Robin has spent all of her adult life working in major event productions and the motion picture business as a writer and producer. She is the author of the NY Times bestseller, Sgt Reckless: America’s War Horse, and War Animals: The Unsung Heroes of World War II. She’s President of Angels Without Wings, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit California corporation, whose DBA The Sgt. Reckless Memorial Fund has dedicated six national monuments to this great Korean War horse hero, Sgt. Reckless. The Animals in War & Peace Medal Ceremony and a museum to honor these heroic animals is her latest passion.
Mari Lou Livingood is the President of the Livingood Group, LLC in Washington, DC. The Livingood Group specializes in securing national partners with attention to conservation, government relations and animal rights and recognition. For over 25 years, Mari Lou has worked with non-profit organizations to advance their legislative and philanthropic goals in the Washington, DC region.
Dr. Vargus has served with honor and distinction in a military and law enforcement career that has spanned over 45 years. Most notably with the fledgling joint terrorist task force immediately following the 911 attacks on the World Trade Center.
He returned to active duty in 2005, last serving as the chief of law enforcement for US Central Command where he established and executed joint service and coalition canine operations.
Dr Vargus returned to retired status in 2012, assuming the duties of the Army Military Working Dog program manager, and in 2018 he was selected to lead the DOD program.
Ronald L. Aiello served in the United States Marine Corps from 1964 to 1970. During this period Ron had the honor of serving with the First Marine Scout Dog Platoon.
He and his dog Stormy were one of the first thirty Marine Scout Dog Teams to be deployed to Vietnam in early 1966 and were involved in many operations leading Marine units in search and destroy missions.
In the year 2000, Ron and four other Vietnam Veteran dog handlers formed The United States War Dogs Association, Inc., a nonprofit organization of former and current US military dog handlers and supporting members. The United States War Dogs Association is committed to promoting the long history of the military service dogs, establishing permanent war dog memorials, and educating the public about the invaluable service of these Military Working Dogs to our country.
In 2014, the United States War Dogs Association established several free medical programs for Retired Military Working Dogs, such as free prescription drugs and emergency medical care.
Ron has been a consultant for numerous film producers, screenwriters, book authors, and national and local newspapers. His expertise in the world of Military Working Dogs and their training makes him in high demand.
Chris Willingham served in the United States Marine Corps from January 1999 to January 2019. Chris dedicated the majority of his military career to the Military Working Dog (MWD) program. Throughout his 20 year career, he served as a MWD handler, trainer, instructor and supervisor. Chris deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Spartan Shield.
Of note, Chris had the privilege of serving 5 years with specialized search dog Lucca K458 whose story of service and sacrifice was the topic of New York Times bestselling book Top Dog. Chris continues to be an ambassador to the MWD Program. Chris is regarded as a MWD subject matter expert and has given numerous presentations and interviews to various media outlets (Today Show, Fox and Friends, 700 Club, Animal Planet, Parade Magazine, etc.).
Board Member, Angels Without Wings, Inc.
The journey continues for college friends, Karen and Robin. From multiple trips to England for acceptance of the Dickin Medals for "Sgt. Reckless" and “Chips" and research for Robin's book, "War Animals”; to dedications of the Sgt. Reckless monuments throughout the United States; their mission continues with the Animal Bravery Awards.
Karen is a successful Los Angeles Acting coach whose actors can be found in lead roles in feature films, commercials, and theater on Broadway. Her dedicated and respected work with actors earned her a nomination by her peers to receive the Florida Film Legends Award.
While attending the Master's Program at Rollins College, Karen was inducted into Kappa Delta Pi, an International Honor Society in Education by her Professors. It recognizes outstanding contributions to education.
Karen teaches actors unique techniques and tools necessary for the actor to create believable, natural, and real characters, making them stronger and more confident in their craft, resulting in memorable performances.
Board Member, Angels Without Wings, Inc.
Donna Fleece is a licensed school psychologist and has worked in public schools and private practice. She has been active in her state professional organization and she has served on the Board of Directors and Executive Board of Directors of various non-profit organizations in St. Petersburg, Florida. Her extensive involvement in the community earned her an appointment by the mayor to the St. Petersburg Arts Advisory Committee where she served to develop the city’s cultural plan and judge grant applications.
Donna currently serves on the Board of Directors of Angels Without Wings, Inc., a non-profit organization raising funds for monuments to Sgt Reckless and other heroic war animals, as well as plans for the new International War Animals Museum.
Curator of Military History
Division of Political and Military History
National Museum of American History
A native of Raleigh, North Carolina, Frank Blazich, Jr. specializes in the American military experience in the twentieth century. A veteran of the U.S. Air Force, he holds a doctorate in modern American history from The Ohio State University (2013).
Currently a curator of modern military history at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History, he has published widely on an array of topics from homing pigeons to Medal of Honor recipients. His work has appeared in the North Carolina Historical Review, The Northern Mariner, the Naval War College Review, Army History, Air Power History, Naval History, Marine Corps History, War on the Rocks, Volunteer Magazine, and the Washington Post.
His first edited book, Bataan Survivor: A POW’s Account of Japanese Captivity in World War II, was published by the University of Missouri Press in February 2017. His most recent book , “An Honorable Place in American Air Power” Civil Air Patrol Coastal Patrol Operations, 1942-1943, is slated for publication by Air University Press in October 2020.
LINDA BLICK is the President and a founding Board of Trustees Member of the Tails of Hope Foundation, Inc.®.
Tails of Hope Foundation (TOHF) is a federally-recognized IRS 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Its mission is to support America’s national security canine teams (military, police, search and rescue) and service dogs for disabled veterans, from deployment to disability, while educating the next generation of canine field professionals.
Mrs. Blick has chaired or co-chaired such high-level events as the 9/11 Tenth Anniversary National K9 Recognition Ceremony (2011), the inaugural Military Working Dog Contingent: War of 1812 to Afghanistan in the 2012 New York City Veterans Day Parade (approved by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta), K9 Veterans Day ceremonies in New Jersey (inaugural event in 2013 to the present) and TOHF’s Youth Ambassador K9 Career Program™ at The White House Conference Center in 2014. She participated in the NATO Expert Military Working Dog Conference in New York City in 2018 and America’s first large interoperability K9 training in 2019 that was attended by all branches of the military, NATO members from four countries, and over 400 federal, state and local canine teams. Mrs. Blick is the co-creator of the K9☤ER™Project’s cutting-edge advanced K9 training (2022). She currently leads a committee toward national passage of K9 Veterans Day.
Mrs. Blick received the Department of Justice’s Victim Service Award for her testimony before Congress, many other forms of recognition from government leaders ranging from multiple White House administrations to local officials, community and service agencies. Most recently these recognitions have included Certificates of Appreciation from New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) Special Operations Canine Division (the largest canine counterterrorism division in the US), the New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs (a Chapter of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs) as a “Woman of Achievement”, a “Letter of Excellence” from David Kontny (formerly of the US Department of Homeland Security Headquarters and currently serving as Chief of Staff, Joint Program Office for Countering IED, FBI) and a “Letter of Appreciation” from First Lady, Michelle Obama.
JOHN C. BURNAM, Vietnam War Veteran, U.S. Army combat infantryman and German Shepherd Scout Dog Handler (1966-1968).
John credits his Scout Dog, Clipper as a big reason for his survival on the battlefield. His military service awards include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Vietnam Cross of Gallantry, Combat Infantryman Badge, and Paratrooper.
John is a published author of Dog Tags of Courage (1999), A Soldier’s Best Friend (2008), and Canine Warrior (2014).
1999-2019, John’s books and war dog stories have been featured in numerous radio and TV interviews. He was also featured and the technical advisor for several TV documentaries such as War Dogs – America’s Forgotten Heroes, Dogs with Jobs, Hero Dogs, and others.
John founded the John Burnam Monument Foundation, Inc. which led the effort on Capitol Hill in Washington DC to establish a national monument honoring America’s Military Working Dog Teams of all Wars since WWII. His team’s efforts resulted in congressional legislation signed into public law by President George W. Bush on January 28, 2008. The law appointed John’s organization to design, publically fund, and construct the United States Military Working Dog Teams National Monument.
October 28, 2013, the 3,000 square foot national monument was formally unveiled and dedicated at Joint Base San Antonio - Lackland, TX where the Department of Defense trains the nation’s military working dogs, and is home of the Holland Military Working Dog Veterinary Hospital, the largest and most advanced in the world.
November 30, 2018, the U.S. House of Representatives officially recognized John Burnam by entering his patriotic service into the Congressional Record of the 115th Congress. John was cited for his Vietnam combat service, war medals, and saving lives as an infantryman and scout dog handler. He was further cited for his work as a civilian to establish a national monument for military working dog teams, and for the many years of traveling across the nation to educate the American people about their service and sacrifices.
JAY COISMAN, DVM, DACVS-SA is a Veterinary Surgeon at MedVet Northern Virginia where he has been a member of the team since 2020.
Dr. Coisman enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1989 and served on active duty and in the reserves until 2001. He attended the University of Central Florida and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and a minor in Molecular and Microbiology. During his first year as a veterinary student he was awarded an Army Health Professions Scholarship and commissioned into the Army Veterinary Corps.
He then earned his Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Florida, College of Veterinary Medicine before returning to active duty military service as a clinical intern at the Department of Defense Military Working Dog Veterinary Services in San Antonio, Texas. While there he developed the first iteration of a modular canine first aid training curriculum that became the basis for both DoD and DHS current handler training. He served as Officer in Charge of the Moody Air Force Base Veterinary Treatment Facility and Chief of the Fort Shafter Branch Veterinary Services.
Subsequently, he served as the Deputy Commander of the 218th Medical Detachment Veterinary Services Support (MDVSS) at Fort Lewis, Washington; as the Theater Clinical Specialist in Afghanistan in support of the 72nd MDVSS; as a clinical instructor and referral surgeon at the Fort Belvoir Veterinary Center; and as Chief of Animal Medicine, Veterinary Services Branch, Defense Health Agency(DHA). At DHA he was an avid champion of funding for working dog research and heavily involved in the development of the Joint Trauma Registry for Military Working Dogs (MWDs), canine tactical combat casualty care (cTCCC) policy and training materials, and other working dog initiatives.
Dr. Coisman is an advisory member of the Tails of Hope Foundation and the Animals in War and Peace. He continues to teach canine first aid to civilian and federal law enforcement handlers and consults on working dog research, canine first aid training, and canine decontamination.
FBI, Chief of Staff, Joint Program Office for Countering Improvised Explosive Devices
David Kontny has extensive experience with working dogs and currently serves as the Vice Chairman for the Scientific Working Group for Dog and Orthogonal Guidelines (SWGDOG) and Co-Chair of the National Explosives Detection Canine Advisory Board as well as overseeing explosives detection canine policies and standards during his current detail with the Department of Justice Joint Program Office for Combating Terrorist use of Explosives.
Prior to his current position Mr. Kontny served in various positions with the Department of Homeland Security, most recently as the Chief of Staff, Office of Infrastructure Protection. Dave was designated as the Acting Deputy Director of the Protective Security Coordination Division (PSCD) within the DHS Office of Infrastructure Protection in September 2009. Dave joined PSCD in September 2007 and served as the Senior Advisor, National Canine Policy and Standards for the Division’s Office for Bombing Prevention. He became the Office for Bombing Prevention Deputy Chief in December 2008. In this role, Mr. Kontny provided leadership and coordination within DHS on explosive threats and countermeasures, while working with Federal, State, and local government partners to enhance and integrate national capabilities to combat explosive attacks.
Prior to joining PSCD, Mr. Kontny was assigned as the Director, National Explosives Detection Canine Team Program within the Transportation Security Administration, and as the Department of Defense Explosives Canine Coordinator for both the 1992 Republican National Convention and the 1994 World Cup Soccer Events.
Jocelyn Russell has attained international recognition for her paintings and sculptures both, and enjoys the versatility of tackling many subjects and mediums to keep her inspirations alive.
She sculpted the first SSgt Reckless monument in 2013, and there are now six monuments around the country dedicated to this Korean War hero. She also sculpted a monument to MWD Lucca K458 ("Send Me") at the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Ft. Worth, TX; and a life and a half size monument of the great racehorse legend, Secretariat ("Racing Into History"), in Lexington, KY. Two more Secretariat monuments are planned.
Other notable monuments include 5 lifesize elephants, a pride of 5 lions, and 15 meercats at the Audobon Zoo in New Orleans, LA; and a lifesize giraffe and baby at the Potawatomi Zoo in South Bend, IN. To see more of her work, visit her website.
MWD Trainer - Ivy League Dog Training Academy
Alex Schnell served in the United States Marine Corps from March 2012 to October 2019. During his time in service, Alex served as a Military Working Dog (MWD) Handler and a Special Operations Multi-Purpose Canine (MPC) Handler.
Alex spent the last five years of his service assigned to MPC Bass. Alex and MPC Bass deployed three times together in support of Operation Inherent Resolve and Operation Enduring Freedom. Alex continues to work with for Department of Defense to train future MWDs in San Antonio.