The Disabled Veterans National Foundation (DVNF) exists to provide critically needed support to disabled and at-risk veterans who leave the military wounded—physically or psychologically—after defending our safety and our freedom.
We achieve this mission by:
- Offering direct financial support to veteran organizations that address the unique needs of veterans, and whose missions align with that of DVNF.
- Providing supplemental assistance to homeless and low-income veterans through the Health & Comfort program and various empowerment resources.
- Providing an online resource database that allows veterans to navigate the complex process of seeking benefits that they are entitled to as a result of their military service, as well as additional resources they need.
- Serving as a thought leader on critical policy issues within the veteran community, and educating the public accordingly.
DVNF was founded in 2007 by six women veterans, each with years of experience as State Women Veterans Coordinators in various states around the country. At work, these officials were confronted on a daily basis with the inability of an already overworked Department of Veterans Affairs to adequately deal with the considerable increase of disabled and at-risk veterans coming home from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. They created DVNF with the goal of addressing the chronic gap in services for these veterans.
After several years of building its organizational capacity, DVNF hired Joseph VanFonda (USMC SgtMaj Ret.) in late 2013 upon his retirement from a 27-year career in the United States Marine Corps. A recipient of the Purple Heart, VanFonda remained in the Marines after being injured in combat. His final assignment in the Marine Corps was serving as the Regimental Sergeant Major for the Wounded Warrior Regiment, responsible for the coordination of non-medical care for combat and non-combat wounded, ill, and injured Marines.
Taking the reins at DVNF, VanFonda recognized the needs of veterans who weren’t yet categorized as disabled, but were still dealing with the psychological and emotional impacts of personal and family situations, which put them in a highly “at-risk” category. DVNF began to focus its efforts to meet the needs of veterans in this broad category through targeted programs and collaboration with other organizations in communities throughout the country.
Today, DVNF continues to grow in the services it provides veterans, and has added new key staff members with a wide range of experience, many of whom served in the military.
We come to work each day knowing that we will make a difference in a veteran’s life; a great responsibility that we don’t take lightly.
Board of Directors
Benny Bachand, President
Benny Bachand is a Navy veteran, having served in Vietnam aboard the USS Ault (DD-698). He is a life member of VFW Post 4278 in Orlando, FL, serving in roles including Post Commander, District Chaplain and Surgeon, as well as other roles with the National Headquarters.
Barry Walter, Vice President
Barry Walter is an Army veteran, being drafted after a year in college. He served 47 months in combat in various field artillery position with the 4th Infantry. Since his service, he has been an active member of the VFW, serving in many different roles in the state of Michigan.
Joshua Johnson, Secretary
Joshua Johnson is an Army veteran, having served as a medical technician while on active duty. He is a certified veterans service representative, and is currently working for the VA in this capacity.
Lieutenant Colonel Marla Brunell currently serves in the US Army Veterinary Corps at Ft. Belvoir. She has served in many posts overseas including Germany, Iraq, Africa, and Poland. In addition, she served as Chief, non-human primates, at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, MD (2009-2013) during which time she successfully completed the US Army Laboratory Animal Residency Program. LTC Brunell currently serves as Deputy Director, Laboratory Animal Medicine, and Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, MD.
Lionel Harris is a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, who served a 29-year career in the military. Currently, he is the Director of Operations at the Inspiration Center in San Antonio, TX. At this nonprofit organization, he manages day-to-day activities that serve service members, veterans and their families. Additionally, the nonprofit also provides services for caregivers and youth to build sustainable relationships.
Steve Weyher is an Army veteran, having served in Vietnam. He’s been a veterans advocate for more than four decades. He’s owned his own catering company in Branson, MO for many years and brings a businessman’s perspective to DVNF’s board. He is a past president of the AUSA, Fort Sill Chapter, and also created a yearly celebration honoring veterans and their families in Branson.
Scott Carson is a Marine veteran, with a history of impeccable leadership in all his professional endeavors. After leaving the Marine Corps, he went to work for Humana, where, among other duties, he was also asked to help create Humana’s optimal staffing level metrics used throughout the country today. He moved on to be a Key Account Executive with UnitedHealthcare, winning multiple sales awards. He now works as a consultant in Maryland, and is very active in several community outreach efforts.
CAPT Adam Street, DO
Captain Street was commissioned as a Captain in the U.S. Army Medical Corps in 2012. He received his Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine from the Via College of Osteopathic Medicine in 2012. He is currently a resident physician in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Captain Street’s military awards include the Army Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Medal, Army Service Ribbon, and Overseas Service Ribbon.
Joseph E. VanFonda (USMC SgtMaj Ret.), Chief Executive Officer
Joseph VanFonda served in the United States Marine Corps for more than 27 years. He retired out of Quantico, VA in 2013 as the Regimental Sergeant Major for the Wounded Warrior Regiment. In this role, he was responsible for the coordination of non-medical care for combat and non-combat wounded, ill, and injured Marines, as well as Sailors attached to or in direct support of Marine units and their family members in order to assist them as they returned to duty or transition to the veteran status. Read his full bio here.
Delese Harvey, Deputy Director
Delese Harvey is currently serving as the Deputy Director, bringing more than 15 years of experience working with at-risk individuals on boosting economic security. Ms. Harvey graduated from Howard University in Washington, D.C. with a Bachelor of Arts. Read her full bio here.
Mildred Mesembe, Director of Finance
Mildred Mesembe is currently serving as Director of Finance at the Disabled Veterans National Foundation. Ms. Mesembe graduated from Staffordshire University and the University of Wales in the United Kingdom with a Certificate in International Strategic Management and an MBA, respectively. See her full bio here.
Bianca Perez, Program Director
Bianca Perez, serves as the Program Director for DVNF. She graduated with her Bachelors of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing and Management accompanied by a minor in Spanish from Wesley College in 2011. Bianca has 6 years of nonprofit experience that range from education, public policy, direct services, and program management. See her full bio here.
John Paruch, Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations
John joined DVNF in November of 2015 as the Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations for the organization. As a veteran of the U.S. Navy, John brings more than 25 years of in-depth experience to the organization. Read his full bio here.
Doug Walker, Communications Director
Doug Walker serves as the Communications Director, boosting the organization’s online presence, and ensuring consistency of all messaging. He is an alumnus of Louisiana State University. Read his full bio here.
Patrick Heron, Direct Mail Director
Patrick Heron is the Direct Mail Director for DVNF. Patrick attended SUNY College at Old Westbury and Long Island University, studying Information Systems and Project Management. He has more than 14 years of education and experience in Direct Marketing, Analytics and Information System Management. Read his full bio here.
Leander Brereton, Director of Operations
Leander Brereton is the Director of Operations of the Disabled Veterans National Foundation, graduated in May 2010 from Bowie State University. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in Management. Read her full bio here.
Danielle Abbassi, Development
Danielle Abbassi joined DVNF in 2016 to support DVNF’s fundraising and development initiatives. She holds an MPA in Cross-Sector Public Service, and brings 10 years of combined volunteer and professional experience in the nonprofit sector. Read her full bio here.