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Center for Minority Veterans (CMV)


Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans (ACMV)

Melissa Castillo

Melissa Castillo, Assistant Veterans Service Officer at the Bexar County Veterans Service Office (VSO) in San Antonio, TX., was born and raised in Laredo, Texas until age 10 when her family moved to Converse, Texas.

Ms. Castillo enlisted in the Navy in 1994 and separated from active duty in 1996 with an honorable discharge.  From 2003-2007, she served in the Navy Reserve.  She completed basic training and Torpedoman’s Mate “A” School at the Naval Air Station, Orlando, FL.  Her duty station included on board the USS Simon Lake (AS-33) in La Maddalena, Sardinia, Italy; Naval Submarine Base, New London, CT; and Naval Operational Support Center, San Antonio, TX.

Ms. Castillo is an accredited Veterans Service Officer and has assisted many Veterans, surviving spouses and dependents in acquiring benefits with the Department of Veterans Affairs for over 8 years.  She is currently the Treasurer of the Veterans County Service Officer Association of Texas and is a member of the San Antonio Aggie Mom Club.  She also served as the Assistant Regional Director for San Antonio Region, Veterans County Service Officer Association of Texas; as the Assistant Women Veterans Coordinator; as Veteran’s Liaison for Congressman Ciro Rodriquez to coordinate with office staff in assisting Veterans and surviving spouse’s in applying for DVA benefits; Veterans Liaison for VITAS Innovative Hospice Care; Liaison to the Gold Star Families in Bexar County; Advisor to the US Army Survivor Outreach Services Program, and Advisor to the Alamo Community College District Veterans Affairs Committee.

Ms. Castillo has received many awards and recognition which included:  Appreciation Award Plaque for Outreach Service from Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 837; Outstanding Officer of the Year Award 2011-2012 from the Veterans County Service Officer Association of Texas; Appreciation Plaque for Outreach Services from Veterans of Foreign Wars from Harlandale Memorial Post 4815; Certificate of Honor from the Veterans County Service Officers Association of Texas; Certificate of Recognition and Honor from Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 76; and Certificate of Appreciation from Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9603.

Ms. Castillo graduated from Judson High School in Converse, Texas.  She graduated from Our Lady of the Lake University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work and is currently prospecting graduate schools to further her education while working full-time.

She has volunteered, in the local community center, coaching sports to youths.  She is a proud single mother of two girls and is a mentor to many of her daughter’s friends.

Benno Cleveland
Alaska Native

Benno Cleveland is an Alaska Native Veteran, born in Fairbanks, Alaska.  He enlisted in the Army in 1968 under the “Great Society Choice” and served two tours of duty in Dong Tam, Vietnam, where he earned a Purple Heart before being released from the service in 1970.

In 2000, Mr. Cleveland founded the Alaska Native Veterans Association and is currently serving as the President.  He helps Alaska Native Veterans identify and advocate for benefits due to them from local, state and federal agencies.  After dealing with PTSD himself, he now assists other Veterans in dealing with PTSD and with other health issues related to PTSD.

He has served on numerous boards:  Coordinator, Spiritual Unity of the Tribes Gathering in Alaska; Vice President, Alaska Native Veterans Association from 2000-2002; Vice Chair and Chair, Midnight Sun Intertribal Pow Wow Council; Senior Vice Commander and Department Commander, Military Order of the Purple Heart; and member of the Chapel of the Four Chaplains.

In recognition of Mr. Cleveland’s distinguished military service and continued service, the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) bestowed him with their “Veteran of the Year” honors in 2014 at their Annual Convention in Anchorage, Alaska.

Many-Bear Grinder, Colonel, USA (Retired)
Pacific Islander

Colonel Many-Bears Grinder is a U. S. Army National Guard retiree with over 35 years of service.  She was an Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) veteran who served in Afghanistan.  During her deployment, Colonel Grinder served as the Head of Secretariat for the International Police Coordination Board.  She has also worked with Afghan Police forces and senior officials to ensure standardized training for the Afghan Police.

In January 2011, Governor Bill Haslam selected Many-Bears Grinder to be the Commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs.  She has the honor of being the first woman to serve the State in this capacity.  Commissioner Grinder has been instrumental in opening a new State Veterans Cemetery in East Tennessee and Veterans have received more than 1.9 billion dollars in federal funding from claims filed by the department in 2015.  Mrs. Many-Bears Grinder has created many milestones since her appointment in 2011 to include:  the state’s first formal casualty standard operating procedure to assist casualty officers and surviving members, co-hosting the first Women Veteran’s Summit in 2012 that offered networking opportunities as well as benefit and health information.

Colonel Grinder holds a Master’s degree in Strategic Studies from the Army War College and a Master’s degree in Human Resource Development from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.  She is a member of several military and Veteran organizations including AMVETS, the American Legion and Disabled Veterans of America.

In 2004, Many-Bears Grinder was inducted into the Fort Benning Hall of Fame for her many accomplishments.

Patricia Jackson-Kelley, Lieutenant Colonel, USA (Retired)
African American

Lieutenant Colonel Jackson-Kelly retired from the military after completing 26 years of active duty and reserve military service.  She also retired from the Greater Los Angeles VA, Los Angeles Campus.  Ms. Jackson-Kelley served as one of the first full time Women Veteran Program Managers (coordinators).  She was instrumental in creating many of the initiatives for women Veterans.  She currently serves as a member of the LA County Veterans Advisory Council; Board Member of Military Women in Need Organization and LA County Council Commander of the American Legion.

She has been the recipient of prestigious awards at the National, State, and local levels.  To name just a few:  California Department of Veteran Affairs’ Veteran of the Year and Achievement in Leadership, 47th Assembly District Assembly Member, Holly J. Mitchell and 62nd Assembly District Steven Bradford Veteran of the Year, Ford Freedom Unsung Military Honoree, Sylvia Renee Banton Award and 23rd District Veteran of the Year.

Ms. Jackson-Kelley holds an Associate Degree in Applied Science in Nursing, Bachelor of Science in Nursing, and a Masters in Public Administration in Health Service Management.

She is married to George Kelley, a Korean War Veteran.  She has one son, four grandchildren, and her husband has 5 adult children.  When she takes time out to enjoy leisure and relaxation, her interests include traveling, reading, and attending cultural events.

Ginger Miller
African American

Ginger Miller is a native New Yorker and former homeless service disabled Veteran.  She served in the Navy from 1989 to 1992.  After taking care of her husband, a disabled Veteran who has suffered from PTSD for over a decade and experiencing homelessness with her family, she became Founder and CEO of two nonprofit organizations that serves Veterans and their families:  John 14:2, Inc. and Women Veterans Interactive.

Ms. Miller’s advocacy and outreach efforts have led her to host Veteran Round Tables with state Veterans agencies and elected representatives.  She facilitates workshops for Veteran caregivers and frequently receives invitations to speak at various government agencies.  She has served on numerous boards:  Chairwoman of the Prince George’s County Veterans Commission; Commissioner Maryland Commission for Women; Member of the Maryland Veterans Resilience Advisory Council; Maryland Minority Business Economic Advisory Committee; and a Member of the Maryland Caregivers Support Coordinating Council.  She is currently a member of Disabled American Veteran (DAV).  She was recognized by the White House as a 2013 Champion of Change for Women Veterans.

Ms. Miller received a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting from Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY and is currently pursuing a Masters in Nonprofit Management and her MBA at the University of Maryland University College.

Librado M. Rivas, Command Sergeant Major, USA (Retired)

Command Sergeant Major Rivas retired with over 25 years of total U.S. Army service.  Mr. Rivas has over 42 years of combined U.S. Army and Government service.  As a Command Sergeant Major, Mr. Rivas served at the Brigade and Battalion level.  As a Government civilian, Mr. Rivas served in the Pentagon, as a senior GS-15, leading Army-wide programs in Lean Six Sigma, Force Structure, Systems Analyses and Permanent Change of Station.

Mr. Rivas serves as a life-time member in the American GI Forum, American Legion, Disabled American Veterans and Veterans of Foreign Wars.  In the American GI Forum, Mr. Rivas has served as National Vice-Commander, National Treasurer, National Secretary, National Liaison Officer-Washington, DC and State Commander.  In these capacities, he provides leadership, direction and recommendations to the VA and VSOs to ensure Veterans are provided the entitlement and benefits we have all earned by our service to our country.  As a Post Service Officer with VFW 76, San Antonio, TX, Mr. Rivas also works with Veterans to provide assistance and keep them informed of their entitlements and benefits offered by VA, federal, state and local agencies.

Mr. Rivas’s last federal position was at the Pentagon serving as Director, Army Lean Six Sigma (LSS) Program.  He provided leadership and direction for the Army-wide program focused on continuous process improvement.  He served as the LSS Principal Advisor to general officers who are the stewards of our nation’s military resources.  Mr. Rivas ensured that the Lean Six Sigma Program continued to be an essential element to drive performance excellence to reducing inefficiencies and cost and enabling informed decision making.

Mr. Rivas holds a Master’s of Science in Administration from Central Michigan University and a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration from the University of Maryland.

Mr. Rivas is a native of Sinton, TX and the father of two - Lee, Jr. and Susan.

Xiomara Sosa

Xiomara A. Sosa is the Founder and Principal of XAS Consulting, LLC (XAS), an integrative mental healthcare and holistic wellness private practice consulting firm she founded in 2003 that serves all communities.  She is a clinical mental health – forensic counselor, a nonprofit executive, a social change advocate, and a United States military Veteran.  As a multicultural counselor, her cultural competency specialty is focused on working with the Hispanic, Veteran, and sexual and gender minority (LGBTQQIA) communities.

During Ms. Sosa’s military career, she served in the Air Force Reserves from 1983-1986, in the Army from 1986-1988, and in the Army Reserves from 1988-1994.  She was awarded the Campaign Air Force Training Ribbon, Campaign Army Service Ribbon, Army Certificate of Achievement for Meritorious Service and Army Achievement Medal for Meritorious Service.

Ms. Sosa founded two national nonprofit, social change advocacy organizations:  The Get-Right!  Organization, Inc. in 2010 and You Are Strong!  in 2011 to effect positive social change through innovative and purposeful advocacy initiatives that serve her communities.

Ms. Sosa has served on numerous boards:  Women Veteran Social Justice Board of Directors; Military Partners and Families Veteran Initiative; Semper Fidelis Health and Wellness Advisory Board Mental Health Officer; Senate Republican Conference Task Force on Hispanic Affairs Advisory Committee, and is currently a member of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation, Inc.

She earned her Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology from the University of Phoenix and her Master of Science Degree in Mental Health – Forensic Counseling from Walden University.  She is currently a doctoral student working on her Doctor of Philosophy in Human Services – Public Health.  She is a National Certified Counselor and Licensed Professional Counselor-Intern (Application Pending).  She attended the USAF University Community College of the Air Force, is a graduate of the USAF Military Training Center, the USAF Technical Training Center, and the United States Army Training Center.

Teresita Smith, Sergeant First Class, USA (Retired)
Pacific Islander

Sergeant First Class Teresita “Terri” Guevara Smith was born in Guam and raised in the village of Ordot.  She joined the United States Army as a Patient Administrator and eventually changed her career field to become an Intelligence Analyst in 1980.  Terri’s patriotic service spans over 37 years, from the U.S. Army and as a civilian with the Department of Defense.  She retired from active service as a Sergeant First Class in February 1997.

As a Veteran of Foreign Wars, she has been in the Persian Gulf War (December 1990 - May 1991) and Iraq War.  In the Iraq War, Terri deployed (volunteered) as a DOD Civilian (January—August 2005).  Terri joined the Defense Intelligence Agency as an Intelligence Officer and earned numerous awards.  Her greatest accomplishment was receiving the “The Knowlton Award,” one of the highest honors in Military Intelligence presented by the Office Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) for her work in the Department of Defense Open Source Intelligence Collection Management Program.  Terri also received three Intelligence Community (IC) Meritorious Unit Citations with the most recent citations for her work in the Afghanistan Pakistan Task Force, and her subsequent awards were:  the Defense Intelligence Diversity Award 2002; and the Federal Asian Pacific American Council 2013 Civilian Award “Outstanding Individual Leadership” recipient.  Recently, she founded the Defense Intelligence Veterans Assisting Veterans (VAV) in her agency.

Terri has held several leadership roles working with the following non-profit organizations:  Former President to the oldest Guam club, the Guam Society of America, Washington D.C.; Senior Advisor on Chamorro Women Veterans and Maryland Coordinator to the National Organization of Chamorro Veterans in America, United States, Guam, and CNMI; Guam representative to the Pacific Island Council of Leaders; Prince Georges Minority Group/NAACP, Upper Marlboro Maryland; Founder and Co-Chairman of the National Organization of Pacific Islanders in America.

Terri has pursued numerous Joint Military Intelligence Training and College Course, with National Intelligence University Classes; towards completing her degree.

Rebecca S. Stone, Staff Sergeant, USA (Retired)
Native American

Staff Sergeant Rebecca Stone is a Veteran of the US Army and served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn.  Originally from Oklahoma, she now resides in Maryland.

She earned her certificate in Applied Behavior and Social Science and her B.S. in Psychology under the University System of Maryland.  She also completed graduate intensive programs in Cultural Neuroscience from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.  She currently serves as a Commissioner for the Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives (GOCI) – Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs (MCIA) as well as the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs-Commission on Military Monuments.  She holds several other community positions throughout the state of Maryland.

She represents the Native American community and is a member of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma.

**Marvin Trujillo, Jr., US Marine Corps
Native American

Mr. Trujillo is a Laguna Tribal Member who belongs to the Road Runner, Little Parrot, and Turkey Clans.  He serves as the Tribal Veterans Service Officer for the Pueblo of Laguna and the Co-Chair of the All Indian Pueblo Council Veterans Committee.

Mr. Trujillo entered the United States Navy in 1993, and served four years as an Aviation Electronics Technician, Aviation Warfare Specialist 2nd Class Petty Officer.  He specialized in the F-14 Tomcat Avionic and Radar Weapons Systems.  Mr. Trujillo served multiple tours to the Persian Gulf with Fighter Squadron Eleven (VF-11) on board the USS Independence, USS Carl Vinson, and the USS John C. Stennis.  He later entered the Hampton Roads Naval ROTC Unit and went to college at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia.  In 2001, Mr. Trujillo graduated with his Bachelors of Science in Communication, and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps.  He later attended Flight Training at Naval Air Station Pensacola and Aviation Maintenance Officer School at Naval Air Station Whiting Field in Florida.  He served with Marine Air Wing Group 13 at Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Arizona.  Mr. Trujillo was elected and served as the 2nd Lt Governor for the Pueblo of Laguna in 2009-2010.  He served as a member of the Pueblo’s Energy Core Team for PNM, Continental Divide Electric Cooperative, and New Mexico Gas Company.

Mr. Trujillo also served as the Ex-Officio to the Laguna Development Corporation, the Mid-Region Council of Government–Metropolitan Transportation Board, the New Mexico State–Tribal Collaboration and Communication Work Group for a Safer New Mexico, and was a member of the All Indian Pueblo Council.  Mr. Trujillo resides in New Mexico.

Cornell A. Wilson Jr., Major General, USMC (Retired)
African American

Major General Cornell Wilson, Jr. currently serves as North Carolina’s Secretary of Military and Veterans Affairs.  He advises the Governor, State Agencies and General Assembly on initiatives to support the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security communities and activities located in the state.  He also chairs the Governor’s Working Group on Veterans, Service members and their Families to ensure their needs are met through coordination and collaboration with the Veterans Administration, State Agencies and Veterans organizations.

A graduate of the University of South Carolina, he received his commission in the United States Marine Corps through the Navy ROTC program in 1972.  He has a long and distinguished record of service to our country in both active and reserve duty assignments.  He has commanded Combat Arms and Combat Service Support units from the Company, Battalion, Group and Brigade levels. His staff assignments included service in manpower, operations and logistics positions.  Selected as a General Officer in 1999, he served as a Deputy Commanding General for Marine Forces Central Command, Commanding General for 4th Logistics Service Support Group, Commanding General for II MACE, Deputy Commanding General II MEF, Commanding General Marine Forces Europe, Deputy Commanding General Marine Forces Command, and Commanding General Marine Forces Southern Command.  In 2003, he commanded a Joint Task Force of Coalition Partners in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom based in Kuwait.

His professional military education includes the Harvard University Program for Senior Executives for National and International Security, Marshall Center Senior Executive Seminar, NATO Defense College General and Flag Officer Course, National Defense University’s Capstone Course and the Logtech Executive Course.

Cornell is a founding Board member for Charlotte Bridge Home, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting military members and their families transitioning off of active duty.  He and his wife, Mary, reside in Charlotte, N.C.

Anthony C. Woods, USA
African American

Tony Woods, a northern California native, works for Cisco as an advisor to government clients focused on innovation and security.  Prior to joining Cisco, Tony worked for President Obama’s reelection campaign and served in the Obama administration as a White House Fellow assigned to the US Office of Personnel Management.  Before that, Tony managed a program that developed volunteer-driven solutions for American cities as a program director at ServiceNation.  The program focused on improving outcomes in third grade literacy attainment, environmental sustainability, neighborhood revitalization, and Veteran reintegration.

In 2009, Tony launched a bid to represent California’s 10th district in the US House of Representatives.  He’s served as an aide to the Governor of New York and as an officer in the US Army.  While in the Army, he deployed twice to Iraq and earned the Bronze Star for his service.  Tony has written op-eds on politics and national security for The Washington Post, Daily Beast, and Huffington Post and appears regularly on TheAgenda on SiriusXM.

He’s earned an M.P.P. from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, a B.S. from West Point, and is currently an Executive MBA candidate at the University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business.  Tony serves on the Board of Directors of the Human Rights Campaign and on advisory boards for the American Red Cross and the Truman National Security Project.  Tony and his husband Zack reside in the Washington DC area.

**   Chairman

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