Honoring Advisors Who Serve(d): Memorial Day, 2014

In our latest slideshow honoring advisors and their partners who served in the armed forces, we present 10 veterans deserving of praise

Nearly 100 years ago, the “War to End All Wars” began. A soldier-poet who was to die in action during that war — a week before it ended — wrote the poem below.

On Memorial Day, ThinkAdvisor continues our now three-year-old tradition of honoring advisors and their partners who served in the armed forces of the United States through slideshows presenting their names, images and what they remember about their service.

While those in the pages to follow were not required to give, in Lincoln’s words, the “last full measure of devotion,” they did give their time, their youth, their minds and bodies and their talents to benefit all of us, and we remember their sacrifice in this modest way.

Anthem for Doomed Youth

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
      — Only the monstrous anger of the guns
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.

No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells
And bugles calling for them from sad shires. 

What candles may be held to speed them all?
      Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
      The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds. 

                                           --Wilfred Owen

Jon Melges

Name: Jon Melges

Title/Company: Branch Manager, Managing Director, Raymond James & Associates

Branch: U.S. Army

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: Beginning: Private; End: Sargeant E5

Service Dates:  1990-1994

Work you did: Infantry

Brief story that stands out from your service time: While walking through Kuwait, a young 12 year old boy, walked up to me and my friend and said: "Hey GI let me buy you lunch." Thinking that this is a war torn country we responded: "Let us buy you lunch." He then pulled out a lot of cash and said that his family owned an oil well and that he really wanted to buy us lunch for what we have done. So we agreed and sat down with him and listened to his story. His father was taken away, tortured and finally returned after we liberated Kuwait. His mother and sisters were repeatedly raped and then shot in front of him. At 12 years old he became the head of the family. I will never forget that day and the profound effect that the little boy has had on me.

Fred Miller (right)

Name: Fred Miller

Title/Company: VP, Senior Advisor Consultant, Franklin Templeton Investments

Branch: U.S. Marine Corps.

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: E1 - E-3

Service Dates: 1988 - 1992

Work you did: Legal

Brief story that stands out from your service time: Chief Warrant Officer Dexter Hodgeman was a former drill instructor that I worked for at 2nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Marine Division. CWO Hodgeman was hardcore in every way possible. Short story was that a bunch of us thought CWO Hodgeman had left early for the day to go golf, so we all lit up cigarettes and were smoking in the building (was ok back then, but NOT when CWO Hodgeman was on deck - personal preference - rank has its privileges.) Needless to say, he forgot something, so about 30 minutes after he left, he popped back into the building and busted us smoking. He flipped out! We all got punished hard. Afterwards, he assembled us and quickly and succinctly explained to us our valuable lesson on "integrity." He taught us that integrity is ALWAYS doing the right thing, even when nobody is around or looking, even when alone and if you don't think anyone will ever know. ALWAYS do the right thing. Period. This is a lesson that has benefited me my entire life. I only wish EVERYONE, including my own son could do the same. It is a difficult lesson to learn. That day will stand out in my mind forever vividly.  Maybe it didn't impact the others in my group the same way. I took the lesson to heart.

Jon S. Ladd

Name: Jon S. Ladd

Title/Company: Raymond James

Branch: U.S. Army

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: Commissioned a Lieutenant, retired Lieutenant Colonel

Service Dates:  1978 - 2006

Work you did: Originally Military Intelligence Officer in Korea, Then US Army Rangers (black Ops), followed by 3 tours as a Helicopter Pilot in Germany then one tour as a fixed-wing pilot flying the German/Czech border

Brief story that stands out from your service time: I was a pilot/liaison/intelligence officer working out of Wiesbaden, Germany, when we received a request from "the company" to fly a special track near the Czech border at a specific time. We advised their representatives to allow us to let the German ATC tell us the best track routes for the mission. The reps from "the company" insisted on telling them what we would fly. The German ATC responded "It won't be a very secret mission if I have to re-route 50 Jetliners to clear your airspace!" Point well taken.

Name: Wes Adwell (No photo provided)

Title/Company: Investment Advisor Representatives, Lincoln Investment Planning

Branch: U.S. Navy

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: E1 - E5. FTG2

Service Dates:  1981 - 1985

Work you did: Fire Control Technician

Brief story that stands out from your service time: I was fortunate enough to have served during Ronald Reagan's term and his buildup of a 600-ship Navy. The Navy was changing and there was a lot of pride in the military and in our country. Many great memories of friends and countries I visited. A memorable time was when were headed to San Francisco for Fleet Week in 1984. Very impressive site of all the ships one day in every direction, horizon to horizon. San Francisco and it's residents treated us great. The only time I remember ever wanting to wear my uniform off duty. Proud to have served!

Jason Lahita (third from left)

Name: Jason Lahita (pictured second from right)

Title/Company: Founding Partner, FiComm Partners

Branch: U.S. Navy

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: E1 - E4

Service Dates:  1996 - 2000

Work you did: Avionics Technician

Brief story that stands out from your service time: The best part of serving in the US Navy was the diverse array of people you got to know from all over the country. Your "shipmates." You learn to respect different points of view, you develop a bond as you experience new, challenging and exciting things together.  I remember one of my avionics school roommates, John, on day one of our time together blasting country music non-stop. He was a lot larger than me so in a way it was like sharing a jail cell, he got to  have it his way. Until I noticed he never used the Internet and offered to share one of my AOL IDs with him (you got 7 for some reason). That offer resulted in a less "in your face" music barrage, and him meeting his future wife (still married) on an online dating site. And I actually developed a "tolerance" for country. Interestingly it seemed like every other sailor I encountered hailed from Texas. Good guys and gals next to you, great friendships — serving your country and seeing the world together via a massive nuclear powered aircraft carrier ... good times.

Michael R. Kalas

Name: Michael R. Kalas, CFP, AIF

Title/Company: President, Potomac Financial Private Client Group, LLC

Branch: U.S. Navy

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: Midshipman – Captain, USN

Service Dates:  1969 – 1996

Work you did: Finance and Logistics in Naval Aviation

Brief story that stands out from your service time: I showed up to the US Naval Academy to start Plebe year on June 30th 1969. I used to like to joke, that the rest of my high school class went to Woodstock and I went to the Naval Academy. Plebe summer is not fun. The 2nd Classmen (juniors) must work very hard to turn 1,300 civilians into Midshipmen over 2 summer months before the Brigade returns for the academic year. For some reason, which is lost on me now, I showed up for Plebe year with my golf clubs. The first thing my 2nd class squad leader asked me was, “Midshipman 4th class Kalas, are you on the golf team?” I said, “No sir!” He then asked me if I thought the Naval Academy was a “country club”? “No sir!” I replied. Right away I knew I was in big trouble. From that point on, he and the other 2nd classmen made sure that for the next week, no matter what drill we were doing and no matter where we were marching, I carried those golf clubs.  I even had to make room in my bunk to sleep with the clubs every night. It didn’t take long before all of the 2nd class on summer Plebe Detail knew my name (“hey Country Club”) and would single me out for “special instruction.”  I was miserable.  

Finally a solution presented itself. About a week after we arrived we were told to report to a specific location with everything we brought with us to send home. Plebes weren’t allowed to have civilian clothes during Plebe year, so you had to send them home along with luggage and anything else you brought that you weren’t allowed to keep. I saw this as my chance to get rid of those golf clubs. So I packed them up with my clothes and suitcases and sent them to my parents with a note to please not bring them back! As I look back I feel so blessed to have had two really great careers as a Naval Officer and a financial advisor and to work with fine leaders both in and out of the military.

 

Gary MacMitchell

Name: Gary MacMitchell

Title/Company: CEO, Cornerstone Retirement Advisors, Inc.

Branch: USN

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: ENS / LT

Service Dates:  1990 - 1994

Work you did: Logistics

Brief story that stands out from your service time: During my 1st year as a FA, a bank executive had listened as I gave my background to a prospect. Later that evening, bank executive started laughing and said, "I can just see you now signing and cashing payroll checks in the middle of the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm."

Geoff Meno

Name: Geoff Meno

Title/Company: Financial Advisor, Edward Jones

Branch: U.S. Marine Corps.

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: 2nd Lieutenant - Captain

Service Dates: 2004 – 2010 

Work you did: Infantry and Reconnaissance Officer

Brief story that stands out from your service time: On my first deployment to Iraq, between missions I shared an 8 x 14 foot room with four other Marines. Accommodations were much more spacious on my second deployment, as I shared a similar space with just one other Marine. By my third deployment, it was true luxury. When not sleeping on the hood of my truck or in the dirt during a mission, another Marine and I had almost 150 square feet to call "home!" The real perk, however, was a legitimate toilet just 300 feet away!

Roderick "Rory" O'Connor

Name: Roderick "Rory" O'Connor

Title/Company: Financial Advisor, Edward Jones

Branch: US Navy

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: E-3  -  E-5

Service Dates:  1984 - 1992

Work you did: Navy SEAL

Brief story that stands out from your service time: I was once asked to back a boat down into the water off a trailer when I was new at ST-1.  I agreed to do it, but was stopped as I began to jackknife the trailer/truck.  My friend and mentor chided me saying, "If you don't know how to do something, admit it and learn. Don't fake it."

Rob Smith

Name: Rob Smith

Title/Company: Financial Advisor, Edward Jones

Branch: U.S. Marine Corps.

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: Private - Master Sergeant

Service Dates: 1992 – 2012 

Work you did:  Counterintelligence/Human Intelligence (HUMINT) Agent (0211). This role consisted of identifying and counteracting threats by hostile intelligence organizations, or by people engaged in Espionage, Sabotage, Subversion or Terrorism.

Brief story that stands out from your service time: One of my favorite stories during my Career involved my wife. Military members who belonged to the various units supporting the President and who were in direct support roles were given the opportunity to take our spouses and meet the President in the Oval office. There are specific rules we had to adhere to, mostly for time constraints, but some clearly for security reasons. For instance, do not bring a baseball for the President to sign, because he is huge baseball fan and probably would sign it, taking time from the picture-taking. As my wife and I stepped up to meet the President, he shook our hands and asked where we were about to be assigned. When I told him I was heading to a unit to support ongoing rotations to Iraq, he thanked me and then explained to my wife that he could not be prouder of our military spouses for how they support our nation. As we turned to leave, my wife paused and told the President we prayed for him as a family every day. He held her hand and told how much that meant for him to hear. She then asked if she could give him a hug. And, of course, he said “yes.”

It was pretty awesome seeing the President give my wife a hug. She told many of our friends at HMX-1. The wives were all excited to do the same thing -- until the following week when a new rule was added to list of things not to do (which of course was "do not hug the President”). I, of course, told my wife it was for security reasons, which always gets a laugh. I have no idea if that rules still exists, but it is nice to know my wife can have an effect on White House policy; she is pretty awesome. Semper Fi!

-- Check out ThinkAdvisor's Special Section on Advisors Who Serve(d) for more stories and previous slideshows.

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