From Perry – for various reasons I have stepped down from the best role ever, especially if you want to support Veterans in Texas. Please meet the new director of TexVet, Ms. Carrie Sconza, an exceedingly well-qualified Navy Veteran and national Veteran leader. I’ll let her share the bio she wants as you all get to know her, or more likely, get to know her in her new role as director of TexVet.
Now, for the maudlin task of goodbye: There are so many to thank and who are continuing to earn the thanks of Texas veterans and those supporting them every day, but I’ll try to mention some here. My apologies to those who I leave off. You are not excluded – I am just forgetful and could never thank everyone that helped me.
Dr. Kotrla, without who any of this (TexVet, MVPN, Veterans Mental Health from HHSC, more) would not exist.; Dr. Leann Ray, without who all this would have ceased to exist.; Jenny Jones, who helped resource and shepherd TexVet through the TAMHSC weeds.
Ted Hughes, who put it all together and champions Veterans mental health as a system still today.
The great folks at CIADM who put up with our bunch of (as Jonathan described us) feral cats trying to do good – Dr. Kerrie DeMarco, Dr. & Col (ret) Gerald Parker, Dan Williams (who still probably wonders where we came from).
Those still in the trenches –
David Cantu – who schooled me on CVSOs and that you can care for Veterans, no matter how mean an SOB you are; Olie Pope and Susan Lewis who show you can care for Veterans with grace and class; John Boerstler – the duke of Houston, and someone that exhibits the prime entrepreneurial spirit without taking advantage of others; John Miterko, the ultimate warrior and volunteer in the trenches looking out for all generations of Veterans, ably aided by Jim Brennan, Morgan Little, the two Johns - Spahr and McKinny; also Bob Gear, as much a friend and mentor and personal hero to all; Jim Darwin, happy warrior, keeping Dr. Hupp and her office grounded and effective (and Dr. Suzanna Gratia Hupp, bringing all manner of folks together). The unforgettable Shandra Sponsler, ultimate example of competence and collaboration, always willing to help and keeping the National Guard family programs on track. Also, her conspirators, Kim Violett and Mike Chaison, working to make a coordinated response to needs near and far. Those at TVC, providing great support each day - Tim Keesling and his team: Tish McCullough (who sold Mistee on Vet support early), Aubrie (with hubby Casey), and the completely selfless Erin, always willing to respond to a justice-involved Vet.
On the I&R side – thanks so much to Judy Fullylove, who brought me into the Texas Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (www.TAIRS.org), and those who led and mentored me and included TexVet into their projects – Janna Shoe, Mary Cooksey, Beth Wick, Cornelius Blackshear, and more.
All the PSCs – I worked closer and longer with some than others – hey, Scott Smith, Chris Araujo, Ginger Simonson, and the example for all Juliane Sanford – but each is a state treasure, underpaid and overworked, and it cannot be overstated how much they do for Veterans or how effective they make a response possible when contacting TexVet. Other locals we called and worked with time after time after time – Wes and Judy from “the example” Veteran One-Stop – Heroes Night Out nand DeLisa Russell, who takes it to a new level (in everything); Pia from CenterPoint, and my buddy Rush Evans from the Veterans Legal Hotline, now supporting Veteran Treatment Courts statewide. The most common thread for us all, in MVPN, is the training led by Mama Maureen Jouett, with BEITZ, inc.; trying to drag Killeen into viable support of vulnerable veterans.
And the tearful part – Betty Sandefur, Micah Burnett, Amy Greisch, and Mr. Jonathan Leistiko… from the days before I even started when Betty had the business cards waiting and they’d just moved everything into that embarrassingly nice office, to Jonathan’s graceful stepping up to smooth this transition; there isn’t a better or more efficient team that cares and cares and works with so little to do so much. Few will ever know what a deal the state is getting with that team but it goes far beyond dollars or even the skill of any one person.
I think that most anyone (me always anyway) that cares about an organization they leave feels there are things undone. You just wish you could have finished that or have to leave some unfinished work for the next person. I certainly have a long list of stuff that moved from the “Later” or “Too Hard” distribution box to the “New Director” in-box. But, I am confident she has the best team in place to bridge the gap, help her get her feet in the stirrups, and take this great ride. They are each a unicorn – unique, different, beautiful, highly effective.
With that – the earlier managers and committee members that put TexVet together to start with – Michael Duck Lombardo, Tim Stroud, Sean Hanna, Tom Palladino, Kyle Mitchell, and those that moved on – Jared and Brandy and the unforgettable Jonathan Schiffer. The inspiring and patient and fun Kerry Harmon – still leading today.
And as one does with these things, saving my best for last – thank you to my wife and beautiful nurse Mistee. When I was approached about coming to TexVet, while happily working with the Armed Services Blood Program (donate y’all – check out www.militaryblood.dod.mil), she encouraged me to be open about it, helped me to create a vision and decide if there was someplace we thought TexVet could go, and has been our top volunteer and supporter from day one. I never would have and never could have been in position to thank everyone else without her and I thank her now for pushing me into a new role. #NursesRock.
I’ve got some reading to do, and a lot of studying, but I’ll see you just shy of the high ground and we’ll watch TexVet go to new heights of supporting Texas Military, Veterans, and families. Later, y’all; time for me to get after something else.
(if you want to keep tabs on me, visit my picture page at www.ArmyBlood.com - any new projects will be announced there - pj)