Veteran Engagement Council (VEC)
Josh Wieringa, LMSW
Josh Wieringa, LMSW, served in the US Army from 2005 to 2015. He was an indirect Infantryman deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan during that time. He finished his service as a Mountain Phase Ranger Instructor.
After getting out of the military, Josh used his education benefits to attend the University of Michigan, where he received a bachelor's in cognitive science and a master in social work. Since graduation, he has worked as a research therapist for the Dept of VA and U of M. He is currently a clinical therapist in outpatient mental health at the VA in Ann Arbor, MI.
Josh joined SPRINT VEC due to his connection with Veteran suicide. He is interested in the process of Veteran engagement, developing measurable matrixes to define EBT for suicide prevention treatment, and using MI to address suicidal ideation and intention.
Don Berry was commissioned in the USAF following graduation from Rutgers University. He was a command pilot with over 3,500 flying hours, serving 30 years in aircrew, flight operations, and major and unified command air mobility assignments. He commanded two air logistics squadrons, and in his terminal assignment, he headed DoD’s scheduled international air cargo and passenger airlift system.
After transitioning from military service, he was employed in the air logistics industry and, since 2013, as a Military Officers Association of America member, has led state and national government affairs engagement on behalf of current, former, and future service members and their families.
In 2017, Don joined Arkansas suicide prevention efforts, securing the Arkansas node on the national Crisis Line. He is a member of the Arkansas Governor’s Challenge team combatting suicide by service members, Veterans, and their families. In addition to being a member of the SPRINT VEC, he also serves on the CeMHOR Veterans Council.
Don earned a BSci from Rutgers, an MA-Management from Webster University, and an MBA from the University of Dallas.
Elesha Granniss, USAF MSgt (retired)
Elesha Granniss, USAF MSgt (retired), served in the US Air Force from 1997 to 2014. During her service, Elesha deployed twice. First, in 2000, to Prince Sultan Air Base in support of Operation Southern Watch and then to Baghdad, Iraq, in 2006, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
After retiring from the Air Force, Elesha was a District Veterans Service Officer for the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs. In July 2022, Elesha accepted a job as the Military Community Liaison at Pinnacle Pointe Behavioral Healthcare (PPH) in Little Rock, Arkansas. PPH provides acute and sub-acute inpatient services for children and adolescents ages 5-17. She assists referral sources and military families (from across the US and overseas) with the admission process, during treatment, and at discharge.
In 2017, Elesha founded the North Central Arkansas Military Service Sisters, a women Veterans social group that gets together to socialize and support each other. During the past five years, Military Service Sisters has grown from 10 to over 100 veterans in a rural area with an estimated 450 women veterans within a 100-mile radius.
Elesha joined SPRINT VEC due to her connection with veteran suicide. Elesha is interested in women's Veteran engagement, suicide prevention in rural areas, and developing measurable matrixes for suicide prevention.
Dan Hall (left), VA Secretary Robert McDonald (right)
Dan Hall served in the Marine Corps for ten years as an Infantry Platoon Sergeant in combat in Vietnam. Upon return from Vietnam, he trained as a Correctional Counselor and then went to Hawaii to open a new correctional custody facility. After discharge, he served as a law enforcement officer along the Mexican Border in Imperial Valley, CA. He was accepted to the San Diego Regional Law Enforcement Training Academy, graduating as Honor Man. His years of experience as a Correctional Counselor gave him great insights into dealing with aberrant criminal behavior. His education includes an Associate in Science with Honors in Law Enforcement, a Bachelor of Science in Public Administration, and a Master of Public Administration with an emphasis on the Administration of Justice.
Dan was twice elected County Judge in Baxter County, AR. After retirement, he served as a Local Veterans Employment Representative, Commander of the Arkansas Department of Disabled Veterans, Department of Arkansas DAV Legislative Officer, Local Chapter Commander of DAV, and Facilitator of Baxter County Together with Veterans Grant to Rural Suicide Prevention through US Veteran Outreach. The Outreach program that he facilitates has resulted in a reduction in the number of Veteran suicides by 75 % in Baxter County and an overall suicide reduction of 35% in the county.
Amanda Matteson served in the Army National Guard (2005 to 2011) as a Blackhawk helicopter mechanic and deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2008. She earned her bachelor’s in psychology in 2011, her Master’s in Social Work (MSW) in 2018, and her Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Social Work in 2022. Her dissertation research focused on women Veteran peer support.
Amanda has a variety of work experiences assisting veterans at a VAMC, including clerical work as a Medical Support Assistant, Veteran healthcare enrollment as a Program Support Assistant, Veteran hiring as a Human Resources Specialist, and macro social work as a Social Work Intern. She was the Program Coordinator for evaluating the NY State Dwyer Veterans Peer-to-Peer Support Programs from 2017 to 2022 while earning her graduate degrees. She serves on the Veterans’ Advisory Board for the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Veterans Mental Health Training Initiative (VMHTI). She is a Health Science Specialist at the War Related Illness and Injury Study Center (WRIISC). She joined the SPRINT-VEC in early 2022 to encourage Veterans’ well-being and mental health as a priority in research.
Kaydance Hope served as a Flight Medical Aidman in the United States Army, a Combat Medic with the United States Army Reserves and Texas Army National Guard, and a Safety Officer and Training Non-Commissioned Office with the Texas State Guard.
Kaydance works as an Assistant Vice President (AVP) for Graduate Medical Education (GME) for the North Florida Division of HCA Healthcare; 24 years of experience in Graduate Medical Education, including Texas A&M/Baylor Scott and White Health, Methodist Health System, Children’s Health, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, CHRISTUS Health, and Broward Health.
Throughout her career, she has received the Texas Humanitarian Service Ribbon from the Texas Military Department, her Flight Medical Aidman Wings, and the Expert Field Medical Badge (EMB), which is one of the most challenging and prestigious Army special skill badges to earn in the United States Army.
Kaydance is an active member of the Veteran’s Administration National Engagement Panels VA SPRINT (Suicide Prevention Impact Network) and a member of the Veteran’s Pain Care Organization Improvement Comparative Effectiveness Study (VEP), which assists the VA with reduction in opioid use in Veterans. She is an active member of the Disabled Veterans of America (DAV) and an active member of the American Legion, serving as a past Assistant Sergeant at Arms for her American Legion post in Texas.
Kelland J. Wright
Kelland J. Wright served in the United States Marine Corps. Kelland was in the artillery during his service and deployed twice to Iraq. During his tours to Iraq, he served as a field artillery crewman and was a part of the military police during his second tour. His time ended in the Marine Corps when he was injured in the line of duty and medically retired.
After the Marine Corps and struggling with mental health, Kelland took advantage of his opportunities and utilized his VA education benefits to attend the University of Toledo for a bachelor’s in social work and a master’s in social work from the University of Michigan.
Kelland currently works at the Detroit VA in the homeless veteran program. He gives case management services that include home visits, giving resources, doing treatment plans, suicide risk assessments, psychotherapy, trauma therapy, care coordination, and advocating for his Veterans.
Kelland joined SPRINT VEC to be able to share his insight and life experiences to help provide sound studies that would help gather data to help decrease the Veteran suicide rate. His life experiences in dealing with mental health issues have led him to dedicate his life to assisting other Veterans to live a better quality of life and better understand mental health for said Veterans to self-advocate for themselves.
Fredierick C. Smith
Fredierick C. Smith, a Marketing Consultant, served in the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Army from 1995 to 2005. During that time, Fredierick served as a Medic deployed to Iraq. After getting out of the military, Fredierick used his education benefits to attend the University of Arkansas and received a bachelor’s in professional technical writing. He currently works as a consultant at Thoughts to Ink providing leadership training and business development to owners, employees, and the youth.
Fredierick joined SPRINT VEC due to losing his best friend to suicide and battling his battle with suicidal ideation. Fredierick is interested in Veteran engagement, developing research that helps Veterans receive better care, and making the VA more modern by addressing today’s needs, not just looking at past events.
Terry DeWitt is an Army Reserve Ambassador commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He was deployed twice to support Operation Iraqi Freedom and was awarded two Bronze Stars. Upon his retirement, he was awarded the Legion of Merit. He graduated from Ouachita Baptist University with a BSE in physical education. He completed a master’s degree in education from Nicholls State University and a master’s degree in physical education from Henderson State University.
Terry began college teaching in 1994 and was promoted to full professor in 2011. He has been the department chair for Kinesiology at his alma mater since 2014. He is starting his 22nd year as a faculty member. Terry is a VFW Life Member, American Heart Association, Rotary International, National Athletic Trainers’ Association, American College of Sports Medicine, and ROA Life Member.
Megan Powell became a military spouse in 2011 and supported her husband through three deployments. As a military spouse, she mentored other spouses, served in Family Readiness Groups, and volunteered with various organizations. After her husband was diagnosed with PTSD/TBI, Megan took on new roles as a caregiver and advocate. She served on Military Officers of America’s Currently Serving Spouse Advisory Council, leading a team tasked with advising MOAA staff of the issues facing Service Members and families concerning mental health gaps and how the organization could best advocate to fill those gaps.
Currently, she serves as an Elizabeth Dole Foundation Fellow, focusing on recognizing Active-Duty caregivers and the effects of caring for invisible wounds.
Megan joined SPRINT VEC to bring a voice to caregivers and family members and their role in suicide prevention.
Hollie Scoma served as a Public Health Journeyman in the United States Air Force from 2005 to 2020. She deployed to Iraq (OIF) and Qatar (OND). Her passion for advocacy began when she saw the challenges those she served with were facing.
Since transiting from the military, Hollie now serves as the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs District 3 Veterans Service Officer (DVSO) for nine counties in North Central Arkansas. As a DVSO, she works closely with County Veteran Service Officers by providing training and support. District 3 is comprised of over 20,000 Veterans.
Hollie is also the Arkansas Women Veterans Coordinator. She provides support, education, resources, and advocacy to over 18,000 Arkansas-wide Women Veterans. With the Women veteran population growing, advocacy is vital for all women veterans due to the significant barriers to VA health care and the benefits they often face.
Hollie has sat on several Veteran-focused boards to improve services for women Veterans with programs in suicide prevention, rural veteran health, domestic/partner violence programs, and military sexual trauma support. She is a Community College of the Air Force graduate with an associate degree in public health technology.
Chantel Boudreau is a Project Associate with SAMHSA's SMVF TA Center at Policy Research Associates, Inc. (PRA). In this role, she provides technical assistance to states, territories, and local communities. Chantel serves as a qualitative analysis consultant and member of the Rensselaer Suicide Prevention Task Force. She is a Navy Veteran who was the night shift supervisor for the Aviation Structural Mechanic (AM) Shop.
In addition to her supervisory role, Chantel served as Training Petty Officer at both commands (Japan and Guam). After the Navy, she attended the University at Albany, where she completed the BA/MA Program. Chantel received a Bachelor of Arts in sociology with minors in public policy and political science in 2018. In 2019, she received her Master of Arts in sociology. She wrote a master thesis, "The Transition from Active Duty to Veterans in Higher Education," inspired by her transitional struggles.
While attending the University at Albany, Chantel founded the Graduate Student Veteran Association. She also volunteered at the American Red Cross in the roles of Hero Care Network Caseworker and Service to Armed Forces Military Event Support. In addition to those roles, she worked under the Regional Eastern New York Director for Service to Armed Forces, assisting her and serving as her Community Resource liaison.
* Source for all images on this page: Veteran Engagement Council (VEC)