Honoring Advisors Who Serve(d): Fourth of July, 2017

ThinkAdvisor’s yearly slideshow honors 24 military veterans this Fourth of July who also serve in the financial advisory industry

Radioman 2nd Class Wayne Williams, one of the many advisors who served, tells us about his time in the Navy. Radioman 2nd Class Wayne Williams, one of the many advisors who served, tells us about his time in the Navy.

This is ThinkAdvisor’s sixth year of the Advisors Who Serve(d) slideshow, and each time we’ve debuted this over Memorial Day weekend and then ran it on July 4th and Veterans Day. Over this past Memorial Day we highlighted 17 veterans in the advisory world and this Fourth of July we highlight and honor 24 other advisors. 

One advisor who served in the Navy for many years, and is still active in the reserves, had mulled submitting his story but decided against it because he believed, as he said in an email, "it wasn't the appropriate thing to do on Memorial Day." He had a compelling reason and one that we should remember about military service. He explained that Memorial Day is about those who have fallen in battle, not those who served and are still alive — that is for Veterans Day, and Armed Forces Day is to honor those currently serving.

ThinkAdvisor chose Memorial Day to debut its yearly story because, for better or worse, it is a three-day holiday weekend, with parades and barbecues, and it's when most of America is focused on the military, those departed and those still with us. So we hope we've educated you somewhat, as the naval vet urged us, about these important holidays.

sandra cho

Name: Sandra Cho

Title/Company: CEO / Pointwealth Capital Management

Branch: US Navy Reserve

Rank held at beginning of service and at end:  E3 - E2

Service Dates:  2002 -2005

Work you did: Mass Communications

Brief story that stands out from your service time: The commander of my reserve unit was a former Navy fighter pilot. We stayed in touch for 15 years. He is an executive at a Fortune 500 company now and recently became my client and close friend.

sean gass

Name: Sean D. Gass

Title/Company: Portfolio Manager / Merrill Lynch

Branch: US Navy

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: Ensign - Lieutenant Commander

Service Dates:  1993-2003

Work you did: Submarine Warfare Officer

Brief story that stands out from your service time: Leading the color guard detail on the USS Arizona Memorial on December 7, 1999 - and having the chance to personally welcome aboard surviving members of the crew, listening to their stories as they stood above their sunken ship and fallen shipmates.

wayne williams

Name: Wayne Williams 

Title/Company: Money Manager / Professional Advisory Services

Branch: US Navy

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: Seaman - Radioman 2nd Class

Service Dates:  1958-1961

Work you did: Radioman 2nd Class

Brief story that stands out from your service time: As a very poor lad from Tennessee, I could not wait to join the Navy and see the world. Thirteen days after high school graduation at age 17, I signed up and left the woods and the chicken house I was raised in. While in high school I was Elvis Presley’s paperboy at Graceland.

I signed up in Little Rock, Arkansas, and flew to San Diego in 1958 for training in how to march, how to fold underwear and keep a perfect bed. While in training camp my mother called to tell me I had to come home. A college track coach had called to offer me a full college scholarship to run track. My Drill Instructor made fun of me to the whole barracks since I was a mama’s boy! As the outstanding athlete in my high school I was in a perfect situation to use those abilities throughout my tour of duty literally around the world.

After a tour in the Asia waters, I returned to San Diego to study in the Radiomen Electronics Class A School. I scored the 4th highest in the history of this school dating from WWII and was allowed to serve any duty in the world of the U.S. Navy. I chose a supply ship out of Norfolk, Virginia. To my joy, the US Alcor was the first atomic supply ship in the Navy.

We would take Polaris missiles to Scotland every 4 months to load on the submarines while they watched the Russians. In 1960 the Senior Fleet Admiral requested me to serve as his ship’s communication officer. He took me on the NATO exercises in the North Atlantic with France, the US, and England. I had to communicate with the War Fleet Admiral, aircraft carrier in Morse code. The two of us (radiomen) were apparently the best in the Navy at receiving and sending Morse code.

While at the radio school in San Diego, a Christian chaplain introduced me to Jesus Christ and it wasn’t long before the ship’s captain told me to lead a service every Sunday while at sea. That is the single reason I did not sign up to extend my tour of duty. I had to go to Bible School! While at Bible School I led a team of college students to hold a service for sailors on the ships while they were in port. Those sailors loved seeing college girls on board. Some even paid attention to my attempt of preaching.

I give credit to the US Navy for repairing every bad tooth in my mouth, serving me the best food I had ever tasted, giving me the opportunity to tell others about Christ, traveling me around the world to see countries I could only hope to see in books. May God bless the US Navy and the greatest fleet for peace in the world!

steve sant

Name: Steve Sant

Title/Company: CFP / Premier Wealth Management

Branch: US Navy

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: E-1 -  E-5

Service Dates:  1973 - 1977

Work you did: Air Traffic Control

Brief story that stands out from your service time: Responsible for saving the lives of 3 pilots in 2 separate incidents: Coordinated the rescue of an F-14 Tomcat pilot and REO that punched out over the Pacific just south of Miramar. Virtually identical to the Top Gun movie, only 20 years earlier. Both survived.

Second incident was an F-4 Phantom approaching the USS Kitty Hawk way out in the Pacific. During flight he lost all instrumentation, but the controls were responsive. I was on final control, in constant communication, advising whether right or left, and above or below glide-path. The runway was moving 32 mph while see-sawing up and down and tilting left and right and he's flying a brick at high speed. His hook miraculously caught a wire on the first attempt.

I received a letter of commendation for both events.

T.J. Whalen

Name: T.J. Whalen

Title/Company: VP Life Division / Financial Independence Group

Branch: US Army

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: 2LT / MAJ

Service Dates:  1995 - 2001

Work you did: Finance and Artillery Officer

Brief story that stands out from your service time: We once had an Air Force A-10 bomber drop a 500-lb bomb on our position in Bosnia (friendly fire). It knocked my Forward Observer out of his 20 foot high observation post. He walked away without a scratch. He'd only been in country a week. He went to chapel services every single day after that incident until the end of the deployment! We'd always joke with him that the Air Force helped him find God.

nate george

Name: Nate George

Title/Company: Financial Advisor / Edward Jones

Branch: US Army 3rd Infantry Regiment

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

Service Dates:  2000 - 2003

Work you did: Airborne Infantry

Brief story that stands out from your service time: I was sent to the Pentagon on 9/11 as a first responder and tasked with casualty recovery. I remember running through the streets of Washington, D.C., in formation past gridlocked traffic on the 14th Street bridge so we could get to our base, grab our gear and head to the Pentagon. In a full hazmat suit with a breathing apparatus I saw things over the next three months that can't be unseen.

But the kindness and the enduring American spirit that I witnessed is something I will remember for the rest of my life. We saw citizens with giant American flags passing by our post dozens of times to show support. And in the months that followed one of the greatest honors of my life was laying those heroes/victims of the attacks to rest in Arlington National Cemetery, as is the duty of the 3rd Infantry Regiment. It is a true privilege to serve this great country of ours.

john eckel

Name: John Eckel

Title/Company: President / Pinnacle Investment Management Inc

Branch: US Army

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: 2nd LT / 1st LT

Service Dates:  1968 - 1970

Work you did: Signal Officer / Platoon Leader

Brief story that stands out from your service time: I was serving in Vietnam the same time as Mike, a close friend, although we were in different locations. One day I learned that Mike was in a nearby hospital and was being "medi-vaced" out of Vietnam. I rushed to the hospital only to learn that the reason Mike was being sent back to the States was that he had high blood pressure and was otherwise fine. As we talked, the "incoming" siren sounded so we dived under our Mike's bed and continued our conversation in what could have been a scene from M*A*S*H.

dennis kaminski

Name: Dennis Kaminski

Title/Company: Summit Brokerage Services

Branch: US Air Force

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: Airman - Staff Sgt.

Service Dates:  1968 - 1972

Work you did: Military Air Police

Brief story that stands out from your service time: On a flight over the Sea of Japan our C-130 unexpectedly started to plunge towards the ocean. Scrambling to get our parachutes on, I noticed my good friend trying to get his chute on which became tangled and twisted. He screamed, we're going to make it aren't we? I shouted back, well I think one of us is! Fortunately the plane leveled out and we landed safely, had a lot of beers and laughs!

thomas oldt

Name: Thomas Roe Oldt

Title/Company: Thomas R. Oldt Investment Services LLC

Branch: US Navy

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: SA - CYN3

Service Dates:  1967-1973

Work you did: Communications Yeoman

Brief story that stands out from your service time: My service was nothing compared to my childhood friends from Winter Haven who lost their lives in Vietnam: Richard Hood, Johnny Hays and Richard Coleman.

george harsh

Name: George Harsh 

Title/Company: Financial Advisor / Summit Brokerage

Branch: USAR, Infantry Officer

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: 2LT - 1LT

Service Dates:  1970 - 1972

Work you did: Infantry Platoon Leader, Company Executive Officer

Brief story that stands out from your service time: I was in The Old Guard, stationed at Ft. Meyer, Virginia. We conducted all ceremonial duties in Arlington Cemetery, the Pentagon, and the White House. One bright, sunny afternoon, I commanded a joint service cordon on the driveway of the South Lawn of The White House which welcomed two new ambassadors to The White House to receive their credentials from the President.

Jose Miguel Rosario

Name: Jose Miguel Rosario

Title/Company: Financial Advisor / Morgan Stanley

Branch: US Navy Aviation

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: E5

Service Dates:  1987 - 1998

Work you did: Systems Engineer on the FA/18 aircrafts

Brief story that stands out from your service time: Deployed with the 105 Air Wing / VFA-131 active duty and VFA-203 reserves Squadrons. Served on several tours including the Mediterranean ocean. Received 2 Navy Achievement medals for high performance and systems knowledge.

Name: Herschel Ryan

Title/Company: First Vice President – Investments / Wells Fargo Advisors

Branch: US Army

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

Service Dates:  1965-1968

Work you did: Helicopter Pilot

Brief story that stands out from your service time: Platoon Leader Company A, 227th Assault Helicopter Bn, 1st Cav Div. Viet Nam Feb 67-Feb 68. Injured Feb 9, 1968 while leading flight on combat assault resulting in loss of left hand and left eye. Received Silver Star, Purple Heart and Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry awards.

(No photo provided)

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Name: Douglas L. Morgan

Title/Company: Director of New Business Development / Sapphire Blue IP

Branch: US Army

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: E-1 / E-5

Service Dates:  1966 - 1968

Work you did: Crypto

Brief story that stands out from your service time: Helicopter Crash July 68 resulting in 5 months in the hospital and being discharged from hospital and army same day December 1968. I had extended my tour in Viet Nam with the intent of getting out of the Army by Christmas 1968 and it worked but not the way I had it planned. The story is much longer and including 5 different hospitals, lost or no records, receipt of purple heart 40 years later, being billed by the Army for the rifle I lost in the crash a year after I was discharged. All in good humor and I have had a good life.

(No photo provided)

Name: Lisa Murray

Title/Company: Investment Consultant / Sentinel Wealth Strategies

Branch: US Army

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

Service Dates:  1991-1996

Work you did: I was an Operating Room Tech (91D)

Brief story that stands out from your service time: My entire time in the service was very rewarding and educational for me. I learned at a young age how to overcome adversity, I gained self-confidence and learned to adapt to many different situations. Things I currently use in my daily life.

(No photo provided)

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Name: Frank Searing

Title/Company: Advisor / PDI Financial Resources LLC

Branch: US Army

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: Specialist 4

Service Dates:  1965 - 1967

Work you did: Military Police

Brief story that stands out from your service time: My association with my fellow soldiers. We were proud of being Americans.

(No photo provided)

Name: Gregg Sutherland 

Title/Company: Stockbroker / Summit Brokerage

Branch: US Army

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

Service Dates:  1970 - 1973

Work you did: Medic

Brief story that stands out from your service time: Vietnam 1971- 1973

(No photo provided)

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Name: Richard Leist

Title/Company: Senior Financial Advisor / Summit Brokerage Services

Branch: U.S. Naval Reserve

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: SA - JO2i

Service Dates:  1971-1977

Work you did: Editor, Atlantic Fleet Amphibous Force Newspaper

Brief story that stands out from your service time: Boot Camp -- Avoided personnel inspections because beard shadow was too heavy even after a close shave.

(No photo provided)

Name: Steven L Polaski

Title/Company: CFP / Summit Brokerage Services

Branch: USAF

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: Airman (E-1), Senior Airman (E-4)

Service Dates:  1989 - 1996

Work you did: Russian Cryptographic Linguist

Brief story that stands out from your service time: Serving in the close-knit intelligence community I had the opportunity to work with some outstanding individuals. The odd shifts, long hours, and interesting work forged life-long friendships.

(No photo provided)

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Name: Bruce Mazo

Title/Company: CEO, CFP / Secure Retirement Advisors LLC

Branch: US Army

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: 2LT - 1LT

Service Dates:  1969 - 1972

Work you did: Quartermaster Officer - multiple assignments

Brief story that stands out from your service time: At that time a uniformed service member of same or higher rank had to accompany remains. :-(  This was not a full-time duty. Everyone did it on a Duty Roster. I accompanied one fallen vet from Dover AFB. I then attended his funeral at Arlington. He contributed way more than I did, but that's the service that stands out.

(No photo provided)

Name: John C. McCormick, Jr.

Title/Company: Managing Director / Wells Fargo Advisors

Branch: US Army

Rank held at beginning of service and at end:  E-1 - SP4

Service Dates:  1971 - 1973

Work you did: Legal Clerk

Brief story that stands out from your service time: None I can pass on publicly.

(No photo provided)

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Name: George Reilly 

Title/Company: Principal / Safe Harbor Financial Advisors, LLC

Branch: US Navy

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: Ensign; retired as Commander

Service Dates:  1984 - 2006

Work you did: Judge Advocate (attorney)

Brief story that stands out from your service time: Many stories but one that came to mind immediately was an early experience that brought a young attorney/officer back to earth. I was trying to help a sailor with a consumer issue at a local company and wrote the very lawyerly "strongly worded letter" and heard nothing. Then I saw a local TV news "Action Line" segment where the reporter held up a copy of my letter and said "even a Navy lawyer couldn't resolve this..." and showed my client getting restitution. It impressed on me early on that sometimes publicity is better than legal authority!

(No photo provided)

Name: Dick Gootee 

Title/Company: CFP / Atherton Wealth Advisors

Branch: US Navy

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: 3rd class petty officer

Service Dates:  1960- 1963

Work you did: Guided missile technician

Brief story that stands out from your service time: Most interesting times were boarding Russian trawlers on Station E Cuba searching for Russian missiles being delivered to Castro

(No photo provided)

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Name: Tim Fliam

Title/Company: Financial Advisor / Cetera Advisor Networks

Branch: US Navy

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: E-1 and E-5 (Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class)

Service Dates:  2006 - Present

Work you did: Medical -- Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class

Brief story that stands out from your service time: While on active duty I served at Edson Range on Camp Pendleton, where Marine Corps recruits complete their basic training. One thing I will never forget is witnessing a recruit sweep dirt in the middle of the desert per his drill instructors order!! While sometimes orders may seem ridiculous and this one definitely was, it is part of the boot camp process and teaches valuable lessons for the recruits in their process of becoming a Marine.

(No photo provided)

Name: Edward Katz

Title/Company: Managing Director-Investments / Wells Fargo Advisors

Branch: US Navy

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: Ensign; Lieutenant

Service Dates:  1989 - 1993

Work you did: Naval Officer on USS Wichita

Brief story that stands out from your service time: I made 2 good friends that I still talk to 25 years later. I had more responsibility than I'll ever have again. Taking care of my men helped prepare me to learn how to take care of my customers. After I resigned my commission in the Navy, I then followed my Father -- also a former naval officer -- into this great business.

(No photo provided)

--- Check out our special Advisors Who Serve(d) page to read more stories by advisor-veterans.

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