The moving forces behind Operation Healing Forces.
The board of directors and staff members of OHF are honored to serve our Country’s Special Operations Forces in our own, meaningful way. These hard workers know that neither they nor the Nation can ever repay the debt of gratitude owed to these extraordinary military personnel and their families.
Board of Directors
Gary L. Markel
Gary Markel & Associates, Inc.
Anthony F. Markel
James Chadwick, Esquire
Carteret Management Corporation
James Attkisson, CPA
Attkisson Hongo, LLC
Ronald J. Campbell, CCIF
Executive Vice President
Seminole Financial Services
Cynthia P. Schwarzkopf
Board of Directors,
Miami International Securities Exchange (MIAX) & MIAX PEARL
Robert P. McBride
Metro Transportation Planning
and Solutions Group
Naples National Golf Club
Royce G. Imhoff II
Lion Street Inc.
Philip C. Connell
Oppenheimer & Company Inc.
International Diamond Center
K Bruce Connell
Executive Vice President
Chief Underwriting Officer (retired)
Robert F. Mizell
Executive Vice President
Davenport & Company, LLC
US Army, Executive Director
Not long after our inception, it became clear that Operation Healing Forces needed an Executive Director. Finding the right candidate was essential. We needed someone who could efficiently manage the nonprofit side, effectively interface with the Special Operation’s Command Care Coalition, and be respected by the Special Operators as one of their own.
As OHF founder Gary Markel said, we are very fortunate to have found Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Hudson, US Army Retired. He is the “real deal”, having served as a special operator for eight deployments into Afghanistan and Iraq. A 1993 graduate of West Point, Jeff parachuted into Afghanistan and then Iraq after 9/11. Hudson injured his spine and, while home for rehabilitation, he earned a Masters of Science degree in Defense Analysis with a concentration in Irregular Warfare. Jeff has also received the Legion of Merit Award, two Bronze Stars, three Meritorious Service Medals, and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. Today, he is key to the continued success of Operation Healing Forces. Having come from the special operations community, the Special Operators and their spouses quickly relate to him and look forward to the program.
US Army, Director of Development
Zuba graduated and was commissioned a lieutenant of Infantry from Western Illinois University in 1984. He holds a Masters Degree in Educational Leadership from Columbus University. He has held various command and staff positions in the 101st Airborne, 25th Infantry Division as well as in the United States Pacific Command. Zuba has spent over five years in combat and hazardous duty locations. He completed over 21 missions in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. His awards include the Bronze Star, Joint Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Ranger Tab and the Combat Infantry Badge.
Jim has over 15 years of Business Development and fundraising experience for multiple special project areas at two major research universities.
US Army, Program Director
Given our success and desire to aid additional SOF wounded couples, Operation Healing Forces needed a Program Manager whose leadership and combat experience would resonate with our couples and whose work ethic would be compatible with the rest of the team. Joining the OHF team in 2016, Billy’s 20-year SOF career included 16 years in the 75th Ranger Regiment and four at USSOCOM Headquarters. Billy had 13 deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan earning the Legion of Merit Award, two Bronze Star Medals, two Meritorious Service Medals, and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge.
Master Gunnery Sergeant(R),
US Marine Corps, Project Manager
With the continued growth of Operation Healing Forces, there was a need to add an additional project manager that was keenly aware of the needs our SOF wounded couples face. Chris’s leadership, combat experience, and direct involvement with USSOCOM’s Care Coalition as a Senior Enlisted Advisor at Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda was a perfect match. As an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technician, Chris spent his twenty-four-year career either supporting, training, or being attached to SOF units during his seven deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa, and other points in the Middle East and Europe. Chris also spent a year on Capitol Hill as a wounded warrior fellow on the House Veterans Affairs committee, advocating for Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES) reform. Chris spent his last two years on active duty directly serving SOF Wounded, Ill, and injured SOF members at Walter Reed as the Care Coalition SEA.
Retiring in 2016, Chris has become a vocal advocate for Creative Art Therapies and runs a military and veteran glassblowing course in St. Petersburg, FL in his spare time, a result of his personal successes with the therapy modality in his own healing journey.
Chris’s personal awards include two Meritorious Service Medals, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Navy Commendation Medal with combat “V”, Army and Navy Achievement medals, two Combat Action Ribbons and the Purple Heart.
Chris has a BS in Environmental Science from American Military University, and an MFA in Writing from National University. Chris currently lives in Tampa, FL with his wife Brandy and their two children, Zac and Miranda.
Rob Kilmartin, Esq
US Army, Project Manager
Operation Healing Forces had an overwhelming need for another experienced member of the Special Operations community. As OHF continues to grow and the Retreat Program now has over 45 retreats in a year, we are excited to add Rob, who has been a volunteer for the organization since 2017, to the OHF team.
Rob enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1994, attaining the rank of SSG, graduated Officer Candidate School, and was commissioned as a Combat Engineer 2nd Lieutenant. He has served in numerous Combat Arms leadership capacities during his 20 plus years of service, to include Team Leader, Squad Leader, Sapper Platoon Leader, Company Commander, and Team Chief with both conventional and unconventional Special Operations Forces (SOF).
Rob’s last deployment was 2011-2012, leading a SOF CA Team within the most kinetic region in Afghanistan, executing 169 dismounted combat patrols, conducting Counter Insurgency and Village Stability Operations along with a Special Forces Operational Detachment- Alpha (SFOD-A) and with support from conventional infantry elements in Zhari and Maiwand Districts, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan. After his third catastrophic injury taking small arms fire and numerous exposures to IED blasts, he was Medevac’d in July 2012.
For his service, Rob has been awarded over 23 citations including multiple Bronze Star and Meritorious Service Medals, and two Purple Heart Medals. His duty locations have been all over the Americas, Germany, Korea, and the Middle East, and he has deployed to Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Since retiring in 2015, Rob successfully competed in the 2015 and 2016 DOD Warrior Games for Team SOCOM and was very active volunteering for benevolent organizations, working hand in hand with Special Operations Command (SOCOM) Care Coalition, and has spoken nationwide to promote the challenges that SOF, the combat wounded, and their families face every day.
Rob has a BA from the University of Connecticut, an MBA from Columbia Southern, and recently graduated with a law degree from Stetson University College of Law. Rob passed the Florida Bar Exam and was sworn in as a licensed attorney in September of 2019. Rob currently resides in the Tampa area, and is supported by his wonderful wife Christina and four children.
As Operation Healing Forces has continued to grow and offer our program to more wounded Special Operations couples each year, finding a new member of the team became a priority in late 2016. Desiree Holley joined the team in November 2016 to assist Operation Healing Forces with accounting processes and procedures, development goals, and assist with the continued growth of our programs and services for Special Operation’s couples.
Desiree has over 12 years experience working within the non-profit community, 8 of those years in the Community Outreach section at the USSOCOM Care Coalition. Desiree was a member of a 2-person team that resourced $4.5 million in benevolent support to wounded, ill, and injured Wounded Warriors in 2015. Her in-depth knowledge of the resources and benefits available to SOF families will allow OHF to provide increased guidance and assistance to wounded SOF couples.
Desiree earned her Masters of Science from the University of Florida in Health Education and Behavior and will be a key player as we move forward in tracking the long term success of Operation Healing Forces through measurable outcomes and making program improvements through continuous program evaluation and best practice guidance.
SOAR Program Manager
Stephanie Niccole DeZern, RYT, SOAR Program Manager; is responsible for creating, building, and managing several additional resource programs for Operations Healing Forces (OHF) to serve OHF alumni and other Special Operations wounded, ill, and injured through programming which will continue to serve our alumni family while also drastically increasing the number of families reached in the Special Operations community.
She has earned the title of Special Operations spouse over six USSOF combat deployments spanning across 15 years. Stephanie is also a Purple Heart Wife while mothering two young children and has the experience to relate with the vast majority of the Alumni here at OHF.
Stephanie’s time as a United States Navy Spouse has also included countless hours of service related volunteer work including; Command Operational Department Ombudsman, Head Coach of four separate command teams in the DOD official Spouses Kickball League across two geographical locations, while also devoting her time in dispersing her miliary resource knowledge to all of those in need. She has and will continue to benefit United States Special Operations Forces families in all aspects of their time in service and long after. Additionally, Stephanie is a Registered Yoga Teacher with a concentration on individuals and families associated with Post Traumatic Stress. She brings innovative practices and meditations that focus on military families and the daily stressors that are attached to their lives. Her practice philosophy; To be home when you’re home, to live in the moment, to be mindful is exactly how Stephanie lives her own life. Stephanie has already become an integral member of the team as we grow and expand to reach a community in need.
Resource Program Manager
Christina is a Purple Heart wife and Special Operations Forces (SOF) spouse, raised as a “Military Brat” from a generational military family. She learned at an early age the value of honoring military service from her grandfather, a Korean War era veteran; her father, a Gulf War veteran; and her older brother, a Kosovo veteran. Christina earned her Bachelors from Western Washington University, and began her career teaching Spanish and English as a Second Language in Washington State in 2001, later meeting her husband Rob while he was stationed at Ft. Lewis, WA.
While at Ft. Lewis, Christina began a program to earn her Master’s in Business Administration, with a focus on Organizational Leadership, as her husband deployed to Afghanistan in 2011. Soon after, Christina’s life was drastically altered when her husband was injured in multiple IED blasts and small arms fire, resulting in his medical evacuation in July 2012. When Rob returned home, Christina left teaching and took on the responsibility of becoming his full time Caregiver while completing her degree program, earning her MBA from Brandman University.
Over the past 8 years, Christina has served as the VA Volunteer Service Representative for the Ladies Auxiliary of the Military Order of the Purple Heart; volunteered at the 6th Medical Group at MacDill AFB; and served countless other benevolent organizations focused on combat service member recovery. Additionally, Christina has spoken nationwide on behalf of several non-profit organizations that serve veterans, active duty military and their families, and is excited and honored to continue to serve our country’s finest heroes with Operation Healing Forces.
Chief Warrant Officer(R),
US Army, East Region Liaison Officer
Operation Healing Forces' recent expansions are partly due to its unrelenting and enduring support for SOF couples. That message of support continues to resonate within the SOF community. Due to Mr. Mason’s, combat experience, leadership, and extensive networks within Special Operations. Mr. Mason will be able to further that support and message to the 32,000 plus SOF service members located on Ft. Bragg and the surrounding area as the East Region Liaison Officer.
During Mr. Mason’s 23 years of service, 18 of those years in Special Forces, Mr. Mason has either supported, trained, or sometimes lead Special Forces Operational Detachments deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, or numerous Joint Combined Exercise Training (JCET) within the United States Pacific Command. (USPACOM)
CW3 Mason recently retired in 2020 and is now one of the newest members of the Operation Healing Forces Team (OHF). Mr. Mason currently lives in Ellerbe, NC with his wife Trudy.