Virginia Department of Veterans Services (VDVS)
Fall 2020 eNews, Volume 3
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Commissioner’s Corner

The holidays are typically a time of hope and celebration, and as we look to close out 2020, we still have reasons to be hopeful. We have proven our ability to adapt to a very challenging environment and have found ways to stay connected. As if on cue, the service member, veteran, and family (SMVF) community has responded to many calls to action over the past year and has gone out of its way to serve despite COVID restrictions. Thank you for all you have done for your community and fellow veterans.
As we battle against the coronavirus, we still face another epidemic: veteran suicide. Even though September is National Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month, this month I want to highlight this epidemic and ways you can serve each other as we approach the holiday season.
Governor Northam reminded us in his keynote address on Veterans Day that over 17 veterans take their own lives every day in the United States. This is an astounding number and, most notably, includes both men and women in their 20s and 30s all the way to Vietnam veterans in their 60s and 70s.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently released its 2020 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report (it uses 2018 data). While the rate of veteran suicide in Virginia is below the national veteran suicide rate, every veteran lost to suicide is a tragedy.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased isolation, loneliness, depression, substance abuse, job loss and unemployment, financial stress, and even homelessness for Virginians. Now that the end of year holiday season is upon us, isolation, depression, and loneliness may be exacerbated. We are going to have to double-down on our suicide prevention efforts.
You can be part of the fight against veteran suicide within your own networks by increasing identification of and outreach to the SMVF community. Does your program or organization track the number of contacts with SMVF? Is your employer open to training staff in military culture, which can help build understanding and rapport between civilian and military-connected individuals and enhance outreach and services? Can you provide information on VDVS services to SMVF in your networks? All of this will help us reach our veterans, military-connected friends, neighbors, and loved ones, so they have easy access to VA, state and community resources before stressful situations worsen to a crisis.

Here at VDVS, staff from our Virginia Veteran and Family Support (VVFS) program work to connect SMVF to behavioral health, rehabilitative, and supportive services. We provide peer and family support and facilitate access to VA and/or community behavioral health providers for counseling and crisis services. VDVS teammates also provide military culture and resource training to community groups and services providers. This holiday season please consider referring SMVF in your networks to VDVS and/or inquiring how the team can collaborate to support your organization’s outreach and services.

Another way we have tried to tackle this epidemic is through a public-health approach. In 2018, we partnered with the VA and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to start the Richmond Mayor’s and Governor’s Challenge Teams to Prevent Suicide among SMVF. Both teams unite cross-sector partners (behavioral health, hospitals, social services, employers, Veterans Service Organizations, etc.) to enhance community-based suicide prevention efforts for military-connected Virginians. In doing so, we have raised awareness and improved our screening and identification efforts, but we want to do more.

I know many of you will be making New Year’s resolutions for 2021.  I hope you will join me in adding a resolution to do all that you can to help reduce and end this epidemic of veteran suicide in the coming year. Together, we can make a difference. If you are in crisis or concerned about someone else, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 (Veterans press 1 for the Veterans Crisis Line) for support 24 hours a day.

Happy Holidays to you and your families from all of us here at VDVS. I invite you to watch our holiday video below.

It continues to be a privilege for our team to serve those who served. As always, we welcome your feedback and ideas on how we can serve you better and continue our mission of being the most veteran-friendly state in the Nation. Stay safe and healthy!

John Maxwell, Commissioner
Virginia Department of Veterans Services

Upcoming Livestream Events offered by the Virginia War Memorial, events are free of charge, registration is required. Click on the links below to learn more.
Headhunter – 5-73 CAV and Their Fight for Iraq’s Diyala River Valley
Livestream Event
December 15, 2:00 p.m.  

Eyewitness to History: Interview with WWII Veteran George Merz
Livestream Event
December 16, 11:00 a.m.  

Silent Night on the Western Front
Livestream Event
December 22, 2020

Women Veteran Virtual Health and Wellness Forum 2021
Livestream Event
January 21 & January 28, 2021, 7:00 p.m.

Happy Holidays from the
Virginia Department of Veterans Services

Click on the image below to view a special holiday message.


Glen Callihan
US Army

Please give an overview of your military service.
I served in the U.S. Army from 1981 to 2004 after receiving a commission from the ROTC program at the University of Richmond.  I initially went to Field Artillery training and Airborne School prior to my first assignment with the First Infantry Division (Fwd) in Germany.  I then branch transferred to Armor and completed my assignment in Stuttgart as Platoon Leader and Executive Officer of an Armor Company.
I returned to the US in 1984 and attended the Armor Officers Advanced Course and served in a variety of assignments at Fort Knox, culminating in command of 'B' Company, 1/46 Infantry.  After that, it was back to Germany, where I was stationed in Vilseck from 1987-1990.  While there I served as OIC of Tank Gunnery for US Army Europe and then as Commander of HHC, Seventh Army Combined Arms Training Center.
After Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, I deployed with the 1st Armored Division and served with the 3rd Battalion, 35th Armor for the duration of the war.  Upon return to the US, I had a short assignment with the Intelligence & Threat Analysis Center in Washington, DC and then returned to the Middle East where I served with US Army Kuwait for a year.
In late 1993, I was assigned to the US Army Special Operations Command and served as a Company Commander and Battalion Operations Officer.  In that capacity, I frequently deployed to Southwest Asia, the Pacific, and Africa and participated in combat operations in Mogadishu, Somalia in 1995.
After an assignment as the Operations Officer of the TEXCOM Experimentation Center at Fort Hunter Liggett, CA in 1996, I served as the Headquarters Commandant for I Corps at Fort Lewis, WA from 1997 through 1999.

What was or were your most rewarding assignment or assignments while serving?
I had multiple combat assignments in Iraq, Kuwait, and Somalia, as well as several deployments to hot spots where the normal military 'routine' tended to fade, and the focus shifted to the practicalities of the combat environment.  I'm not saying the 'routine' doesn't have its place, I just found it rewarding to see when it came down to it, soldiers always found a way to focus on mission accomplishment and save the 'routine' for another time. 

What are you doing now?
Once I retired from the Army, I went to work for staff within the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD).  After 15 years, I retired from OSD and now work for 'Commander in Chief - House'.  I had just begun to volunteer at the Virginia War Memorial (when Covid-19 struck).  I'm now helping to homeschool my two teenagers and have begun research on a book chronicling Virginia's history with the Medal of Honor.

What advice would you give to a transitioning service member? 
First, decide whether you want to build on your military service or whether you want to make a clean break and do something different.  If you want to build on your service, don't forget the value of your security clearance.  A high-level background investigation is worth real money to a prospective employer.   
Regardless whether you want to make a clean break or not, make a complete copy of your medical records and make sure you understand all the benefits offered by both state and national veteran’s organizations.  There are more benefits available then most people realize.  Go see the Veteran's Administration (VA) sooner rather than later.  Make sure you use a Veterans Service Officer when engaging with the VA as they can advocate on your behalf.  VDVS, VFW, DAV, American Legion, etc. all have representatives that can help.


Interview with Carl Grunow, VP/General Manager, Training and Logistics Services Division, PD Systems, Inc., Prince George

Please tell us about your business. 
PD Systems, Inc. is a Service Disabled Veteran-Owned Business Government Contractor. We specialize in Engineering, Logistics and Administrative Services, as well as Power systems and equipment. Our dedicated and solutions oriented employees have extensive government contracting experience. We invest in technology and people to provide rapid, innovative and accurate solutions to complex programs.

PD Systems is a solutions oriented company providing a wide range of Logistics and Engineering Domain services. The company's portfolio includes Operational Logistics, Training Services, Engineering Services, Energy Solutions, and Sustainment Support. 

Why is your business committed to hiring veterans?
One of PD Systems Core Values is its people; Trained and responsive. A majority of our company leaders are retired senior military officers and non-commissioned officers representing more than 200 years of combined service to our Nation. We understand the quality and work ethic we bring to our team when we employ a veteran. We are proud of the trained, committed, hardworking and dedicated veterans employed by PD Systems.

What advantages has your company experienced in hiring veterans?
PD Systems primary customer is the Government, specifically the Department of Defense. Hiring veterans provides us a committed work force who understands the importance their work delivers in support of our military and the defense of our Nation. Our veteran employees provide instant credibility and trust giving us the ability to meet the business demands of a contract immediately while simultaneously providing confidence to the Government that they are getting the best support possible.

Can you tell us about the process of becoming a V3 Certified Partner? When did you become a V3 partner?
PD Systems has been a V3 certified partner since March 2014. It has been great and we look forward to the future of the program and all that it provides to employers and employees!

What advice would you give to other employers seeking to hire and retain veterans?
Hiring veterans brings quality, maturity, commitment and team work to your organization. The education, technical skills, team work, and leadership our veterans bring to your organization are invaluable.
V3 Program Manager Ross Koenig Included in Virginia Business Magazine’s “100 People to Meet In 2021”

Congratulations to Ross Koenig, program manager for the VDVS Virginia Values Veterans (V3) program on his inclusion in Virginia Business magazine’s “100 People to Meet in 2021”. The list includes biographies of 100 Virginians whom the magazine notes have made significant contributions to the Commonwealth during 2020. 
Koenig was honored for his leadership of the V3 program, which surpassed Governor Northam’s goal of hiring 65,000 military veterans during his administration a year early this past October. Since then, the number of V3 hires has now grown to nearly 68,000.
The article notes that Koenig has been working with the V3 program since its inception in 2012 starting as its regional manager for Central and Southwest Virginia until his promotion to overall program manager in 2017.
To read the article about Koenig and the 99 other Virginians to meet in 2021, click here

Virginia War Memorial Hosts 64th Commonwealth’s Veterans Day Ceremony, Thousands Watch Event on TV and Livestream

380th Army Res Band Service medley trumpets.

There has been a ceremony honoring Virginia veterans held at the Virginia War Memorial on November 11 annually since the Memorial was dedicated and opened in 1956.  Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, VDVS and the Memorial staff were determined that this year would be no exception.

Keynote speaker Virginia Governor Ralph Northam joined Virginia Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs Carlos Hopkins, VDVS Commissioner John Maxwell and Virginia War Memorial Director Dr. Clay Mountcastle on stage in Veterans Hall in the Memorial’s new C. Kenneth Wright Pavilion for the Ceremony, which began at 11 a.m.
While attendance in Veterans Hall was limited to 250 participants and guests, the ceremony was broadcast live on Richmond television station WTVR CBS6 and livestreamed on the Facebook pages of the Virginia War Memorial, VDVS, the Virginia National Guard, WTKR-TV in Norfolk and other social media channels.

“While we regret that the number of attendees must be limited this year because of COVID-19 guidelines, we are pleased to give all Virginians the opportunity to participate virtually in the Commonwealth’s Veterans Day Ceremony by watching it on television or on social media,” said Commissioner Maxwell.
“One in every 12 Virginians is a veteran,” noted Dr. Mountcastle, who welcomed those in Veterans Hall and viewing the broadcast and livestream. “As our Shrines of Memory, exhibits, and documentary films here at the Memorial showcase, Virginians have proudly answered the call to duty to defend and protect our nation and our commonwealth in peacetime and in war for over 250 years. Veterans Day gives all of us the opportunity to honor and thank these men and women for their service and sacrifice.”

Virginia National Guard Staff Sergeant opened the program with the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by the singing of the National Anthem by Hanover County Firefighter Chad Hulsey. Commissioner Maxwell and Secretary Hopkins spoke on the importance of recognizing all veterans for their service with the Secretary introducing Governor Northam as a fellow US Army veteran.
Governor Northam said that he was speaking on behalf of all veterans in expressing gratitude for the families of all who served and continue to serve in the armed forces as their support was and is crucial. He stressed the importance of keeping our veterans in the Commonwealth when they leave active duty as they help strengthen the state’s economy. He noted that the Virginia Values Veterans (V3) program has been a major success in finding jobs for veterans and their spouses with over 68,000 hired in the past eight years- noting that V3 had recently exceeded the goal he had set of 65,000 hires during his administration a year early.
“Our veterans continue to serve our Commonwealth every day,” Governor Northam said. “They are first responders, healthcare workers, teachers and students. They build everything from ships to computer networks. They are part of our largest businesses and our newest start-ups.”

The Governor also noted the many programs and services that the Virginia Department of Veterans Services offers to veterans and families including assistance with obtaining the benefits they earned from their service, state veterans care centers, special programs for women veterans, state cemeteries and more. He urged all Virginians to extend their gratitude to their fellow veterans every day of the year.

 “We need to do more than just say thank you for your service. We need to remind our veterans each and every day that they are heroes and that they are patriots,” the Governor said.
The Governor joined Dr. Mountcastle in recognizing the winners of the Memorial’s 2020 Veterans Day Student Essay Contest Niamh Moreno and Matthew Miscikowski who were seated with their families in Veterans Hall.
The Commonwealth’s Veterans Day Ceremony concluded with a live performance by the 380th Army Reserve Band, which played a medley of the songs of each branch of the US armed forces. This was followed by a special video presentation featuring Virginia veterans who spoke of what it means to each of them to be a veteran.

Students from Alexandria and Henrico Win

2020 Virginia War Memorial Veterans Day Student Essay Contest

(Left to right) High school winner Matthew Miscikowski, Governor Ralph Northam, middle school winner Niamh Moreno.

A middle schooler from Alexandria and a high school junior from Henrico County were the first place winners in the Virginia War Memorial’s 2020 Veterans Day Student Essay Contest.

The winner in the middle school category was Niamh Moreno, a 7th grader at The Basilica School of St. Mary in Alexandria. The topic of her essay was Luta May McGrath. Her teacher is Jacklin McKee.
The winner in the high school category was Matthew Miscikowski, an 11th grader at Deep Run High School in Henrico County.  His essay profiled his grandfather, Michael Troyanoski. Andrew Heare is his teacher.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam personally congratulated Niamh and Matthew and their families prior the Commonwealth’s Veterans Day Ceremony at the Virginia War Memorial in Richmond on November 11. The Virginia War Memorial Foundation hosted a special luncheon in their honor where the students read aloud their essays.

The topic of the Virginia War Memorial 2020 Veterans Day Student Essay Contest was “An American Who Served In World War II Who Inspires Me.”  The annual contest is open to middle and high school students throughout Virginia attending public or private schools or who are homeschooled.  Each winning student received a $200 gift card and each of their teachers was presented a $100 gift card to purchase classroom and educational supplies.
 "We are so proud of our essay contest winners and all of the students that participated this year,” said Dr. Clay Mountcastle, Virginia War Memorial Director. “Education and preserving history for future generations are tenets of our mission here at the Virginia War Memorial.  These students show us, with their inspiring words, just how important that mission can be.  We look forward to always incorporating students into the Commonwealth's Veterans Day Ceremony." 
A video of Niamh and Michael reading their winning essays is posted online on the VDVS YouTube channel here. Their written essays may also be accessed on the Virginia War Memorial website here.
VDVS Announces Three New Additions to
Management Team


The Virginia Department of Veterans Services has announced three new additions to the agency’s management team. These are:

Claudia Flores
Director of Policy and Planning
Prior to her promotion to VDVS Director of Policy and Planning, Claudia Flores served as Deputy Director of Benefits managing the day-to-day operations of 34 local offices. She joined the agency in 2017 as a Veterans Service Representative and later became a Regional Benefits Director for the Northern and Eastern Regions.  
Flores retired with the rank of Commander from the US Navy having earned a Commissioner as an Intelligence Officer. She served in various stateside and overseas assignments including at the National Security Agency, the Office of Naval Intelligence, and the Joint Staff including combat deployments aboard the aircraft carrier USS Eisenhower.  She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and an MBA.
“As a Veteran, I feel I understand many of the wide-ranging challenges veterans face daily – from transition to civilian life, healthcare, benefit claims and support services.” Flores said. “I look forward to working with our Board of Veterans Services, the Joint Leadership Council of Veterans Service Organizations, our Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs, and our state legislators to support policies and legislative initiatives to improve the lives and welfare of Virginia’s veterans and their families.”


Brandi Jancaitis
Director, Virginia Veterans and Family Support (VVFS) Program
Brandi Jancaitis returns to VDVS after having previously served as VVFS Program Director from 2014-2016. VVFS is the statewide program that provides peer and family support and behavioral health and supportive services links to Virginia’s military service members, veterans and their families.
She first joined VDVS in 2013 as Director of Housing Development for Veterans in 2013 where she led the successful statewide efforts to functionally end veteran homelessness. From 2016-2020, Jancaitis served as the first  Military and Veterans Affair Director for the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services. In this role, Jancaitis has been a team leader in regional and statewide suicide prevention programs for active service members, veterans and their families.
A graduate of Virginia Tech and Virginia Commonwealth University, she is a military spouse. She and her husband Nicolas, who serves in the US Army, are parents of three young children.
“As VVFS Program Director, I am looking to continue to build out our program’s peer and family support network and suicide prevention efforts, and to help buffer military-connected individuals and families from the behavioral health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Jancaitis said. “This will involve coordinated, cross-agency outreach and resource connectivity to bolster access to these services at the Federal, state and local levels. As a Virginia native and military spouse, I consider it an honor to serve in this position.”


Ravi Padma
Chief Technology Officer
Ravi Padma comes to VDVS after serving as Portfolio Project Manager at the Virginia Department of Social Services (DSS) where he managed several agency-level projects under its technology services portfolio. In January, he was recognized with the Project Excellence for his leadership in developing a highly successful COMPASS Mobile project to deliver mobile caseworkers more functionality to provide support to families and children more quickly.
Prior to joining DSS in 2016, Padma was employed in various Information Systems positions with the Virginia Retirement System for fourteen years. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering at Osmania University, and a Masters in Computer Science from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.
 “Everyone I have met at VDVS is super polite. They are passionate and committed to serving our Veterans,” Padma said.  “I look forward to doing everything I can to support their passion by providing secure and stable services as well as establishing IT as a trusted partner. My vision is to employ proven and cost effective technical solutions to support our agency's mission to assure Virginia remains the #1 state for veterans in America.”
“We are pleased to have three such qualified individuals join our VDVS leadership team,” said Commissioner John Maxwell. “Please join me in welcoming them to their new positions to help us continue our mission to serve those that served.”
Holiday Public Wreath Laying Ceremonies at VDVS State Veterans Ceremony Cancelled Due to COVID-19 Restrictions


The annual public wreath laying ceremonies normally held in early December at the three VDVS state veterans cemeteries in Amelia, Dublin and Suffolk have been cancelled due the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions regarding public gatherings.
“We sincerely regret that we must cancel the annual wreath laying ceremonies normally held prior to the holidays each December at the Virginia Veterans Cemetery in Amelia, the Southwest Virginia Veterans Cemetery in Dublin, and the Albert G. Horton, Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery in Suffolk,” said John Maxwell, VDVS Commissioner. “The restrictions on gatherings of more than 25 persons recently imposed to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus will prevent the practice of members of the public laying memorial wreaths on each gravesite this year.”
“VDVS and our cemetery staffs will work with the volunteers of the wreath committees at each of the cemeteries to adorn every grave at Amelia, Dublin and Suffolk at varying times on Saturday and Sunday, December 19 and 20,” Commissioner Maxwell added. “However, the cemeteries will be closed to the public while the wreaths are placed.”
Michael Henshaw, VDVS Director of Cemetery Services, added that families and other members of the public are requested to delay visits to the cemeteries until the afternoon of December 20 and until the wreath placements are completed.  All visitors to the Virginia state veterans cemeteries must wear facemasks, practice social distancing and adhere to all COVID-19 guidelines.
For more information about Virginia’s state veterans cemeteries including the latest information on visitation and guidelines, please click here
Click here to make a virtual or face-to-face appointment with a VDVS representative
Click here to download the VDVS Virginia Veterans Resource Guide
Click here to download the Virginia OAG Military & Veteran Legal Resource Guide
Click here to read the Re-entry Roadmap for Veterans Incarcerated in Virginia. 
Click here to download the VDVS Agency brochure
Click here to evaluate your military experience for college credits and see how they apply to Virginia Community College System programs that support your career goals
Click here to learn how to obtain a veteran indicator on your Virginia license.
Click here to learn about the Veteran Employment Grant for V3 companies
Click here to learn about DMV 2 Go Mobile Military and Veteran Site Visits.
Click here to download a Virginia Resident Disabled Veteran’s Lifetime Hunting and Fishing License Application (Department of Wildlife Resources)
Click here for a free service that can help you find the local resources you need. 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Governor of Virginia
Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs 
Virginia General Assembly
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