Veterans Advisory Council Members
Apply to be a VAC MemberVAC Charter
Debborah L Wallace | Team Lead | Dayton
U.S. Army Veteran, Vice City Mayor, City of Beavercreek
Debborah L Wallace was born in Lorain, Ohio. She graduated from Bowling Green State University with a degree in Psychology & Biology, got married, needed to find two jobs. Joined the US Army in the Stripes for Skills Program and after Boot camp was an E - 5, Staff Sargent. Her father had been in the US Army.
She served as Behavioral Psychologist in FT Know, KY and Friedberg, Germany from 7/1/1974- 1977. When she left the Army, she moved to Dayton, Ohio, got a job at the City of Dayton Office of Management & Budget, put her husband thru U D Law School and completed her Master’s in Public Administration at University of Dayton. Divorced in 1980 and started her own business, Wallace Insurance Services, LLC in 1983. She provides Group & Individual Health, Life, Disability, Medicare, and Long Term Care Insurance in addition to providing Financial, College and Retirement planning for the last 33 years.
She is currently serving in her 7th year of an 8 year term as City Council Member of Beavercreek, Ohio. She is totally involved in the community being on the Board of Directors for Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission, Miami Valley Military Affairs and member of Beavercreek Chamber, She is a Life Member of the VFW & DAV.
Debborah loves to be sailing on large sail boats, travel, bike, row, swim, read, go to movies and explore new places. Being able to help other veterans in receiving VA health care, making a difference in how services are provided is why she is a member of the VAC since 2009.
After being told from the VA that her ability to walk could be lost at any time, motivated her to train thru Tri- triathlons and run the 1986 Marine Corps Marathon in 6 hours, 6 seconds. She feels that if she lost her ability to walk, she had done something that most people had not. Love life & encourage all around her to embrace their abilities to be happy, have fun and do inspiring things is he moto.
Woody Stroud |Backup Team Lead | Dayton
Woodrow (Woody) Stroud was born in Dayton, Ohio, and has lived in the Dayton Region, except for academic studies, military duty and civilian employment assignments since 1941. He now lives in Spring Valley Township, Greene County. He graduated from Kettering Fairmont High School and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Government (now Political Science) from Miami University, Oxford, Ohio. Woody enlisted in the United States Air Force/Air National Guard and attained the rank of Staff Sergeant as a maintainer. He was subsequently commissioned a First Lieutenant and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel, last serving as commander 178 Consolidated Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, after 28.5 years of service.
Woody is retired President of Merchants Capital Management Corporation and retired Senior Vice President, National City Indiana. He continues to be involved in investment activities.
Woody believes in a philosophy of community engagement and so continues to participate in civic activities. He currently serves as or on the Executive Committee and Board of Directors of the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission (MVRPC member); Chair, Greene County Transit Board; Trustee (Past President) Miami Valley Military Affairs Association (MVMAA); Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce (Past Board Member) Military and Federal Government Affairs Committee (Past Chair); Ohio Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), formerly Vice Chair and Interim Chair; Miami University College of Arts and Science Alumni Advisory Board; Miami University Veterans Tribute Committee (currently planning, then securing funding and then erecting a structure recognizing KIAs, and other Miamians who have served in the armed forces since 1812). He served on the Board of Greater Dayton Jaycees Housing, Inc. and participated in the building of a 210 unit rent subsidized housing project for seniors of which he was President for more than a decade before the assets were gifted to the Dayton Foundation. His experience has informed his support for Vets housing on the Dayton VA campus. Woody has served on a committee for Dayton Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) Strategic Planning 2013, focus group: Front Line Supervisors charged with improving timeliness and transparency of Human Resources processes. In 2008, he served on the Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association (GDAHA) committee reviewing processes and practices at Dayton VAMC. Woody joined the Veterans Advisory Board (now Veterans Advisory Council) at its first meeting on April 15, 2008.
Dr. Samuel A. Adebonojo | Dayton
U.S. Army Veteran, Retired Chief of Surgery
Samuel A. Adebonojo, M.D. born in Lagos Nigeria, West Africa, immigrated to the United States in 1959 to study medicine. He earned his BSc. Biochemistry with Summa Cum Laude in 1962 from Howard University and obtained the Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1966. He returned to Nigeria after obtaining his Board Certifications in General Surgery and Cardiothoracic Surgery in 1972 and 1976 respectively. He spent 15 years of his professional practice in West Africa where he performed the first Open Heart Surgery at the University College Hospital, Ibadan, Nigeria, the premier University Hospital in West Africa and served as Secretary-General of the West African College of Surgeons when the surgical residency training program was established in West Africa. Dr. Adebonojo returned to the United States in 1990 after two years as the pioneer of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the King Fahd Specialist Hospital in Al Gassim province in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia where he performed the first successful re-implantation of a totally amputated right forearm of an 8-year old Saudi patient during the Gulf War. On his returned to the United States in December 1990, he was assigned to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC where he held the position as Chief of General Thoracic Surgery during the Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm and treated many war injured patients from the war front in Kuwait and also from Germany. As the Chief of Thoracic Surgery at WRAMC, he trained several thoracic residents many of who had achieved eminence in the Medical Corp and one of his residents was promoted Brigadier General in 2013. He retired as Lt. Colonel in 1997 to take up the onerous appointment as Chief of Surgical Services at Dayton VAMC as well as the Associate Director of Surgical Residency Training Program at Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine, Dayton, Ohio from January 1997 until his retirement in January 2007. He was appointed Professor Emeritus, Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine where he continues to be active in the medical school as a member of the Admission Committee. He had been a member of the Veterans Advisory Council since 2012 where his major interest had been the promotion of quality care to our veterans. He is an avid reader and enjoys classical music. His hobbies are lawn tennis, table tennis, squash, racquet ball, swimming, national and international travelling as well as meeting with a plethora of people. Dr. Adebonojo lives with his wife Maureen of 54 years in Beavercreek, Ohio; they are blessed with three children, Margaret 54; Anthony 49 and Christopher 43 years and two grandchildren, Daniel, 13 and Joy 8.
Jacob S. Atkinson | Dayton
Jacob S. Atkinson Sr. "Jake" was born in Midwest City, Oklahoma, and was raised in Nocona, Texas. After graduating high school he moved to Baltimore, Maryland to attend college. He studied business management at Columbia community College. After two years of college, he joined the United States Marine Corp, where he graduated Honor grad from Paris Island and The School of Infantry. During his time in the Marine Corp, he was assigned to First Battalion Sixth Marines. While in 1/6, he was deployed to Panama, Korea, Australia, and Japan. While in these locations, he completed joint operational training with Rock Marines, Queensland Air Force, and humanitarian aid for children in Panama. He has training in mountain warfare school in Bridgeport California, jungle warfare in Columbia, and dessert warfare in Twenty Nine Palms.
After receiving an honorable discharge from the Marine Corps, he went into restaurant management. He had the opportunity to work for an amazing concept called The Cheesecake Factory. He started in Washington D.C. and was promoted to Senior Manager and moved to Baltimore, Maryland. After two years, he again was promoted to Assistant General Manager. He was then promoted to General Manager and asked to move to Dayton, Ohio and open The Cheesecake Factory at The Greene. After five years and many long hours, he decided to move from a higher volume establishment to a lower volume establishment. He is currently the General Manger for TGI Fridays located in Centerville, Ohio.
He has five children, ages 22, 17, 16,13, 8, and an amazing partner Tracy Fittz, who is his best friend and is a wonderful mother. She is an Occupational Therapist. Each one of his children is highly active from baseball, radio, college, and dance. While his work is a passion, his children's success is his love. He enjoys volleyball, fishing and competing in Tough Mudder.
Desiree Barrett | Middletown CBOC
Desiree Barrett has a Master’s in the Art of Teaching (MAT) in the field of Integrated Social Studies from Miami University (2010) and is certified in the state of Ohio for grades 7 through 12. For her undergraduate degree (1997), also from MU, she had a double major in both history and philosophy. She currently works on a day-to-day basis as a substitute teacher (for all grades and need levels) after having served 24 years as a career firefighter/EMS provider/technical rescue technician (retired 2011). Desiree is still a certified fire/rescue-instructor as well. Prior to becoming a firefighter, Ms. Barrett served 4 years active duty as a U.S. Marine (1981-1985) then an additional year of active reserve duty, with the MOS of 2841, Ground Radio Repair, and ended with a rank of sergeant E-5. From boot camp at Parris Island, she went to 29 Palms for school, then was stationed at Camp Lejeune, and finally at Okinawa. It was more than two years after her honorable discharge that she eventually married and had a wonderful son, and then had a second marriage with two beautiful daughters. Her first-born son was even born on the Marine Corps birthday! Desiree’s daughter-in-law has given birth to her first grandson, and she couldn’t be more proud of all three of her children. But with her children all being young adults, she wants to spend more time volunteering to help others, which she does now through GLSEN and the VAC. At GLSEN, the focus is on making schools safe learning environments for all students, regardless of stereotypes based on sex, gender, orientation, or how others are perceived in those regards. And at the VAC, which she joined in July 2015, she hopes to help bridge the gap between what veterans understand about their benefits and what is actually available and how to most effectively access it on the one hand and on the other hand to make the VA more aware of what veterans’ diverse needs are as well.
William (Bill) Fitzgerald | Dayton
William (Bill) Fitzgerald was born and raised in Springfield Illinois. He moved to Ohio in 1988 with his father. After a few years, while watching the start of Desert Storm on the news, Bill realized he wanted to serve his country. He joined the Air Force on September 5, 1991. He retired from the Air Force in December 2013 after an injury in 2009. Bill served for 22 years.
Bill and his wife Micki have been married for 24 years and have two children. Their son Colman is 22 years old and their daughter Kennedy is 18. Bill and his family currently reside in Centerville Ohio.
Bill is currently completing his bachelor’s degree in Health Care Administration. He enjoys reading, fishing with his son, spending time with his wife and with his daughter.
Bill joined the Veterans Advisory Council because, as a disabled Veteran himself, he wants to help other Veterans receive the benefits and care that they deserve.
Yvette Harrison | Dayton
U.S. Army Veteran
Yvette W. Harrison is originally from Greensboro, Alabama. She graduated from Alabama A & M University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration and from East Texas State University with a Master of Science Degree.
She graduated from ROTC and entered into the military (Army) as an officer.
After the military and currently, Yvette works for AK Steel Corporation in Middletown, Ohio as a Senior Analysis. She was selected two consecutive years for Who’s Who in Cincinnati. She has one adult daughter, one grandson and is very active in her church.
Gary Heironimus | Springfield CBOC
U.S.A.F. Veteran (Ret.)
Gary Heironimus was born and raised in Springfield, Ohio and has lived here for 52 years. Gary attended Shawnee High School graduating in 1982 and started college at Clark State Community College the fall of ’82 where he began taking classes in Landscape & Turf Management. Gary ended up leaving school and, a few years later, in 1986 joined the Ohio Air National Guard in Springfield where he became a Special Vehicle Refuel Mechanic. Gary became full time AGR (Air Guard Regular) full time Active Duty Guard in 2003. Gary was medically discharged under Honorable conditions in 2009. He went back to school at Clark State the summer of 2010, where he obtained a degree in Logistics & Supply Chain Management in the spring of 2012. Gary joined the Air Guard to get the college benefits but fell in love with the military, volunteering to go on any TDY’s they would let him go on. Gary has been to England, Denmark, Panama, and Kuwait where he was stationed at Al Jabra AFB. He landed there the day the bombings started in Afghanistan. Gary has also been stationed at bases throughout the US. Gary is a Life Time member of the D.A.V. CH#13 and VFW 1031, both in Springfield. Gary is heavily involved with the Boy Scouts of America and spends much of his time with them. He got involved with the VAC because he wanted to be able to help veterans the way he has been helped. Gary has been a member of the VAC for two years in February. Gary states his biggest accomplishment is that, in a couple of months, he will complete a training course Wood Badge with the BS of America. This course is used in the business world by some of the big names in business. Gary is also proud of his participation as a member of the Dayton VAMC, VAC committee.
Butch Marcum | Richmond CBOC
U.S. Army Veteran
Jerome (Butch) Marcum was born and raised in Richmond, Indiana. Except for two years in the Army and twelve years in Phoenix, Arizona the rest of my life of my life has been in Richmond. I attended Purdue University but got caught up in the Vietnam War. I was drafted in January 1968 and ended up as an infantry squad leader with the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vietnam. After the Service I worked with my father and learned the jewelry/goldsmith trade which I still do part time after retiring in 0210. I am married to my wonderful wife Cindy and have two grown sons. One is an Engineer with Honda in Alabama and the other is a Corrections Officer with the State of Arizona, we have four grandchildren. I have been very involved with the VFW for the last twenty years and was Post Commander of Post 1108 in Richmond. During my time as Post Commander our Post purchased three apartment buildings next to the Post Home and we rent these to Veterans that are temporarily down on their luck. We offer job assistance and counseling while there.
Robert Mencia | Dayton
U.S. Army Veteran
As a first generation immigrant, Robert has experienced many challenges. Being the youngest of 12 children, he was brought to the US by his family from his native El Salvador to a different climate, culture and language attending a primarily Jewish high school and being one of the youngest graduates at 15. He attended Los Angeles City College for two years before being inducted into the Army where he served in Vietnam being given a short discharge at 18. Due to adjustment difficulties and the political climate of the times, he decided to stay in the Army for an additional six years with assignments in the US and Germany attaining the rank of Staff Sergeant.
After a short stint with the IRS, Robert completed his accounting and business studies at California State University Northridge, left the public sector at 26 and for the following 22 years he founded several garment factories, jobbing, manufacturing, importing and retailing operations, finally combining all his experience by establishing a vertical organization under the label "Natalie" that spanned three continents from the far east to the Americas and hired over 500 employees.
Robert changed direction in 1999 becoming a real estate broker founding Mencia Realty, Inc. where he represented banks in hundreds of foreclosures actions due to the financial crisis. In 2011 he retired as a result of health issues and moved from Florida to Ohio.
At the same time as succeeding in his businesses, Robert served and founded boards for non-profits in the sports and drug abuse areas. He has lectured in matters of fashion, motivation and real estate. Robert's leisure passions have ranged from motorcycling, being an avid scuba instructor, currently a long distance hiker having completed over 600 miles of the Appalachian Trail in 2015 among others.
Robert has served in the Veterans Advisory Council since July 2014 and the 150th anniversary committee where he has advised the leadership on matters of diversity, facilities, accountability, goal setting and enthusiasm. Robert is a member in the Dayton National Shrine's Honor Squad, and is involved in the rehabilitative and transitioning of younger Veterans at the Dayton Vet Center.
Robert's mantra has been "Giving a voice to the voiceless" particularly Vietnam Veterans where he represents them widely to the best of his ability.
Robert is married to his wife Sue; they have six children and five grandchildren.
Dale Richardson | Dayton
U.S. Army Veteran
Dale Richardson is a native Daytonian, he is a 1964 graduate of Roosevelt High School and a 1974 graduate of Wright State University. He is a Vietnam Veteran serving in the U.S. Army from 1965-1967. His work experience includes factory work for General Motors and Dayton Tire and Rubber. He has been editor of two grassroots community publications, RAP Magazine and The Dayton Black Press Newspaper. He also hosted a public affairs program on Public Television and co-hosted a talk show on WKEF/Channel 22 where he also served as a guest editorialist.
Mr. Richardson retired from Montgomery County Children Services where he worked 33 years as a Recruiter/Trainer for foster and adoptive parents. He is active in neighborhood and civic organizations and he volunteers at the Dayton VA Hospice Center.
He has been married for 48 years and has adult twin sons.
He became a member of the Veterans Advisory Council in 2015. He says working with and supporting Veterans is an honor and privilege that strengthens the value and worth of our society.
Will Thompson | Lima CBOC
U.S. Army Veteran
William D Thompson (Will) was born on Kadena Air Force Base in Choton-Cho Okinawa, Japan while his father was stationed there and doing TDY’s to Vietnam. Will was there until he was five years old and after that he spent time in Idaho, W. Va., Kentucky and finally settling here in Ohio where he went to high school in Columbus, Ohio at Eastmoor High School, home of Archie Griffin and Michael Feinstein where Will played football and found the love of jazz.
After high school Will entered the military and spent time with the regular Army, Army reserves, and finally with the Ohio Army National Guard as a Combat Engineer. In December of 2003 Will deployed to Iraq and while there served with a multitude of units doing route clearance, security patrols, personal security detail, and training of multi-national forces. In November of 2006 Will re-deployed back to the states. After spending time in Fort Knox, and Walter-Reed in the WTU Will retired in 2011 from the Army and Ohio Army National Guard.
Now Will is employed by the State of Ohio as a Disabled Veteran Outreach Program Specialist helping other veterans get job ready, obtain a career, and helping them obtain other services as needed.
In his personal life Will is married to Connie and they have a blended family of four daughters and one son. Will spends time with his family going to his children’s extra–curricular activities, working and doing therapy on his homestead working on a veteran’s farm program, volunteering as a service officer with the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Disabled American Veterans, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. He also is working on completing his Bachelor’s degree in Psychology with an emphasis on combat stress from American Military University. Will joined the VAC in November of 2015