22 named to new blue-ribbon Wisconsin veterans commission

Published: Apr. 25, 2022 at 3:42 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Nearly two-dozen people were tapped Monday to help develop a long-term, comprehensive plan to help the hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin veterans get help they may need for a wide range of challenges they may face.

“Right now, there are those who have served who don’t have a place to call home, who are struggling with mental health, and many who are still navigating the transition to civilian life. I’m proud of the programs we run here in the state, but we must garner ideas to reach more veterans who need help and plan for the next generation,” Dept. of Veteran Affairs (DVA) Secretary Mary Kolar explained.

Kolar will serve as a co-chair of the state’s Blue-Ribbon Commission on Veteran Opportunity, alongside Dept. of Administration Secretary-designee Kathy Blumfield, who noted the sacrifices these men and women have already made to protect Americans both at home and abroad.

“It is now incumbent upon us to honor their service by ensuring they have pathways to employment, housing, health care and other vital services in the Badger State,” Blumfield said, adding that she is grateful for the chance to serve on the commission.

In addition to the two co-chairs, Gov. Tony Evers tapped twenty other individuals (listed below) to round out the commission, which was announced during his State of the State Address and created through the executive order he signed soon afterwards.

In the statement that accompanied the list of appointees, Evers pointed out that he deliberately aimed to include veterans and their families who can draw from their own lives to find policies to help the over 300,000 Wisconsin veterans.

“From ensuring every veteran has a roof over their head to addressing mental health challenges to expanding access to benefits our nation’s heroes have so rightfully earned, we must work to find urgent solutions to the shortcomings in our society and in our state, and I look forward to seeing the commission’s report in the coming months,” he continued.

The commission will meet for the first time on May 4, and is tasked with completing its report later in the year, with the aim of getting its recommendations included in Evers next biennial budget proposal.

Members of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Veteran Opportunity include:

  • Department of Veteran Affairs (DVA) Secretary Mary Kolar, U.S. Navy, retired, Co-Chair
  • Department of Administration (DOA) Secretary-designee Kathy Blumenfeld, Co-Chair
  • State Sen. Jeff Smith (D-Brunswick)
  • State Rep. Deb Andraca (D-Whitefish Bay)
  • Bridget Esser, Legislative Liaison, Department of Military Affairs (DMA)
  • Al Labelle, U.S. Navy, retired, Wisconsin Legislative Director, Disabled American Veterans
  • Nathan Gear, Wisconsin Army National Guard, retired, Executive Director & Department Adjutant, American Legion Department of Wisconsin
  • Cory Geisler, U.S. Army, retired, Commander, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Department of Wisconsin
  • Jim Strong, U.S. Army, retired, Co-Founder, Wisconsin Veterans Village
  • Gregg Duffek, U.S. Marine Corps, retired, Tribal Veterans Service Officer, Stockbridge-Munsee Community
  • Rock Larson, U.S. Air Force and Wisconsin Army National Guard, retired, President, County Veterans Service Officers Association of Wisconsin
  • Yolanda Medina, U.S. Marine Corps, retired, Director of Military & Veterans Resource Center, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
  • Matthew Schroeder, Director of Military & Veteran Services, Edgewood College
  • Carolyn Morgan, Wisconsin Air National Guard, retired, Board Member of Operation Ruck 22
  • Ronald Adams, Wisconsin Army National Guard, retired, Vice President of Field Diversity & Inclusion, Northwestern Mutual
  • Nathaniel Millsap, U.S. Navy, retired, Director of Security & Cyber, Fincantieri Marinette Marine
  • Scott Schultz, U.S. Marine Corps, retired, Assistant Farm Director, WAXX 104.5 FM
  • Jesse Ehrenfeld M.D., U.S. Navy, retired, Physician Anesthesiologist and Senior Associate Dean, Medical College of Wisconsin
  • Ying Vang, U.S. Army, Corporate Human Resources Manager, ORC Industries Inc.
  • Natalie Isensee, U.S. Marine Corps, retired, Manager of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion, WPS Health Solutions
  • Jason Maloney, Wisconsin Army National Guard, retired, Congressional District 7 Representative, Wisconsin Board of Veterans Affairs
  • Sheri Swokowski, U.S. Army, retired, Advisory, Modern Military Association of America

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