Spring 2022 Edition
Honoring Ohio's Fallen and Gold Star Families
Spring is a very important time for the Ohio Department of Veterans Services (ODVS), especially May – which is Military Appreciation Month and a natural setting for many events and ceremonies that honor those who served our nation.
Throughout the month, ODVS produced more social media posts than ever before, including daily “Memorial Month” entries on our official Facebook page that pointed out some of the top monuments and memorials found across the state.
Most noteworthy, though, was the Governor’s Wreath Laying, a public event held May 27 in the Atrium of the Ohio Statehouse in honor of Ohio’s fallen and our amazing Gold Star families, those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. In a return to a traditional ceremony, the program featured remarks from Governor Mike DeWine, Lt. Governor Jon Husted, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, Ohio Adjutant General John C. Harris Jr., ODVS Director Deborah Ashenhurst and Gold Star father Jim Tate. The event also paid special tribute to SGT Joseph P. Collette of Lancaster, PFC Brandon J. Kreischer of Bryan and HM3 Maxton W. Soviak of Berlin Heights, selfless patriots who gave their all to our nation.
First Lady Fran DeWine and Second Lady Tina Husted also attended the event and were part of the official party. The ceremony included stirring musical accompaniment from the 122nd Ohio Army National Guard Band, the Olentangy Liberty Middle School choir and soloist Riley McIntyre as well as a bagpiper and “Taps” bugler. ODVS Policy Administrator Danny Eakins served as the emcee.
And for a reminder of why Memorial Day is so important to the veteran community, please see Director Ashenhurst’s Memorial Day video address, which debuted on May 30. On that same day, the Ohio Veterans Homes held Memorial Day ceremonies with Superintendent Ross Matlack emceeing at OVH-Sandusky and Nursing Home Administrator Linda Slone doing the same at OVH-Georgetown. Director Ashenhurst offered remarks in Georgetown and walked with residents and loved ones down the Memorial Path as flowers were placed on the stone markers there.
Ohio Women Veterans Conference Continues to Take Shape
With summer on the way, now is a great time to remind that ODVS once again will be hosting the Ohio Women Veterans Conference on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022, at the Ohio Union. Registration is underway for this highly anticipated, all-day event, which drew more than 400 registrants when it was last held in 2019.
Special guest speakers will be highlighted throughout the day and registration also covers the cost of a boxed lunch, breakout sessions, a resource expo and much more. We also have secured a block of rooms with a group rate at two area hotels – the Marriott SpringHill Suites and Hyatt Regency Columbus in downtown – for those who may be arriving from out of town.
Ohio is home to approximately 67,000 women veterans and the conference is one of the largest of its kind in the country. The event allows former service members to network, learn about job opportunities and gather key information on benefits and resources, including those offered through the VA.
We look forward to seeing you in August!
Hall of Fame Enshrinement Gathers 2019, 2020, 2021 Classes
Even though it was cloudy in downtown Columbus on June 7, the stars definitely were out at night as more than 30 recently inducted members of the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame ascended to the Davidson Theatre on the third floor of the Riffe Center for a unique Enshrinement Ceremony.
The event gathered Hall of Famers from the 20-member classes of 2019, 2020, and 2021. A majority of the honorees, as well as many family members, special guests, fellow Hall of Famers and veterans, attended the evening program. A dozen of the 60 inductees were honored posthumously during the 40-minute ceremony.
Due to concerns of coronavirus spread during the pandemic, ODVS did not hold a traditional enshrinement ceremony for the three classes. Out of that caution was borne the first-ever triple enshrinement.
While serving as keynote speaker, Director Ashenhurst noted, “It’s amazing that we are finally gathered here today under the same roof to celebrate this honor in person with your classmates. It’s really wonderful to host you all in this one space … and to put the faces with the names, because you have all inspired us.”
Dr. Dana L. Robinson-Street of the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame Foundation also provided remarks. ODVS Assistant Director Sean McCarthy served as emcee and recited the names of all 60 inductees from the past three years. Each of the honorees received final approval from Governor DeWine prior to their induction, and the Governor was able to express his gratitude -- either personally or virtually -- to all of them during various ceremonies held over the past three years.
We captured many photos including the honorees posing with their class plaques in a loaded Flickr album. Also, the Ohio Channel recorded the full ceremony and later housed the video on its website, ohiochannel.org.
Springing into a Busy Outreach Season
With veteran and military events seemingly back in full force, ODVS participated in many over a busy spring to help pay homage to service members and their loved ones. Below is merely a sampling of our recent outreach efforts:
April 14 – Ohio Laborers’ Training Center in Howard
During a special visit and tour of the 120-acre complex, Director Ashenhurst was able to learn more about the apprenticeship program on hand and meet with veterans who are both participants and instructors.
April 22 – Military Hall of Fame for Valor Induction Ceremony in Columbus
The Director joined Governor DeWine on stage to present medals of commendation in honor of 17 Ohioans known for their highly accomplished military service in this solemn annual event.
May 2 – Visit to Hocking College in Nelsonville
To kick off In-Demand Jobs Week, Director Ashenhurst and Workforce Manager Ryan Blackburn visited with student veterans, toured the campus and learned more about the curriculum there that trains and certifies students for careers of high need. The school, which is home to more than 70 former military members, is on the verge of unveiling a new 250-hour Telecommunications Tower Training program that can certify 5G technicians in just eight weeks.
May 5 – The Wall That Heals opening ceremony in Findlay
Assistant Director McCarthy offered remarks to patriotic northwest Ohioans who braved wet and chilly conditions to attend a “Welcome Home” ceremony in front of The Wall That Heals, a mobile, to-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial that sits on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
May 9 – 42nd Annual Governor’s Holocaust Commemoration in Cincinnati
Governor DeWine, Director Ashenhurst, and several other dignitaries toured the museum at the Nancy & David Wolf Holocaust & Humanity Center, followed by a live-streamed 80-minute program which served as a reminder of the horrors of the loss of millions of Jewish lives in Europe during World War II as well as a full tribute to the survivors, liberators and upstanders to murderous Nazi oppression. Director Ashenhurst conducted a pre-recorded interview with 96-year-old veteran and liberator Henry Armstrong, a highlight of the program.
May 16 – Tour of Rocky Brands, Inc. in Nelsonville and Logan
VP Mark Dean provided a tour for Director Ashenhurst that included input from CEO Jason Brooks, Talent Acquisition Manager Ashley Walter, Marketing Director Sarah Williams and President of Operations Richard Simms. A 90-year-old Ohio company that works contractually with the Defense Logistics Agency to provide gear to our Armed Forces, Rocky Brands also regularly donates Rocky Boots to homeless veterans.
May 18 – Vets Moving Forward resource fair in Fairborn
Held on the campus of Wright State University, the 5th Annual Vets Moving Forward opened with remarks of gratitude from Director Ashenhurst and included the presence of several military-friendly businesses.
(For a recap of this event and other key ventures in recent years, check out our On The Road video series webpage.)
May 21 – Veterans Memorial ribbon-cutting ceremony in South Lebanon
The Director participated in a lively outdoor event, joining local officials and legislators in patriotic Warren County to celebrate the opening of a beautiful new Veterans Memorial – a perfect lead-in to Armed Forces Day.
May 25 – AMVETS State of Ohio Commander of the Year presentation in Marion
Director Ashenhurst joined Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Director Annette Chambers-Smith at the Marion Correctional Institution for an AMVETS Post 42 meeting to recognize incarcerated person Calvin Brown with a certificate of achievement. A former Marine with 20 years of logged military service, Brown was named the AMVETS State of Ohio Commander the Year, a unique accomplishment since his post is specifically for an incarcerated population.
June 1 – Annual Salute to Service Day brunch in Muirfield Village
The Director and Workforce Manager Blackburn represented ODVS at this well-done event which honors veterans, active-duty military members and Gold Star families on the eve of the first round of The Memorial Tournament just outside of Dublin.
June 3 – Memorial Tournament Military Outpost in Muirfield Village
Just a few holes away – near the 13th green, to be exact – ODVS staffers engaged veterans in support of agency partner JobsOhio, which hosted this golf oasis for service members and their loved ones throughout the PGA Tour event..
Ohio Workforce, SAA Teams Come into Focus
While maintaining an outstanding assemblage of doctors, nurses, caregivers and staff at our Ohio Veterans Homes is always a top priority, ODVS also endeavors to find the best people to thrive in positions at our Columbus and regional offices. To that end, the department recently made some exciting new acquisitions of talent in two key divisions: the State Approving Authority (SAA) office and our Veterans Workforce Team.
A resident of Cleveland and U.S. Army veteran, Wanda Jackson is our new SAA regional consultant, with duties in eastern Ohio. She has worked in education for 10-plus years and has more than 20 years of experience in training and development. Wanda completed her M.Ed. while serving as a Graduate Assistant for the Veteran Student Success Program at Cleveland State University, where she speared-headed CSU’s award-winning Vet-Tutoring-Vet program.
Meanwhile, the newly hired Daniel Hof is an Ohio Army National Guard veteran who currently resides in Liberty Township, Ohio. He serves as a Veterans Benefits Education Consultant for the State Approving Agency with duties in southwest Ohio. Before joining ODVS, Dan worked as a Disabled Veteran Outreach Program Specialist with the Ohio Department of Job & Family Services from 2017-22. He served for nine years as a combat engineer in the Ohio Army National Guard. He utilized his VA education benefits to earn a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Indiana Wesleyan University.
The Workforce Team also added two new faces this spring in the form of Marine Corps veteran Tyler Emley, who was deployed to combat zones in Afghanistan, and Army veteran Kennedy Dennard Sr.
Tyler is a native Ohioan who currently resides in Akron. Upon being honorably discharged from active duty, he utilized his GI Bill at Ohio University, where he completed a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. He then pursued a graduate degree from Bowling Green State University, where he received a master’s in Public Administration. Previously, Tyler worked as a manager for veteran services at a community college in northwest Ohio and as a specialist in workforce services for northeast Ohio’s unemployed job seekers.
Kennedy specialized in air defense and supply while in the Army. After receiving an honorable discharge from the military, he worked in the Lima City Schools and Perry High School Districts. He has worked for several state agencies in the past 13 years, all of those assignments with an eye on helping veterans. He is a graduate with an associate’s degree from The Ohio State University and a bachelor’s degree from Liberty University.
The Workforce Team also recently announced that longtime ODVS staffer Chris Picha has assumed the role of Central Region Consultant while Tyler has coverage of the East Region and Kennedy will handle duties in the West Region.
Chris is an Army veteran who originally joined ODVS as the Ohio Troops to Teachers State Coordinator in 2010, assisting transitioning military veterans interested in becoming public school primary and secondary educators. With a background in medical logistics, healthcare administration and education, he later served as the department’s Military and Veteran Liaison, connecting veterans and their spouses and family members with programs and benefits available throughout the state. He resides in Reynoldsburg.