Disabled Veterans National Foundation


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.



Scott Carson, President

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 United Healthcare, winning multiple sales awards. He now works as a consultant in Maryland, and is very active in several community outreach efforts.

Greg Smith, Vice President

Greg is a veteran of both the United States Navy (Chief Petty Officer Coastal/Riverine Warfare) and Connecticut Army National Guard (Staff Sergeant 242nd Combat Engineers). Greg had many duties over his 22-year military career, but he is most proud of serving as the Operations Officer of Inshore Boat Unit Two Two, where he was also Patrol Leader and Chief weapons instructor. He currently serves as a member of Connecticut’s 3rd Congressional District, Veterans Affairs Committee. For more than 25 years Greg has been a volunteer working to ensure that the needs of disabled veterans and our wounded warriors are not forgotten. For these efforts and others, in 2015 the Governor of Connecticut recognized Greg as the 115th member of the State of Connecticut Veterans Hall of Fame.

Barry Walter, Program Committee Chair

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.

Tashawnya “Tish” Di Leo, Board Treasurer

Ms. Di Leo is a Project Associate with SAMHSA’s Service Members, Veterans, and their Families Technical Assistance (SMVF TA) Center at Policy Research Associates, Inc. (PRA). In this capacity, she provides technical assistance to states, territories, and local communities working to strengthen their behavioral health systems for SMVF. Ms. Di Leo is a retired Army Combat Veteran. After retirement and due to her own personal experiences she has dedicated herself to supporting her brothers and sisters in arms and their families. Some of her previous roles included serving as Director of the Veterans Mental Health Department (VMHD) at Texas Veterans Commission, Manager of VMHD, VMHD Military Veteran Peer Network Peer (MVPN) Coordinator, MVPN Statewide Training Manager, MVPN Peer Service Coordinator, and Grace After Fire Outreach Coordinator. Over the past 10 years she has trained hundreds of peers, mental health professionals, and law enforcement with the emphasis on suicide prevention, de-escalation and peer support. Ms. Di Leo holds a Bachelor of Science in Justice Administration. She is a mother of two amazing Army Brats who as a family volunteer and support the SMVF Community.

MAJ Adam Street, Secretary

MAJ 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 has served as a Flight Surgeon with the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade, in Ansbach, Germany and completed his residency in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. He is currently completing a Sports Medicine fellowship at Emory University. MAJ Street’s military awards include the Army Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Joint Service Achievement Medal and Overseas Service Ribbon

General Kenneth Merchant, U.S Air Force (Ret)

Ken Merchant is President, Life Cycle Solutions, Inc., an Aerospace and Defense consulting firm. Prior to his current role, Ken spent seven years with Lockheed Martin as Vice President, F-22 Programs and Vice President, F-35 Sustainment. On F-22, Ken’s overall responsibility was to ensure the F-22 program achieved financial, schedule and quality performance targets to support our U.S. Air Force customer and warfighters. Before joining Lockheed Martin, Major General Merchant completed a distinguished 34-year career in the Air Force with multiple experiences in program management and logistics including service as Program Executive Officer for Weapons, Commander, Air Armament Center and Director of Logistics for Air Mobility Command. Ken has a bachelor’s degree in Engineering Management from Grove City College and master’s degrees in Management and National Resource Management from Troy State University and National Defense University. He is also certified as a Level III Program Manager in DoD’s Acquisition Professional Development Program and completed the Defense Systems Management College’s Program Managers Course in 1986. He served on the congressionally-directed Section 809 Panel charged with recommending improvements to the Defense Acquisition System.

Guillermo Tejeda “TJ”, GySgt USMC (Ret)

On 11 November 2010 GySgt Tejada was on a Recon patrol in the Southern Green zone scouting landing zones to extract any casualties sustained in that area. Once GySgt Tejada had identified the possible landing zone the patrol began to head back to the Forward Operating Base. GySgt Tejada was seriously injured by an Improvised Explosive Device, even though the evacuation took more than an hour, GySgt Tejada critically wounded stayed conscious and kept fighting for his life. On 16 November 2010 he was transferred to Bethesda Medical Center where he underwent multiple surgeries. After recovering from his surgeries GySgt Tejada was transferred to Naval Medical Center San Diego California where he continued rehabilitation. GySgt Tejada’s knowledge of the inner works of the Veterans Integrated Service Net-work (VISN) makes him an ideal board members to help guide and provide oversight on DVNF’s Programs and Services. Decorations and Awards include: Combat Action Ribbon, Purple Heart, Bronze Star Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and many more...

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.

Mildred Mesembe, Director of Finance

Mildred Mesembe is the Director of Finance at DVNF. 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.

Leander Brereton, Director of Operations

Leander Brereton is the Director of Operations at DVNF. She graduated in May 2010 from Bowie State University with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in Management.

Patrick Heron, Direct Mail Director

Completed his studies at SUNY – College at Old Westbury, Long Island University – C.W. Post Campus and University of Cambridge – Judge Business School in Information Systems, Project Management and Business Analytics. Patrick uses a mixture of his years of education and experience gained in Direct Marketing and Analytics from AccuData Integrated Marketing and JPMorganChase to do his job as Direct Mail Director.

John Paruch, Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations

After proudly serving in the United States Navy, John graduated from Michigan State University and spent 20 years working in television advertising. Putting some of those business skills to use, he has spent the past 10 years in development for disabled veterans.