Sgt. Maj. Brandon Eckardt
- Active Duty Liaison
Brandon Eckardt enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1990. During his career in the Marine Corps, Brandon has served in all four Marine Corps Divisions, in diverse assignments, giving him a unique perspective on the dynamics that accompany a calling to fulfill the duties of a Marine for a lengthy time. With deployments to Somalia, Haiti, Yemen, East Timor and Iraq, Brandon has experience in a variety of expeditionary operations. Brandon is currently serving as the Squadron Sergeant Major for VMU-2 with 2D Marine Aircraft Wing in Cherry Point, North Carolina.
Brandon holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management from Grand View University.
Among the many professional military education schools completed during his career in the Marine Corps, Brandon is proud to have graduated from the first ever Marine Corps Sergeant’s Major Course. In his spare time, Brandon is an avid distance runner with the goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon.
Concerned with the ongoing issues plaguing combat veterans departing the active ranks, Brandon is committed to providing insight and assistance to this most honorable endeavor that seeks to identify sustainable solutions for veterans in need.
Lt. Col. Mike Zacchea
- Veterans Programs Outreach
Mike Zacchea was commissioned in the Marine Corps in 1990. He served as a forward observer and platoon commander, deploying to Somalia for Operation Restore Hope and to Haiti for Operation Support Democracy. In March 2004, as a major, he deployed to Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom II. His team's mission was to build, train, and lead in combat the first Iraqi army battalion trained by the US military. During this time, the battalion participated in Operation Phantom Fury, the 2nd Battle of Fallujah. During the battle, Mike was wounded by a rocket-propelled grenade, but declined to be medically evacuated.
Mike's military awards include the Bronze Star Medal for Valor (with gold star in lieu of 2nd award), the Purple Heart Medal, a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, a Combat Action Ribbon, and numerous unit and campaign awards. Mike was also the first and at the time only American recognized by the Iraqi government by the Order of the Lion of Babylon. As a result of his wounds, Mike was medically retired with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
Mike's education includes an MBA from the University of Connecticut, an MA in Organizational Dynamics from Hawaii Pacific University, and a BA from the University of Notre Dame. He is the Program Director of the University of Connecticut Entrepreneur Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities.
He is also involved in the creation of ConnectVets, Inc., a non-profit organization of veteran-owned businesses in the state of CT. He was appointed to a multi-agency cross-disciplinary working group chaired by the Commissioner of the CT Dept of Veterans Affairs to align veteran education, job-training, and workforce re-entry issues. The Small Business Administration recognized Mike as the 2011-12 Veterans Business Champion. Mike is the author of “Veteran’s Advocacy: the Fight for Social Justice and Healing Through Activism” in Healing War Trauma: A Handbook of Creative Approaches (Routledge: 2013).
Mike has been featured in several documentaries and books about returning veterans, and has been interviewed in numerous national media venues discussing the war and related issues. He continues to be active in veterans affairs and Iraqi refugee affairs. Mike lives in Brookfield CT with his wife and infant son.
HM3 Todd Angell
- Combat Veterans Liaison
Todd Angell served in the United States Navy as a Combat Fleet Marine Force Corpsman attached to the 1st battalion, 8th Marine Regiment. Deployed September 2010 – March 2011 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
While deployed Angell served in direct combat operations participating in over 150 combat patrols providing battlefield aid to injured Marines, local nationals, and other coalition forces.
Angell would go on to earn the nation’s third highest military award, the Silver Star and complete his term of active service with both honor and distinction.
Today Angell continues to serve in his community working as an Emergency Medical Technician preparing to become a Firefighter. He is an active member of Operation Vet-Fit, Help our Military Heroes, and Team Red, White & Blue.
Cpl. Timothy Mallette
- Marketing Advisor
- Team Mom, Group Exercise Volunteer
Involved in the Navy as a dependent wife from 1984-2000 and the mom of a US Marine serving with the 3/8 from 2006-2010 and a grad from West Point class of 2010 now serving with 1CAV at Ft Hood, Texas. Laurie's sons have 3 combat tours in Afghanistan from 2007-2012.
Laurie's experience is in fundraising for military causes through fitness, including Indoor Cycling/Spinning Events, Marathon and other racing events.
Laurie's primarily volunteer work is with her own non profit where she serves with her husband Ted Hollander and Marybeth Vandergrift on Help Our Military Heroes (HOMH).
HOMH is a military non-profit specifically serving the needs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars most seriously injured needing specially modified wheelchair accessible vans.
These activities have resulted in the co-creation of Operation Vet-Fit. Brought together by a mutual friend in the Bethel community, Dan Gaita and I met in the Winter of 2012, worked on the Inaugural Memorial Day - Tribute Run and HOMH combined support and attendance grew from there.
- Strategic Development
Victoria has over 20 years of healthcare experience working in both the provider and healthcare payor environments. She currently serves as Vice President of Provider Operations at OrthoNet LLC.
Prior to joining OrthoNet, she was Vice President of Service Operations at HealthNet with enterprise wide responsibility for all member and provider service functions. During her 10+ years at HealthNet she held various other management positions and has extensive experience in strategic management, planning, marketing, process improvement and financial planning/budgeting.
In addition to her professional experience, Victoria brings experience from serving in the USMC Key Volunteer Network program to the Operation Vet Fit Team. In that role she provided family members of active duty and deployed Marines information, referrals, and support. She holds a Master’s Degree in Healthcare Management.
Stephanie Vernik Prezioso
- Events Consultant
An events consultant with 9+ years of professional experience in the events and meetings industry.
She has leveraged her extensive knowledge and experience to strategically develop and manage a wide range of corporate and non-profit events.
Prior to becoming a consultant, Stephanie worked as an events manager at KPMG LLP in the New York office.
Stephanie has been an active member of the Ladies VFW Auxiliary 10059 since 2002. She recently served as treasurer for two terms. In addition to her involvement with the Auxiliary, she participates in various fitness and fundraising opportunities with Help Our Military Heroes, and Operation Vet-Fit; organizations dedicated to helping our wounded veterans.
Stephanie earned her Bachelor of Science degree in International Trade and Marketing from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. She currently resides in Danbury, CT with her husband and two children.
- Compliance Consultant
Ted is a founding member of Help Our Military Heroes. He has a wide background in the non-profit world having served on the Board of Trustees for The Canterbury School for the past 11 years and the Board of the Exchange Club Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse in Stamford CT for the past 5 years. He is currently the Chairman of HOMH and The Exchange Club Center and sits on the Executive Committee of The Canterbury School.
Ted has 25 years of experience in the investment world including 10 years at Bear Stearns, 9 years at The Citadel Investment group and 5+ years at his current job with Magnetar Capital.
- Substance Abuse Resistance Advocate
Valerie is Vice President of Business Development for Williams Lea, a global corporate information solutions firm headquartered in NYC. Prior to joining Williams Lea, Valerie spent the majority of her career in publishing at Grolier publishing working her way up from an input clerk to Vice President of Manufacturing. Valerie's skill set include supply chain management, process re-engineering, budget management, vendor negotiation and procurement.
Valerie is on the Board of Directors of Success Residential, a sober house for men in the Danbury area and also serves on the board of Directors of The Fellowship Center, a sober club in Danbury where 12 step meetings are held several times daily. Valerie is knowledgeable in navigating local detox facilities, sobering centers and rehabs that specialize in addictive behaviors.
In addition to her experience with the above facilities, Valerie has been in recovery for 15 years and is active in helping others to get and stay sober.Valerie's brother Ray, served in the US Army and is a Vietnam combat veteran. Valerie's fiancé, Tom served as a paratrooper and medic in the US Army and is also a Vietnam combat veteran. Her father, Raymond was also a combat veteran in the US Army.
Operation Vet-Fit inc. 501 C(3)
120 Greenwood Ave - Bethel - CT - 06801
IRS EIN: 46-0672516
Contact email@example.com to inquire, join Vet-Fit, or become a program sponsor.