difference rather than dwelling on what could have been changed. This decision led him to pursue higher education and become a change agent.

Manuel became the first Chair of the Lived Experience Advisory Committee for Los Angeles County Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, ensuring that the incarcerated voice had a seat at the table advising policy change in Los Angeles County, which is home to the largest veteran population. He has been instrumental in advocating for new legislation to support incarcerated veterans. Now, as the Administrative Services Manager for L.A. County Military and Veterans Affairs, he continues his mission to support incarcerated veterans and fix the system that once failed him.

Manuel holds a Master of Social Work from California State University, Long Beach, and will begin his doctoral education at California Baptist University next month. He thanks his wife for her unwavering support and for believing in him more than he believed in himself. His journey from incarceration to advocacy highlights his resilience and dedication to helping fellow veterans.

Shirley Baez

Inspiration Igniter for Others Seeking Greatness

Shirley Baez is an extraordinary individual whose remarkable journey has led her to become a beacon of empowerment and inspiration for countless others. With 20 years of service as a Special Operations Army Veteran, Shirley's transition into the Multifamily space reflects her unwavering dedication to excellence and her passion for creating wealth through strategic investments. 

As a published author of "Lead Your Ship" and a co-author of bestselling series such as "Powerful Female Immigrants who Inspire Greatness" and "Real Women In Real Estate Vol 1 and 2," Shirley's words resonate deeply, offering insights and guidance to those seeking to unlock their full potential. 

At the helm of LeadHership Academy and as the co-founder of Crack the Wealth Code, Shirley's mission is clear: to empower professional women and business owners to thrive as leaders and build personal wealth. Her visionary leadership and unwavering commitment to uplifting others have made a profound impact on the lives of many. 

A dynamic speaker and accomplished author, Shirley's accolades extend beyond her military career, showcasing her ability to inspire and motivate through her words and actions. Her achievements in real estate further demonstrate her entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to success. 

Shirley's journey serves as a testament to the transformative power of leadership, resilience, and unwavering determination. Through her guidance and mentorship, she continues to light the path for others, empowering them to navigate life's challenges with courage and grace. 

Nicholas FitzPatric

Executive Director of Operations, Anthony Marano Company

Nicholas Fitzpatric brings 21 years of leadership and operational experience as a career Army Special Operator to The Anthony Marano Company. Nicholas, planned and executed high risk operations and campaigned in 12 different countries during his service in the United States Army. In his role at AMC, Nicholas is responsible for working directly with and leading the AMC Operations team to create strategy and plan operations that produce substantial results and ensure customer satisfaction. 

As a retired combat leader, he leverages his experience within the human domain of unconventional warfare and his expertise at leading small teams and mentoring people and managing risk during complex operations. He believes strongly in empowering people and mentoring them to develop and express their own leadership style through disciplined initiative.

Nick is the newest member of the Executive Team after joining the company in 2023 during his retirement and transition out of the Army. He is an avid outdoorsman who enjoys gardening, camping, ultralight backpacking, cycling, and shooting sports.

Sam Whitehurst

Vice President, Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Services

Colonel (Ret.) Sam Whitehurst is the Vice President for Programs & Services at Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Services. Since 2012, Dixon Center’s collaboration and capacity building has impacted nearly 2.4 million individuals and organizations.  Dixon Center partners with business and industry, service providers, and training institutions to develop and operate direct service programs for veterans and their families. Dixon Center’s noble purpose is to make the lives of veterans and their families better.

Colonel Whitehurst joined the Dixon Center team in 2019 and drawing upon his 29 years in the United States Army as an infantry officer, including deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, works toward ensuring that service members, military veterans, and their families reach their full potential and successfully integrate back into their communities.

Gregory Coker

Founder, Reaching New Heights Foundation

In September 2013, after dedicating 26 honorable years to the United States Army and Army Reserve, Sergeant Major Greg Coker embarked on a new mission. He founded the Reaching New Heights Foundation Incorporated as he transitioned to a purposeful civilian life.

Throughout his life journey, Greg, known for his proactive problem-solving advocacy, has consistently been a willing servant to others. Upon returning home to Southern California, he immediately embraced the challenges of assisting and mentoring Inland Empire military veterans. His focus included helping them find respectable housing, seeking vocational training, and integrating into contemporary civilian America through meaningful employment.

The core mission of the Reaching New Heights Foundation, Inc. emerged as 'serving those who served.' Greg envisions the foundation's success through the positive transformation of veterans' lives and the enrichment of communities.

Greg's unique career paths in entrepreneurial salesmanship and structured military service have converged over time, providing balance, and shaping his sense of personal accountability, transparent ethics, and energetic leadership style. These traits form the cornerstones of the Reaching New Heights Foundation.

Starting his civilian career with Xerox Corporation in 1987, Greg progressed to become an award-winning Account Executive. His business acumen and salesmanship further flourished at Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Companies, Allscripts, and Vision Quest Orthocare, alongside his military service.

His military career culminated as the Operations Staff Sergeant Major for the 5th Armored Brigade at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas. A seasoned manager and combat veteran, Greg played a pivotal role in budget management and effective training for over 12,000 soldiers deploying for combat duty.

Born and raised in central Ohio, Greg earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Technology from Central State University in 1986. He later obtained a Master of Arts degree in Leadership Studies from the University of Texas at El Paso in 2013. He also holds a second Master of Science degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from California State University, San Bernardino in 2017.

Greg's professional skills include critical-thinking strategic vision, analyzing, and organizing key performance indicators, commitment to continuous improvement, and team-building prowess. He takes pride in motivating, inspiring, and leading others toward their goals.

Greg's accomplishments have garnered recognition and honors, including internships with San Bernardino and Riverside County's Department of Behavioral Health and Department of Mental Health, respectively. His academic achievements, awards, and certifications further attest to his dedication and excellence.

Greg, married to Tanya for 35 years, has two daughters, Niani and Naysha.

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