Antonio Chapa was born in Brownsville, Texas and raised in Los Angeles. After graduating from Benjamin Franklin High School, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. Antonio served in the Marine Corps for eight years and stationed at numerous duty stations. During his two year tour in Iwakuni, Japan - Antonio was involved, and later elected President, in Latino Unidos a non-profit organization that assisted military and civilian communities on and off Base. Due to his tireless efforts, commitment to Marine Corps ethos and dedication to these communities, Antonio was presented the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal by the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Kurlak. Antonio’s highest rank achieved was that of Sergeant.
Three years after honorably discharging from the Marine Corps in 1999, Antonio enrolled at Pasadena City Community College. He transferred to California State University, Los Angeles and thereafter began working for a non-profit, mental health focus. Antonio continues to work for the non-profit and currently serving homeless Veterans. Antonio, to further his professional career and personal growth attended University of Southern California.
Antonio is a member of Los Angeles Veterans Collaborative, and Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health Latino - Under Represented Ethnic Population (UREP) committee. Antonio is an active member of American GI Forum, and Marine Corps League. Antonio stays active by playing sports, volunteering, traveling and is a Los Angeles Dodgers fan.
Kristine Hesse served in the U.S. Air Force for 24 years as a Personnel Specialist her duties included supporting senior leadership, mentoring young Airman and managing over 20 programs on a daily basis. During her last assignment in London, UK, Hesse took the lead role to establish the newest Air Force Base working with 25 local tenants to USAF Headquarters. During her service, Hesse was stationed overseas in Japan and London, and domestically from Maine to California. In her service she received the Meritorious Service Medal, AF Commendation Medal, 2 OLC, the AF Achievement Medal, and was awarded the Noncommissioned Office of the Year Award.
Hesse retired from active duty in 2012 and completed her M.S., Professional Counseling Degree. She participated as a fellow with The Mission Continues at the National Veterans Foundation (NVF), a human service agency that provides crisis, information and resources to all veterans and their families nationwide. In her role as NVF’s Director of Women Veterans Outreach, Hesse is responsible for helping women veterans throughout the country and specifically in the Greater Los Angeles area connect to resources and each other; this connection is vital to their success in transitioning and continuing on to be leaders in the community.
She is very active in the community by volunteering within the Cities, Counties and State offices of California Military and Veteran Affairs departments. She is also connected with many non-profits and community partners that specifically work to house homeless veterans, connect them with meaningful employment and receive healthcare. She was most recently appointed as one of the Los Angeles County Military and Veterans Affairs Department Commissioners.
Hesse lives in Los Angeles, California with her Daughter and two Sons.
Dave Culmer, retired United States Marine, was appointed to the Los Angeles County Veterans Advisory Commission in 1990 to represent the 2nd District. He is currently the chairman for the National Veterans Foundation. In addition Dave Culmer is a county veteran service officer for the American Legion.
Fred Flores was appointed to the Los Angeles County, Veterans Advisory Commission in 1998 for the 3rd District. A lifetime member of the Disabled American Veterans, a member of the American Legion Post 176, the Marine Corps Cryptologic Association, a founding member of the San Fernando Valley Detachment 1277 of the Marine Corps League. In 2004, Fred founded the annual San Fernando Valley Veterans Day Parade. Served as a key advisor to the recovery efforts after the 1994 Northridge earthquake to James Lee Witt, (then) Director, Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Federal Coordinating Officer, the State of California, County of Los Angeles and City of Los Angeles Office of Emergency Services assigned to that disaster.
Fred A. Flores was a Senior Staff, Communications and Community Relations Director for Congressman Howard L. Berman from 1992 to 2013. He was a community outreach counselor with New Directions for Youth from 1989 to 1992. At 17, enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and served honorably from 1978 to 1989. Studied at the National Crypto Logic School, where in 1988, he graduated from the Senior Military Cryptologic Supervisors Course while assigned to the National Security Agency, Ft Meade, Maryland. A 1997 graduate of the Valley Leadership Institute. In 2000, Fred received an Associate Arts degree from Los Angeles Mission College, Magna Cum Laude and in 2002, he received an Bachelors of Arts degree from the University of California Los Angeles in Communications Studies (Mass Media concentration).
In 2014, Fred A. Flores was honored by the California State Assembly, as the 2014 Veteran of the Year for the 39th Assembly District.
Mr. Joe Leal is the leading organizer of many events to help Veterans in all capacities. He is also the founder of the Vet Hunters Project, Vet Hunters Military Motorcycle Club (D.OD.) and the Veteran Learning Centers of America. Our combined mission is to end and prevent Veteran homelessness. Vet Hunters members have extensive Military experience, training, dedication to duty and selfless service. In 2010, he founded Vet Hunters Project (VHP), a nonprofit organization headquartered in El Monte that is dedicated to preventing and ending homelessness among Veterans and their Families. VHP provides Veterans with necessities such as food, clothing, funds and blankets. It also provides employment, FREE Training and housing for the forgotten Veterans, either in a home to call their own or in a fellow Veteran’s home. VHP is a Search, Educate and rescue operation – a team of volunteer veterans search for homeless Veterans on the streets, under bridges, alleys, riverbed and abandoned buildings. When the team finds a homeless veteran, it provides the necessary supplies. To date, Vet Hunters have prevented homelessness and placed over 12,000 Veterans/Families into homes many of them with job placement. Currently, Mr. Leal works with Department of Defense (Department of Army) serving Soldiers and Families. He proudly offers his services to all branches of services on a daily basis. all around Los Angeles and surrounding counties. Mr. Leal is currently stationed at March Air Force base under the 304th Sustainment Brigade. The 304th is the largest Sustainment Brigade in the US Army. Mr. Leal is currently at 23 years of combined Military and Federal service to our Nation. Mr. Leal is also Commissioner for Veterans, Los Angeles County, 1st District and Director, Army Reserve under the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR).
Under Mr. Leals leadership, VHP continues its path to success by raising awareness about homeless Veterans to the public. To date, VHP is getting ready to have its Inaugural Los Angeles County Veteran’s Job, Health and Resource Expo for 2017 which is projected to provide services for over 3,000 Veteran’s, Families and our community. The event provides services for over 800 Veterans their Families yearly. VHP team members also completed two major bike rides in which we searched and rescued homeless Veterans: a 1,900-mile trek from East Los Angeles to St. Louis and a yet another successful 3,700-mile bike trek from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. that took place June 2013 where we were awarded the "Call to Service" award by President Obama.
Patricia Jackson-Kelley is a veteran of the United States Air Force and Air Force, Army and Navy Reserve. She retired with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel after 26 years of combined active duty and reserve service. Lt. Col. Jackson-Kelley served as the Program Manager for a 40-bed substance abuse ward and as the Women Veteran Program Manager with the Department of Veterans Affairs–West Los Angeles. During her employment, she was instrumental in implementing programs, funds and resources for women veterans. During her time at the Veterans Hospital, she also served as one of the initial board members during the formation of U.S. VETS. Currently she serves on the Foundation for Women Warriors board of directors, is a County of Los Angeles Commissioner for Military and Veteran Affairs in the 2nd District and VP of operations for National Association of Black Military Women.
Lt. Colonel Jackson-Kelley has awards/commendations from numerous elected officials, organizations and government agencies. To highlight a few, Commendation form President George W. Bush, Who’s Who In Black Los Angeles, Ford Freedom Foundation Unsung Military Honoree, California Department of Veteran Affairs, CALVET’s Southern California Woman Veteran of the Year (2010), California Department of Veteran Affairs Achievement in Leadership (2012). She recently received a letter of commendation from immediate Past VA secretary Robert McDonald for serving on the Center for Minority Veterans National committee for serving 2013-2015.
Marcel Rodarte grew up in Norwalk, CA and attended Ramona and Moffitt Elementary schools before going on to graduate from Norwalk High School in 1990.
Marcel enlisted in the U.S. Navy while still in high school. He served for four years as an Aviation Electronics Technician on F/A-18 aircraft from 1990 – 1994. Marcel then enlisted in and then in the U.S. Air Force Reserve where he served from 1994 – 2011. He retired with 21 years of total service in December 2011 with the rank of Senior Master Sergeant (E-8).
His military service took him to every continent in the world including numerous deployments in support of regional conflicts, humanitarian relief efforts, and the War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan. His last deployment was a six-month tour to Germany to support surge operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Marcel began his professional career as a federal employee in 1997. During his federal service, he worked for the Department of the Navy, Department of the Air Force, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Homeland Security.
Marcel has worked as an electronics technician, quality assurance specialist, program manager, and a mission support supervisor.
Marcel was elected to the Norwalk City Council in March 2011 and served as the City’s mayor from March 2014 through March 2015.
Marcel became the third Executive Director of the California Contract Cities Association on July 1, 2016. The California Contract Cities Association is the second largest local government association in California and serves 74 member cities in Los Angeles County and beyond.
Marcel voluntarily resigned his elected seat in the middle of his second term to avoid any potential conflicts of interest once he took over as Executive Director.
Marcel is also the proud father of an eleven-year old daughter and firmly believes in family while inspiring and empowering today’s youth.
Marcel holds Associate's Degrees in Electronics and Logistics, a Bachelor's degree in Business Management, and a Master's Degree in Leadership from the University of Southern California.
Tom Lasser is a retired Lieutenant Colonel who completed a total of 40 years in uniform with the US Army and California National Guard. He is an Army Vietnam veteran who completed two tours flying helicopters with the Army in Vietnam. Tom flew over 1000 helicopter missions and accumulated over 6000 hours in his flying career of which 1751 were combat flying hours.
LTC Lassers military decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross, Legion of Merit, Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry and the Purple Heart. His last military assignment was as commander of Los Alamitos Army Airfield in Orange County. He also had a tour as military liaison in the Governors Los Angeles Office.
LTC Lasser is a life member of several veterans organizations to include the Military Order of the Purple Heart, American Legion and VFW. He is the current President of the Southern California Chapters of the Association of the US Army and Vice President of the S. California Chapter of the Army Aviation Association. Tom is also a member of the Navy League, Air Force Association and the National Guard Association of the United States.
He was the Veteran of the Year for the 66th Assembly District and selected as Citizen of The Year in Los Alamitos for his work at the base there.
Tom and his wife Laura resides in Redondo Beach and is with the Redondo Beach Veterans Memorial Task Force He has been a member of the LA Veterans Advisory Commission since February 2016
Julian H. Bond has served on Active Duty in the Army, United States Army Reserves and the California Army National Guard since 1989.
Julian is a Combat Veteran (Operation Iraqi Freedom), recipient of the Bronze Star Medal.
Previous assignments include: Platoon Leader, Observer Controller, Strength Management Officer, Installation Management, Operation's Officer, Battalion Executive Officer, Company Commander, Battalion Commander and Brigade Commander.
Overseas deployments include: Japan, Korea, Germany, Ukraine, Kuwait and Iraq.
Civilian education includes: Knox College (BA - Sociology), TUI University (MS Emergency Disaster Management) and Texas AM University (Army War College Fellowship concentration Public Administration).
Military education includes the Quartermaster Officer Basic and Advanced Courses, Combined Arms Services Staff School, National Security Course, Army Command and General Staff College and the US Army War College.
Military occupational specialties include: human resource, quartermaster, transportation, ordnance and multifunctional logistics.
His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal w/Bronze Star, Iraqi Campaign Medal w/2 Bronze Stars, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal and Parachutist Badge.
After a twenty-five year corporate tour throughout the United States with Fortune 500 Companies, Hector Elizalde returned home to Southern California.
In 2007 he was recruited by Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard to develop a proactive assistance program for veterans in the district. Mr. Elizalde was exposed first hand to some of the critical issues veterans and their families were facing at the time. As he discharged his duties as case worker, and became all too familiar with the red tape and challenges veterans had to contend with, he knew that he had found his next mission in life.
After two years with Congresswoman Roybal-Allard he was extended the opportunity to be a staff member for Congresswoman Grace Napolitano and was given the title of Veterans and Military Liaison. This new assignment gave Mr. Elizalde the opportunity to learn more about the transition from soldier to civilian life that our troops experience. After extensive research, he came to the conclusion that the root problem with most of the veterans’ cases was the Veterans Administration (VA) itself for not demonstrating strong leadership, vision, and most of all compassion for the lives of veterans and their families. He continued to do veterans’ case work, but always being one that seeks to find solutions to problems, four years ago he developed the first Veterans Forum for Congresswoman Napolitano. The goal was to process hundreds of claims on a given day, followed by timely follow up on pending claims with the VA. He persuaded the VA to provide the necessary manpower in order to process claims, invited the Long Beach VA Hospital, Vet Center (Mental Health) and other Veteran Service Organizations to participate in this one day event with the result being one of expediting claims and enrolling hundreds veterans into the VA System. Mr. Elizalde has worked with Congresswoman Napolitano to prepare a manual on to how to implement a veteran’s forum, since other Congressional leaders have expressed a desire to host Veterans Forums in their own districts.
Currently, Mr. Elizalde is working with the California National Guard and Reserve Units to create a model program for transitioning out of military to civilian life, in order to ensure that soldiers being discharged from the military are well-prepared to face the challenges they will encounter as they become civilians once again. Congresswoman Napolitano’s office provides a 24/7 emergency service to homeless veterans seeking shelter and other types of assistance and is working proactively with Vet Hunters on this project.
Hector joined the United States Army in July 1964 and received an honorable discharge as Specialist (E- 5) in July 1967 – he is a Vietnam Era Veteran and a resident of the City of Monrovia. He is a member of the American Legion Post 804 – Eugene Obregon.
Mr. Elizalde currently serves as Deputy District Director in the El Monte District Office of Congresswoman Napolitano. Mr. Elizalde believes that there is no greater honor than to serve our country and flag. He feels privileged that he is able to continue to serve the gallant and brave men and women that we call “veterans” - an honor he is committed to live up to.