We understood in the very early days of Hope For The Warriors that to be effective in our mission, our staff needed to be flush with military families. How else could we effectively serve veterans and their families unless we had walked in their boots?

We have been amazingly fortunate for the past 16 years to attract caring, passionate and understanding staff members, with a large number having served or currently serving either as a military spouse or service member. 

Regardless of the program they work in, our staff members bring comfort to those HOPE supports because they truly understand the military and transition thereafter, and the stress and strain it can bring.

We appreciate our colleagues every day, but with Veterans Day this November, we wanted to recognize the dedicated veterans on our staff. 

U.S. Marine Sgt. Major Lee Bonar served for 33 years and retired as a Marine before joining Hope For The Warriors as our director of military relations.

Bonar misses being out in the field with the Marines and Joint and Allied Forces but says his job with HOPE gives him “true purpose in life” as did service in the Marine Corps.

“HOPE makes you better as every day you learn how to better serve those we provide services to.”

U.S. Marine Sgt. Mario Alcala says his job as HOPE’s military & veteran program manager for Texas has helped replace the camaraderie, he experienced with fellow Marines in his nine years of active-duty before he retired.

“The camaraderie I get while working with my clients and other staff members” is the favorite thing about his job, Alcala said.

HOPE helped Alcala when he transitioned to civilian life, and it is a joy for him to pay that help forward.

“I love knowing that I am able to assist our warriors in need, especially since I was once in their shoes. HOPE was there for me, and I will do my best to be there for our clients just like the team was there for me.”

U.S. Marine 1st Sgt. Scott D. Griffith is a retired veteran of 19 years in the Marine Corps but keeps on serving only now it is as a military veteran program coordinator for HOPE.

Griffith says he is grateful for the opportunity to be part of the HOPE team and be “able to give back to military service members and their families” while supporting the veteran community.

“Being able to make an impact in others’ lives and serve as an outlet for veterans and their families provides me with a sense of purpose I lost when I retired.”

U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Roe Holcomb was an infantry platoon sergeant in the Marine Corps who wanted to give back when he left the service. HOPE provided the greatest opportunity.

He serves as outreach manager at the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Hope For The Warriors which allows him to impact military families on a daily basis.

“I have the opportunity to give back to the military and veteran community,” explained Holcomb. “We give HOPE to all military and veteran families we come into contact with.”

U.S. Navy Ensign Sean La Marr continues to serve in the U.S. Navy Reserves after five years of active-duty and serves as HOPE’s head of strategic communications.

La Marr’s role at HOPE is very similar to his role as a public affairs officer with the Navy working within marketing, communications and media management.

He’s only been on staff with HOPE for a few months but has been impressed by the organization’s mission and how they go about accomplishing it.

“What I like best about being a member of the HOPE team is that I’m part of an organization that isn’t just idealistic about helping veterans but who has the background, programming and services that are helping military families every single day.”

U.S. Marine Master Sgt. Brian Papakie spent 24 years in the Marine Corps before retiring, but as HOPE’s program manager for career transitions, he still enjoys many of the same things that made active service attractive to him.

“It’s very much like the military family I had for so many years,” Papakie said of working with HOPE. “The best part is now my position gives me opportunities to learn so much more about my peers from other branches and assist with their transition.”

Papakie says he misses “mentoring and teaching Marines, and the everyday camaraderie with fellow Marines” but is pleased to be in a position to help other service members.

“I am privileged and proud to be part of another organization in which the table is turned, and now we are constantly evolving and adapting. It’s all to best support those families who have served and supported this nation.”

U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. Maj. Matt Smith is precise when you ask his length of service prior to retirement: “20 years, seven months, 14 days.”

The military & veteran outreach program manager looks back on those 20-plus years with fondness. “I miss the camaraderie and training soldiers,” he says.

HOPE has helped fill void he experienced after leaving the military.

“The MVP team is like your favorite infantry squad,” said Smith.

U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Joshua E.L. Sooklal was a hospital corpsman during his active-duty for five years, with a few additional years spent in the Reserves, but Hope For The Warriors has given him the opportunity to do what he loves the most: helping others.

The military and veterans program manager for HOPE says of his involvement with the nonprofit, “I get to do half of what I did in the military in a civilian capacity: I help. This time I have loads of support and resources.

“Working at HOPE is honestly a dream. This dream that I have attained has been a blessing for me and those around me. I have a newfound sense of purpose that has allowed me to be more adept in understanding each and every individual I come across.”

U.S. Marine Gunnery Sgt. Ken Sutherby retired after 25 years of service but continues to serve as director of outdoor adventures/military relations for HOPE.

“I miss the Marines that I had the privilege of serving with the most … the term walking amongst giants comes to mind,” said Sutherby, who was MARSOC while in the Marines.

As the director of outdoor adventures for HOPE, Sutherby uses the outdoors to help veterans acclimate to civilian life and to give injured veterans the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors.

“I absolutely love watching veterans overcome injuries and get in the outdoors and find a mental place of calmness,” said Sutherby. “I think the therapeutic benefit of being outdoors kind of gravitates better to the veteran than a lot of formal counseling.”

Please help us in thanking our dedicated veteran staff for their service in the U.S. military and their continued service to their fellow veterans through their work at Hope For The Warriors.