AN INSUFFICIENT PROFESSIONAL NETWORK AND AN UNCLEAR PATH TO EMPLOYMENT ARE TOO OFTEN AN UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCE OF MILITARY SERVICE. THIS MUST CHANGE.

65%
of veterans are likely to leave their first civilian job within 2 years.

The heroes linked story

Heroes Linked was conceived by individuals who had not served in the U.S. military and wanted to actively honor those that did. Servicepersons transitioning out of active duty military have overwhelmingly said that the biggest challenge lying ahead of them is navigating the civilian job market. And their ranks will swell in coming years. Defense cutbacks will push more than 100,000 servicepersons out of the military each year for the next decade, including tens of thousands who expected their service to be a career.

Heroes Linked rests upon the simple premise that Americans who did not serve in the military possess something that is of great value to Veterans and servicepersons transitioning out of the military – their career experiences and knowledge of the private sector job market. The question was, how could such knowledge be best imparted to the thousands that could benefit from it? Understanding the power of personal mentoring for both Advisor and Advisee, the challenge was adapting the model to fit the needs of the swelling Veterans community. The result became Heroes Linked.

Utilizing and array of cutting edge communication technologies, Heroes Linked is disrupting the personal mentoring paradigm to make it accessible, mobile, and scalable.

Heroes Linked recognizes that family is the heart of the U.S. Armed Forces. We welcome Gold Star families and the spouses of our veterans and servicepersons in transition. They deserve to receive the same level of assistance as their loved ones in uniform.

Heroes linked is

Industry Diverse – Geographically dispersed – Represents all levels of professional achievement.

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Military and veterans appreciation trust foundation

Heroes Linked is a project of the non-profit, non-partisan Military and Veterans Appreciation Trust Foundation (MVAT), a 501 (c) (3) organization dedicated to supporting charities whose programs assist Veterans, wounded warriors, and their families.

The Team

Heroes Linked was birthed by a group of individuals who wanted to create a unique opportunity for veterans, servicemen and women in transition from active duty, and their spouses that surmounted the issues plaguing traditional mentorship programs and created the lowest barrier to entry possible. Our team is diverse and ingrained, on a daily basis, in the business of promoting U.S. Veteran Affairs around the globe.

  • Yola Habif Johnston
    Founder

    Yola is the Founder of Heroes Linked. She is grateful to the vision of Don Schwarz (and the entire Board of Directors of the Military and Veterans Appreciation Trust Foundation) and the dedication of Jim Colbert, which allowed her to turn the idea of Heroes Linked into a reality. Having never served in the military, she feels indebted to those who have. Yola strongly believes that the entrepreneurial, professional, hard-working qualities and values embodied by our troops would be an asset to any business.

    In her daily job, Yola works at Lockheed Martin International Business Development covering Europe, Israel and the Americas. Previously, she was Managing Director at JINSA – an organization dedicated to a strong American military and strong security cooperation between the U.S. and its allies. After receiving her B.A. from Brown University in Political Science and Economics, Yola earned an M.A. in National Security from the Institute of World Politics.

  • Don Schwarz
    Chairman of the Board, MVAT Foundation

    Don is the Chairman of the Board of the Military and Veterans Appreciation Trust Foundation (MVAT), the home of Heroes Linked. In his daily job, he is a Senior Portfolio Manager in the Portfolio Focus program at RBC Wealth Management in Los Angeles. Don sits on the Board of Governors of The City of Hope Cancer and Medical Center, is a member of the Executive Committee of the American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science (Rehovot, Israel), and sits on the President’s Executive Council of the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation.

  • James Colbert
    Executive Director, MVAT Foundation

    James (Jim) is the Executive Director of Heroes Linked’s parent organization, the Military and Veterans Appreciation Trust Foundation (MVAT). He brings more than two decades of experience in the non-profit sector. Most recently, he was Policy Director at JINSA – an organization dedicated to a strong American military and robust security cooperation between the U.S. and its allies. It was there that he first worked alongside Yola Johnston, Heroes Linked’s founder.

    After receiving his B.A. from the University of Illinois in Political Science, Jim earned an M.A. in International Affairs from The George Washington University.

  • Jason Peller
    Director, Heroes Linked

    Jason is director for Heroes Linked. As Director, Jason is responsible for the daily operations of Heroes Linked. For more than a decade, Jason has been building successful programs, collaborations, and campaigns for various commercial and non-profit organizations. He has experience working with a wide range of organizations in the commercial, public and non-profit sectors including, national security, healthcare, advanced technology, biotechnology, and pharmaceuticals. Jason received his B.A. in History from The George Washington University.

  • Chris Sabbatini
    Creative Director

    Chris is Creative Director of the Heroes Linked project. He has worked internationally as a photographer and designer in studios in Milan (Italy), Budapest (Hungary), and now runs his own creative agency, Sabra Creative, in Washington, DC.

    He feels honored to have the chance, through his designs and commitment to the Heroes Linked project, to help make a palpable difference in the lives of the returning service men and women who have devoted theirs to our Country.

Advisory Committee

  • Chris Bugel

    Christopher A. Bugel is an attorney with the law firm of Greenberg Traurig, LLP and provides pro bono counsel to Heroes Linked. Chris’ law practice is focused on providing business-minded legal advice to a wide range of clients in connection with mergers and acquisitions, negotiation of commercial agreements, securities, financings and other general corporate matters. He also volunteers his time and expertise to startup and early-stage companies through a mentoring program targeting tech and life science companies in the Washington, DC metro area.

  • Jim Cragg

    Jim Cragg is chief executive of Special Operations Technologies Inc., a Los Angeles-based manufacturer of nylon tactical gear. He is also the president and founder of Green Vets Los Angeles, a nonprofit vocational rehabilitation organization that provides job training for veterans. Jim also served as an officer in the Army Reserve, spending most of his career in Special Operations units.

  • Major General Rick Devereaux, USAF (ret.)

    Major General Rick Devereaux is an independent national security consultant and serves on the board of directors of several veterans and community support organizations. In 2012, he completed a 34-year career in the United States Air Force. His military positions included command of a flying squadron, an operations group, two wings, and the Air Force Expeditionary Center. He also served four tours at the Pentagon including his last job as the Air Force Director of Operational Planning, Policy, and Strategy. As a pilot, he logged over 4,000 flying hours in the C-5 Galaxy, KC-135 Stratotanker, T-37, and T-1 Jayhawk. General Devereaux and his wife Elizabeth live in Asheville, NC.

  • Sergeant Major John K. Gilstrap, USMC (ret.)

    John K. “Kerry” Gilstrap served 30 years in the U.S. Marine Corps. During his eight years as a Sergeant Major, he served as the senior enlisted advisor for Marine Air Support Squadron 3 at Camp Pendleton Ca., Marine Corps Security Force Battalion Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Ga., Marine Helicopter Squadron 0ne at Quantico, Va., and Marine and Family Programs Division at HQMC Quantico, Va. Kerry’s wife served in the Marine Corps and two of their four children are currently serving on active duty in the Marine Corps. Today, he is a full time student at Northern Virginia Community College pursuing a degree in business administration.

  • Lieutenant General Earl Hailston, USMC (ret.)

    Earl Hailston served 36 years on active duty, retiring in 2003 as Commander, Marine Forces, Central Command and Commander, Marine Forces, Pacific. His other general officer assignments included command of the III Marine Expeditionary Force and Marine Corps Bases Japan, and U.S. Pacific Command Director of Strategic Plans and Policy (J-5). Today, he is chairman of the nonprofit Air Warrior Courage Foundation and is active in the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation. Prior to that, he was Vice President, Marine Corps and Army Aviation Programs at Rolls-Royce North America Inc., from 2005 to 2011.

  • Command Sergeant Major Christopher Kurinec, USA (ret.)

    Mr. Kurinec served 25 years in the U.S. Army, culminating his military career as a Command Sergeant Major (CSM). Mr. Kurinec helped implement Training, Techniques and Procedures during combat that have now become U.S. Army Doctrine. When Mr. Kurinec retired from active duty, he dedicated himself to help our most significantly wounded warriors. Mr. Kurinec is passionate about helping veterans transition with their unique skills to new careers.

  • Chief Master Sergeant Michael Lamonica, USAF (ret.)

    Michael Lamonica served 24 years as a United States Air Force Combat Controller. In August 2011, then-Chief Master Sergeant Lamonica retired as the Chief Enlisted Manager for the 720th Special Tactics Group. He was the principal advisor to the group commander on all issues affecting Special Operations Combat Control, Pararescue, Tactical Weather, Tactical Air Control Party operators and support personnel. During his career, he executed combat and humanitarian operations in support of national interests in Iraq, Angola, Somalia, Bosnia and Afghanistan. Today, he is the Vice President of Strategic Planning for W. J. Bradley Mortgage. He works closely with the CEO to create strategy and supporting plans to improve and grow the business.

  • Vice Admiral Bernard McCullough, USN (ret.)

    Bernard (Barry) McCullough served more than 36 years on active duty, retiring in 2011 as Commander, U.S. Fleet Cyber Command/Commander, U.S. 10th Fleet, where he oversaw the creation of the command and the development of Navy cyber capability from a supporting role to a supported operational domain. His other flag officer assignments included Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Integration of Capabilities and Director of Surface Warfare. He had numerous commands at sea, including an Aegis cruiser and two carrier strike groups. Today, he is vice president of International Business Development for Mission Systems and Training (MST) at Lockheed Martin. In this capacity, he is responsible for MST’s international growth, including new business identification and acquisition, as well as managing relationships with international customers and partners.

  • Mr. Steven L. Pomerantz

    Steven L. Pomerantz, an Air Force Veteran, retired from the FBI in June 1995, after a career spanning twenty-seven years. During that time period, Steve rose from a field investigative Special Agent to the rank of Assistant Director, the third highest position in the FBI. Today, he is involved in the identification and marketing of newly emerging technology in the homeland security arena and consults on national security and counter-terrorism issues.

  • Mr. David P. Steinmann

    David Steinmann has held leadership positions in a long list of professional and charitable organizations including the Academy of Political Science, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, the Middle East Forum, and the Center for Security Policy. Holding an LLB from Columbia University Law School and an LLM from Georgetown University Graduate Law Center, Mr. Steinmann served early in his legal career as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York and Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division of that office. He was a founding partner of the law firm of Ferziger, Wohl, Finkelstein and Steinmann. For more than 30 years since 1976, he was Advisory Executive for the William Rosenwald Family Organization in New York City.

  • Lieutenant General Guy C. Swan III, USA (ret.)

    Guy C. Swan III served 35 years on active duty, retiring in 2011 as Commanding General of U.S. Army North (Fifth Army). His other general officer assignments included Commanding General, U.S. Army Military District of Washington/commander, Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region; chief of staff and director of operations, MultiNational Force-Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom; and director of operations, U.S. Northern Command. From 2002–05, he served as chief of legislative liaison, the Army’s principal representative to the United States Congress. Today, he is Vice President for Education and Executive Director for the Institute of Land Warfare at the Association of the United States Army (AUSA), a non-profit educational organization that supports the U.S. Army including Active, National Guard, Reserve, Civilians, Retirees, Government Civilians, Wounded Warriors, Veterans, and family members.

  • Jack White

    Jack White, a U.S. Army veteran and graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, is a partner with the law firm of Fluet Huber + Hoang. In 2016, he was elected Chairman of Board of Directors of the Foundation for Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) in Virginia. SmartCEO named Jack the Employment Law Attorney of the Year in 2015. He was named one of Super Lawyers’ Rising Stars for 2014.

  • Michelle Winkley

    Michelle Winkley is a Human Resources Executive who, after working for Fortune 500 companies and start-ups, created her own HR consultancy in 2009, talent distinctions, LLC,  serving small- to mid-size businesses. Michelle is a founding member of Bad Ass Boxes, a non-profit organization that sends customized care packages to Special Operations troops deployed in the worst areas around the globe.  Michelle is honored to be a member of the Heroes Linked advisory board and looks forward to lending her HR knowledge to our heroes to help reach their goals in the next chapter of their journey.

    Michelle holds a BS in Business Administration from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, and an MS in Human Resources from Chapman University.

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