Organizer of the Month – November
This leader is being recognized for his grassroots efforts to build community among veterans of color in Tacoma, WA.
- Eric BallentineVeterans of Color Program Coordinator
- Lindsay ChurchPresident
Lindsay is a Navy veteran who served from 2008-2012 as a Cryptologic Technician Interpretive (Linguist). During her time in the service, she attended language school at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA where she learned Persian-Farsi. After spending two years at a cyber intelligence command, she left the Navy and returned home to Seattle.
Upon returning home, Lindsay attended the University of Washington where she earned her BA in Near Eastern Language and Civilization and Islamic Studies and an MA in International Studies – Middle East. After grad school, Lindsay began to work with veterans, helping them successfully transition to higher education and on to meaningful employment. Through her work, she noticed that there were many people being left out of the narrative of the U.S. military veteran.
In 2017, Lindsay resigned her position as the Commander of an American Legion post to, along with Katherine Pratt, start the Minority Veterans of America to ensure that there is a community of support around the underrepresented veterans so that we may see the true diversity of the U.S. military reflected in our veteran communities.
- Katherine PrattVice President of External Relations
Katherine Pratt is an Electrical Engineering PhD student at the University of Washington. She served for four years in the Air Force, spending most of her time at Edwards AFB as an operational flight test engineer on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Her motivation to help establish MVA is strongly based in her own experience leaving the military.
When Katherine separated in 2012, she consciously decided to not identify as a veteran, solely because she didn’t conform to the veteran stereotype perpetuated in society. It was only after meeting Lindsay Church that she understood the only way to defeat the stereotype is to speak out and upend the stereotype that truly does not represent the diversity of the veteran community.
Katherine is now more vocal about her experiences in the military and hopes she can help others who were like her embrace their veteran identities.
- Jewel RoseVice President of Internal Relations
Jewel is a recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin where she studied student veterans in higher education. She has an M.S. in Education Leadership and Policy Analysis and a B.S. in Community and Nonprofit Leadership. She served in the United States Navy from 2005 until 2009 as part of the Meteorology and Oceanography field on Yokosuka Naval Base with deployments on multiple ships such as the retired USS Kitty Hawk and USS Bunker Hill.
Since leaving the service, she has been an advocate for the veteran community first in Madison, WI and now in Seattle, WA. She works alongside the veteran community through participation with organizations such as UW Student Veteran Life, The Mission Continues, and the King County Veterans Consortium. Her interest is to help change the perspective on how veterans are perceived in the minds of civilians and the military community alike.
In her spare time she often travels, spends extensive time outdoors hiking and exploring, serves her community at the Ballard Food Bank, and is in training to become part of the King County Explorer Search and Rescue unit.
- Robert WhitePresident's Team
Robert A. White served for 20 years in the Army as both an Enlisted Engineer and a Field Artillery Commissioned Officer. He is a graduate of the Army Ranger School, Marine Corps Expeditionary Warfare School, and Strategic Broadening Seminar – Army Strategist. He currently is an Executive Master of Public Administration candidate at the University of Washington’s Daniel J. Evans School of Public Policy and Governance.
After separating from the Army, Robert continued his service in the nonprofit sector as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a startup veteran nonprofit. There he utilized his leadership and strategic expertise to launch their flagship program, secure corporate and grant funding, and scale nationally within the second year of operations. In his spare time, he provides pro-bono consulting to local & state agencies, nonprofits, corporations, and institutions of higher learning on veteran initiatives and public policies.
Robert believes in building strategic partnerships among nonprofits, the private sector, and government agencies to increase awareness and advocate social equity and justice for underrepresented communities.
- David KeenerDirector of Field Operations
David served in the U. S. Coast Guard for 10 years as an Avionics Electrical Technician and HH-65 search and rescue flight mechanic before separating under the now repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. He has spent most of his life working with technology including the implementation of modern software and hardware deployments for the Georgia CrimeBuster Information System.
David attended school at Southern Crescent Technical College where he earned his Advanced EMT certification and a degree in programming covering a multitude of coding languages as well as web application design and development. During his time there he was also heavily involved in Student Life where he served as State President over all student government organizations under the Technical College System of Georgia and was nominated for the Georgia Occupational Award for Leadership.
Today, David works with many veteran organizations including The Mission Continues and Team RWB and continues to support his fellow veterans through Student Veterans of America. He is also continuing his education in communication and works with graphic design and branding.
- Heather NicholsonDeputy Director of Field OperationsColorado Springs, COHeather NicholsonDeputy Director of Field Operations
Heather is the Deputy Director of Field Operations for Minority Veterans of America and currently works as the Assistant Director for the Office of Veteran and Military Student Affairs and as a School Certifying Official at UCCS.
She served in the Military Police Corps for 21 years. Heather retired from the US Army in 2006 and held various duty positions overseas and stateside. She graduated from the University of Colorado Colorado Springs in 2013 with a Master’s Degree in Public Administration.
She is originally from upstate New York and serves on various committees on the UCCS campus including the PRIDE committee, the Matrix Center Advisory Board, the UCCS Staff Association Board and Employee of the Quarter Board.
Heather is a board member of Rocky Mountain Cocker Rescue and currently enrolled in the University of Denver Animals and Human Health Certificate Program. Heather enjoys hiking with her friends and pups in her off time
- Will BoothLGBTQ Program Coordinator
Will, an Air Force and Gulf War Veteran, served in the Pacific Theater, Persian Gulf and Special Projects at the Pentagon (unknown at the time, was to lead the Administrative Support Team for what later became known as Don’t Ask Don’t Tell).
With his background in Leadership and Organization, along with his cultural background as First Nation, he continues a degree in Cross Cultural Leadership at Antioch University Seattle.
Will continues to work with many organizations focused on supporting needs of local Seattle/Tacoma area Veterans as well as organizations supporting Elders within local Native Communities.
- Eric BallentineVeterans of Color Program Coordinator
Eric Ballentine served in the Army for five years as military police from 2000-2005. He is currently a senior at the University of Washington Tacoma majoring in urban planning and community development. Upon graduation, Eric hopes to work in the nonprofit sector to assist veterans and their families experiencing homelessness or housing instability.
He is the current platoon leader for The Mission Continues in Tacoma and also serves as the Director of Community Service within his SVA chapter. Eric enjoys serving the community and advocating for all veterans.
- Penny DexenjaegerCommunications Team Lead
Penny has a degree in progress from Portland State University with a focus in Biology and Psychology. She served in the Army from 2004-2008 as a pharmacy specialist, and saw first hand the true cost of war.
Upon her honorable discharge she began to work with progressive veterans groups before learning to grassroots organize full-time. She developed the first veteran run and taught Permaculture course in the united states, (Boots to Roots) and has a firm belief that permaculture can be vital part of holistic veteran reintegration to civilian society.
During her service in the military she repeatedly encountered a feeling of being labeled as ‘other,’ never fitting in or feeling accepted due to her gender and orientation. As womxn veteran, this feeling persisted to a point she could no longer tolerate. Today she works with Minority veterans of America to ensure that no veteran’s story is left untold.
- Francheska SalazarPresident's Team
Francheska, a Navy veteran of 13 years, followed in the footsteps of her father who was a Navy Corpsman. During her three year deployments in Latin America, Francheska served as a translator for the ship’s medical teams on humanitarian missions. These missions solidified her passion to serve, beyond active duty, and led her to seek out veteran service organizations committed to making positive changes for veterans, military members, and the community.
After being Honorably Discharged, Francheska attended a community college for the small and supportive environment. While going to school, she discovered Student Veterans of America (SVA) and found a tribe of veterans who advocate and provide a network of support for the veteran and military community. This chance encounter changed her career path from medicine to advocacy.
As a The Mission Continues Fellow, she had the opportunity to serve as a SVA Chapter Ambassador and learned how to empower and advocate for SVA Leaders and Chapters. This experience resulted in her acceptance as a Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and Student Veterans of America (SVA) Legislative Fellow (2018). She continues to work to help others serving as the VFW Maryland Legislative Co-Chair.
Recently, Francheska graduated with a dual associate degree in Paralegal Studies and Law & Jurisprudence. Her future endeavors are to attend a four-year university to major in International Relations and eventually apply to law school.
- Diane HamidouPresident's TeamSeattle, WADiane HamidouPresident's Team
Cadet Diane is a recent graduate of the Army’s basic training and advanced individual training course located in Fort Benning, Georgia. He currently serves in the Army National Guard and attends the University of Washington (UW). During his first quarter at UW, he decided to join the ROTC program and hopes to graduate in 2021 with a BA in Political Science: International Security and commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the army. He has big dreams of leading and serving others.
He was first introduced to the minority veterans of America organization during class when another member mentioned it. Immediately he took interest and wanted to be a part of the team. The idea of building a community around unique identities that veterans hold, outside of their identity as a military servicemember enlightened him. He believes that MVA will teach him a tremendous amount of leadership, organizational and planning skills that he will have way beyond his years in college and serving in the military. As a young multilingual Muslim and African American individual serving in the military, cadet Diane understands what being a minority really means and together he believes that we can build a new majority.
- Loren LacyField Organizer
Loren Christopher Lacy served in the United States Navy as an Aviation Electrician's Mate from 2012-2017. During that time, he completed four deployments and left the Navy as a Petty Officer Third Class. Loren now is attending the State College of Florida and he is working on his Associate in Arts degree and plans to transfer to the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee.
Loren is currently SCF's Student Veterans of America Venice Chapter President along with as a FO for Minority Veterans of America. Loren is passionate about intersecting his LGBT identity as well as his veteran identity through conversation and understanding. Loren wants to help all veterans feel comfortable in the Veteran Community as well as their respected identity.
- Samantha FergusField Organizer
Samantha Fergus who formally goes by Fergie, is a United State Navy veteran that joined back in 2008 after she graduated highschool. Upon graduating for Culinary A school in great lakes Samantha went to her first duty station in Norfolk VA on the USS. Dwight D. Eisenhower CVN 69. During her time aboard she did 3 over sea's tours for Operation Enduring Freedom. On board she was known for being the "cake boss" which is where she spent most of her first enlistment.
Samantha identifies herself as a female womxn veteran of the LGBTQ community and served during DADT. Upon reenlisting for another 4 year Sam found herself and her career being turned upside down during and sexual assault incident that happen while the ship was doing a work-up getting ready for another deployment. " I lost myself completely, sam says." While getting to the tail end of her first enlistment sam found herself stuck in the military court system that would later take up almost 3 years of her service. Samantha put in orders to be moved off the ship and to another duty station which is where she landed at Naval Base Kitsap in Silverdale Washington. From 2011-2013 sam flew back and forth from Washington to Virginia to hopefully get justice for what had happen to her. However, during most of her court hearing DADT was still in effect. " Sitting on that stand for as many times as I did not being able to tell them I was a lesbian, was like being locked in a cage while I was being poked."
After those cases and being in Naval base Kitsap I had to find myself all over again. Looking for all the easy fixes, I lost a lot of friends, self medicated with drinking, not reaching out for help and entering a marriage based on lies that I told myself of who I thought I was." Samantha got out of the Navy in 2015 where she moved to Oregon and attended Oregon State University for Business management. Samantha is currently still perusing her education in hopes to get into the field of I/O psychology. Samantha is also talented and looking to be a licensed tattoo artist here by June of this year. " I want to fill really big shoes and get a degree in I/O psychology and open my own business where I can marry both Cakes & Ink.
At MVA Sam helps come up with artist/graphic design concepts with team but will be joining us a a field organizer in Chicago.
- Tammy BarletField Organizer
Tammy Barlet served for over 8 years in the United States Coast Guard, beginning in 1995. As an Operations Specialist Third Class Petty Officer, she served on board the USCGC Chase and VTS Houston/Galveston.
Fourteen years after separating from the military, she graduated from Temple University with a Bachelor's degree in Public Health. To continue her mission to help others, she began a Master’s degree in Public Health with an emphasis in Health Policy from George Washington University.
Tammy also accepted a Mission Continues fellowship as a Policy Associate at Student Veterans of America in Washington, D.C. The fellowship provided the opportunity to continue her involvement with student veterans while reinforcing her confidence within the political arena.
Tammy is often labeled as a bumblebee because she pollinates her time and knowledge to those she meets and makes their lives a little sweeter. As a semi-finalist for Ms. Veteran America 2018, Tammy plans to promote her platform to motivate and empower women veterans to uplift each other and find their tribe.
While a member of countless VSOs, Tammy is supported and loved by her family and friends, who she finds time with her busy schedule to go hiking, kayaking, and even geocaching.
- Chuck TylerField OrganizerLos Angeles, CAChuck TylerField Organizer
Chuck Tyler is a US Army combat veteran and veteran campaign professional who volunteered for his first race after his honorable discharge in 2003.
He has since contributed to dozens of campaigns on local, state, and federal levels, including President Obama's two successful campaigns.
He is a regional facilitator for Western Organizing Workshop, where he leads participants in crafting concise and compelling public narratives; and a trainer for the National Democratic Training Committee, where he imparts efficient and effective tactics for candidates to win the ground game.
Originally from Charlottesville, VA, he now hangs out in Los Angeles because, food trucks.