GWOT Memorial Foundation
President Bush was born on July 6, 1946, in New Haven, Connecticut, to Barbara and George H.W. Bush – later the 41st President of the United States. In 1948, the family moved to Texas, where George W. Bush grew up in Midland and Houston. He received a bachelor’s degree in history from Yale University in 1968 and a master’s degree in business administration from Harvard Business School in 1975. He served as a pilot in the Texas Air National Guard from 1968 to 1974. He settled in Midland, where he started an energy business and married Laura Welch on November 5, 1977. After working on his father’s successful 1988 Presidential campaign, George W. Bush joined a group of partners that purchased the Texas Rangers baseball franchise in 1989.
On November 8, 1994, George W. Bush was elected the 46th Governor of Texas. In 1998, he became the first governor in Texas history to be elected to consecutive four-year terms.
After the Presidency, George and Laura Bush founded the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, Texas. The Bush Center is home to the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, which houses President Bush’s presidential papers. The Bush Center is also home to the George W. Bush Institute, a public policy organization that focuses on economic growth, education reform, global health, and human freedom. The Bush Institute supports the rights of women with its Women’s Initiative and honors those who have served in the United States armed forces through its Military Service Initiative.
President Bush is the author of Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors, a collection of paintings and stories honoring the sacrifice and courage of America’s veterans. He is also the author of two bestselling books, Decision Points and 41.
He and Laura are the parents of twin daughters, Barbara and Jenna, son-in-law, Henry Hager, and proud grandparents of Margaret Laura “Mila” and Poppy Louise Hager. The Bush family also includes two cats, Bob and Bernadette, as well as Freddy the dog.
Michael “Rod” Rodriguez is the President and CEO of the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Foundation. Rod joined the U.S. Army in 1992 and attended the Special Forces Assessment and Selection course to become a Green Beret in 1997. In 2013, he was medically retired due to numerous combat injuries. His last assignment as a Green Beret came as a Sniper Instructor assigned to the JFK Special Warfare Center (Range 37) at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He has deployed ten times in service to our nation.
Rod’s involvement with the GWOT Memorial Foundation began in 2016 when he joined the organization as a board member in support of the Foundation’s sole mission to construct a Memorial on the National Mall that appropriately honors the profound service and sacrifices of all who served in America’s longest war. Rod later led the organization as President and CEO from March 2018 to September 2020 before taking a leave of absence for a personal matter and overseas deployment. He was re-appointed President and CEO in December 2021.
From 2015-2018, Rod served as a member of President George W. Bush’s Military Service Initiative Advisory Council, advising, and supporting the President and leadership of the Bush Institute on strategies and programs to support veterans and their families. In 2013, Rod was appointed as a Fellow of the Manhattan-based Explorers Club, an international organization dedicated to the advancement of scientific exploration and inquiry, for his research on traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress.
In August of 2021, Rod directly assisted in evacuating U.S. allied personnel and their families from Afghanistan, and he continues to provide support for their resettlement. He helps several other non-profits in both veteran and non-veteran spaces. He also provides leadership advice and training to local, state, and national government agencies, corporations, and private businesses. Rod holds a B.S. in Strategic Studies and Defense Analysis and an M.A. in Diplomacy with a concentration in International Conflict Management, both from Norwich University.
As an artist who works with metal, Rod is a passionate advocate for the power of art to heal, connect, and inspire us all. In addition to being part of several private collections including the British Royal Family, his work has been exhibited at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, Texas and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Rod also works with the National Endowment for the Arts Creative Forces initiative.
Rod is a New Mexico native who comes from a family with a strong tradition of military service. Both his grandfathers served during World War II, and his father is a Vietnam veteran. His eldest son is currently serving with the 82nd Airborne Division and has deployed twice, one of which was to the same regions of Afghanistan as Rod. Rod is a committed outspoken advocate for veterans and their families and often speaks publicly on the need to increase understanding of life experiences between the civilian and military communities. Most importantly, Rod is a proud grandfather, father, and hermano to many.
Theodore “Ted” C. Skokos, a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, is an entrepreneur and philanthropist residing in Dallas, Texas. Ted’s extensive 21-year legal career began as a deputy prosecutor and ultimately led to managing partner of Skokos, Bequette, and Billingsley, P.A. in Little Rock, Arkansas. While working as an attorney, Ted proudly served in the U.S. Army Reserves and was one of 550 U.S. soldiers to serve in all three missions of the Persian Gulf War, i.e., Desert Shield, Desert Storm, and Provide Comfort. Upon returning from the war, he retired from the Army in 1992 as a 21-year veteran.
Two years later, in 1994, Ted retired from the practice of law and turned his energy toward building entities that would benefit society, most notably in the wireless industry focused on everything from bringing cellular service to rural communities to providing high-speed wireless internet service to major metropolitan areas. From 2002 through 2008, Ted and his Aloha Partners acquired 700 MHz C-Block wireless spectrum licenses in FCC auctions as well as on the secondary market to cover 196 million people in 281 markets including 72 of the top 100 and all of the top 10 markets in the U.S. Those licenses were purchased by AT&T Mobility in 2008 for $2.5 billion. Before selling, Aloha pioneered using UHF-TV for wireless broadband in Phoenix, Arizona in 2006. Aloha also pioneered using UHF-TV to send TV channels to smartphones in Las Vegas, Nevada in 2007. After acquiring the Aloha licenses, AT&T followed Aloha’s lead with a nationwide rollout of high-speed wireless Broadband using 700 MHz spectrum that revolutionized communications.
Believing that we each have a responsibility to leave the earth a little better than we found it, Ted and his wife Shannon founded The Ted and Shannon Skokos Foundation in 2008, which awards grants to public charities that make a positive impact by, among other things, advancing the arts, humanity, education, and faith. Ted has served on numerous boards, including The Global War on Terrorism Memorial Foundation (Chairman), The Texas Rangers Baseball Club, The Ted and Shannon Skokos Foundation, UT Southwestern Medical Foundation, ATS Medical Inc., Denison Ministries, Dallas Center for the Performing Arts President’s Advisory Board, and North Texas Super Bowl XLV Host Committee.
Ted is also a former racecar driver in the North American circuit of the Ferrari Challenge Racing Series, where he and his teammate were North American Champions in 2009. He received both his Bachelor of Science degree and his Juris Doctorate from the University of Arkansas. He has three children and five grandchildren all residing in Arkansas.
Kenneth A. Hersh, 58, is President, Chief Executive Officer, and board member of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, a Dallas-based non-partisan institution which houses the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum and the George W. Bush Institute. Mr. Hersh focuses on executing the strategy to sustain the Bush Center’s mission for the long term.
He is the Co-Founder and former CEO of NGP Energy Capital Management, a premier private equity investment franchise in the natural resources industry managing over $20 billion of cumulative committed capital since inception in 1988. Until 2016, Mr. Hersh served as NGP’s Chief Executive Officer. From 1988 through the end of 2015, under his leadership, NGP invested over $12 billion and achieved significant investment returns making it one of the nation’s leading private equity firms.
Mr. Hersh currently manages his family investment office and serves as Senior Advisor to The Carlyle Group’s natural resources division. He also sits on the boards of the Texas Rangers Baseball Club and the Dallas Citizens Council. In addition, Mr. Hersh serves on the Board of Overseers of the Hoover Institution, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the National Council of the American Enterprise Institute, and the Dean’s Council of the Harvard Kennedy School. In 2014, he was recognized as Master Entrepreneur of the Year for the Southwest Region by Ernst & Young during its Entrepreneur of the Year program, and in 2017 received the Oil & Gas Council’s Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2020, Mr. Hersh received the L. Frank Pitts Energy Leadership Award conferred by the SMU Cox School of Business for demonstrating outstanding leadership and innovation in the field of energy.
Mr. Hersh is also very involved in the nonprofit arena both nationally and locally on a personal basis and through the efforts of the Hersh Foundation. He serves on the boards of the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Foundation, the Communities Foundation of Texas, the Baylor Scott & White Dallas Foundation, and sits on the Advisory Council of The Asian American Foundation. In 2015, Mr. Hersh received the St. Mark’s School of Texas Distinguished Alumnus Award. In 2019, he received the Henry Cohn Humanitarian Award, presented by the Texoma region of the Anti-Defamation League for his work in advancing the cause of human rights, dignity, and equal opportunity.
Prior to co-founding NGP, Mr. Hersh was employed by Morgan Stanley & Co. where he was a member of the firm’s energy group specializing in oil and gas financing and merger and acquisition transactions.
Mr. Hersh was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. After graduating from St. Mark’s, he attended Princeton University where he graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Politics in 1985. In 1989, Mr. Hersh earned his M.B.A. from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business where he graduated as an Arjay Miller Scholar.
Mr. Hersh resides in Dallas, Texas.
Rye Barcott is co-founder and CEO of WithHonor.org, a disruptive political organization helping to reduce polarization and repair our country by electing and supporting a cross-partisan coalition of next-generation veterans who pledge to put principles before politics. Barcott served in the U.S. Marine Corps and co-founded the non-governmental organization Carolina for Kibera to fight extreme poverty. He has been a part of Carolina for Kibera as a volunteer and board member for nearly 20 years. His book, It Happened on the Way to War, juxtaposes military service and social entrepreneurship. Dartmouth awarded him an honorary doctorate of Humane Letters. After the Marines, Barcott earned his MBA and MPA and co-founded the clean energy investment firm Double Time Capital with another post 9-11 veteran. He lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife and children.
U.S. Navy Veteran, community change agent, veteran advocate, mother of two, and CEO of D-DEY Response Group, Cecilia Deyo was born and raised in Fort Worth, Texas. At the age of 19, she began her eight year tenure with the U.S. Navy that included an Iraq War deployment, the awarding of Sailor of the Year, multiple awards, honors, and commendations, and an honorable discharge in 2009.
During Cecilia’s Navy deployment, she met Don Deyo, a US Army Special Forces operator and first responder. After her separation from military service, they married and soon added to their blended family with the arrivals of their children, Daniel and Madeleine. “Team Deyo” as Cecilia refers to them includes Cynnamon and DJ Deyo, Don’s two older children.
With the help of her mentors, Cecilia established D-DEY Response Group in 2014 in the kitchen of her home as a stay-at-home mom and full-time student at Florida Atlantic University. From humble beginnings, D-DEY has doubled in revenue nearly every year since its inception and has grown to be an elite force in crisis training.
Cecilia’s vision for D-DEY was twofold – to create value-focused careers for members of her beloved veteran community and to empower and prepare students to become potential heroes in an emergency.
Helping fellow citizens and first responders throughout the nation overcome living life in fear through training and preparedness is one of the greatest responsibilities to have. D-Dey is proud to provide a program that allows others to save and respond to a life in need while building confidence and empowerment in its clients.
As D-Dey has grown, so has Cecilia’s drive to expand the company’s footprint. In 2018, she founded D-Dey Relief Corp, serving as the president of this not-for-profit organization that was dedicated to sending medical aid and security teams to areas devastated by natural disasters during Hurricane Dorian. In 2020, she established two more companies with the founding of D-DEY Offshore and D-DEY Tactical.
Cecilia’s compassion extends beyond D-Dey. Since 2010 she has dedicated herself to other business, community and non-profit activities. They include: FAU Entrepreneur Bootcamp 2014, Junior League of Martin County 2010-2018 Active Member, Junior League of Martin County 2019 Sustainer, Impact 100 Martin County 2018 – present, Freedom Fighter Outdoors Volunteer 2016-2017 and Freedom Fighter Outdoors Board 2018-Present.
General Joseph L. Votel is a retired U.S. Army Four-Star officer and most recently the Commander of the U.S. Central Command – responsible for U.S. and coalition military operations in the Middle East, Levant and Central and South Asia. During his 39 years in the military, he commanded special operations and conventional military forces at every level. His career included combat in Panama, Afghanistan and Iraq. Notably, he led a 79-member coalition that successfully liberated Iraq and Syria from the Islamic State Caliphate. He preceded his assignment at CENTCOM with service as the Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command and the Joint Special Operations Command.
Votel was recognized with the Distinguished Military Leadership Award from the Atlantic Council, the U.S. – Arab Defense Leadership Award from the National Council on U.S. - Arab Relations, the Patriot Award from the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, the SGT James T. Regan Lifetime Achievement Award from the “Lead the Way” Foundation and the Freedom Award from the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum.
In January of 2020, General Votel became President & CEO of Business Executives for National Security (BENS). He is a Strategic Advisor for Sierra Nevada Corporation as well as a member of the Board of Trustees for Noblis Corporation. Votel is a non-resident Distinguished Fellow at the Middle East Institute and the Belfer Center at the John F. Kennedy School of Government and advises the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. He sits on the Executive Board of Freedom House and the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law (CERL). He serves on the Board of Directors for Service to School, Minnesota Wire, Digital Force Technologies and Owl Cyber Defense. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Votel is a 1980 graduate of the United States Military Academy and earned master’s degrees from the U.S. Army Command and Staff College and the Army War College. He is married to Michele; and they have two grown sons, a daughter-in-law and two grandchildren. The Votels reside in Lake Elmo, Minnesota.
Bill Kraus founded MISSION BBQ with the desire to Serve, Honor and Thank America’s Heroes.
The path that led him to the creation of the business included stints as a paperboy, caddy and bartender.
Additionally, Bill spent 25 very rewarding years in the business of sports on both the Retail and Supplier side. During his time in sports, he was fortunate to have been a part of the original cast that built Under Armour.
Bill oversaw the Sports Marketing efforts of Under Armour from 2001-2009 as the company grew their employee base from 20 to over 2000 and revenues climbed from $20 million to $800 million.
Most importantly, Bill and his wife Rosemarie have been married almost 30 years and are the Proud parents of Andrew, Alex and Maggie.
Command Sergeant Major Isaia T. Vimoto entered the military under the COHORT program from the island of American Samoa on 5 November 1981. He started One Station Unit Training (OSUT) at Ft. Benning, Georgia on 10 November 1981.
CSM Vimoto’s assignments include tours with 2/31st IN and 2/9th IN, Ft. Ord, California; 1/9th IN, Camp Greaves, Korea; 6/14th IN and 4/87th IN, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; 3/75th Ranger Regiment and 2/58th IN (ITB) Ft. Benning, Georgia; 3/325th and 1/508th ABCT, Vicenza, Italy; 1/502nd IN and Sabalauski Air Assault School, Ft. Campbell, Kentucky; United States Army Sergeants Major Academy (USASMA), Ft. Bliss, Texas; 2/14th IN, Ft. Drum, New York; 2-327 IN, Ft. Campbell, Kentucky; 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, Vicenza Italy; 8th BDE US Army ROTC, Ft. Lewis WA; 1st Army Division West, Ft. Hood Texas; 1st Cavalry Division, Ft. Hood Texas; and XVIII ABN Corps & Ft. Bragg, NC.
Command Sergeant Major Vimoto has served in every leadership position including Team Leader, Squad Leader, Scout Platoon Sergeant, Airborne Infantry Platoon Sergeant, First Sergeant, and Assistant Commandant of The Sabalauski Air Assault School (1SG). Operations Sergeant Major, BN Command Sergeant Major, Brigade Command Sergeant Major; Division Command Sergeant Major and Corps Command Sergeant Major.
His military education includes PLDC, BNCOC, ANCOC, the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy, and the Keystone Course. He also completed the following courses: Basic Airborne, Jump Master Course, Ranger School, Air Assault School, Drill Sergeant School, Rappel Master Course, Special Operations Training Course (SOT), Applied Explosives Technique Course, Combat Life Saver, and Master Fitness Course.
CSM Vimoto’s awards and decorations include the DSSM, LOM, BSM (x2), DMSM, MSM (5OLC), ARCOM (x6), AAM (x6), Good Conduct Medal (10th award), National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, GWOT- SM, Korea Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Service Medal, NCOPD (x4), Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon (x7), MFO Medal, Expert Infantryman’s Badge, Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Ranger Tab, Master Parachutist, Air Assault Badge, Drill Sergeant Badge, German Jump Wings, and Brazilian Jump Wings. He is a recipient of the prestigious Sergeant Morales and the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club. He was awarded the Infantry Order of Saint Maurice, the Field Artillery Order of Saint Barbara, and the Combat Spurs.
Officially retired 1 April 2016.
Mr. Wahlen was a Founder and Managing Partner of Toxaway Capital Partners, his personal investment vehicle. From 1985 to 2014 he was a Founder and Managing Partner of CGW Southeast Partners which successfully invested four private equity funds aggregating over $750 million and acquired more than 40 companies. The last of these funds was successfully closed out in 2014. These private equity funds supported management teams in acquisitions and recapitalization of middle-market companies (typically valued between $25 and $200 million). He was a Chartered Financial Analyst and an officer of several banks and investment banks prior to forming CGW in 1985.
Toxaway Holdings had several venture investments including Bastille Networks and The Cipher Brief (www.thecipherbrief.com) among others and held the controlling interest in two companies: TWR Lighting, Inc. and Pharos Marine Automatic Power, Inc.
He was a member of the Georgia Tech Scheller College of Business Advisory Board and an emeritus member of the Board of Visitors of the Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC, where he received his MBA.
In addition he served on the board of directors of Business Executives for National Security (BENS), (www.bens.org), a national, nonprofit organization of senior business leaders working for a more secure America. In 1991, Mr. Wahlen co-founded Atlanta Charity Clays, Inc., which to date has raised more than $5 million dollars for children’s charities in Atlanta and is chairman of its’ board of directors. He also served as vice chairman of Zoo Atlanta and served on that board for over twenty years as well as having served as the Chairman of the board of The Atlanta chapter of The American Diabetes Association. He resided in Atlanta with his wife Cathy. Mr. Wahlen passed away in 2022.
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