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Advisors Who Serve(d) Tell Their Stories: Memorial Day, 2015

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World War I ended in 1918, and of the more than 65 million participants, none are alive today. With World War II over for 70 years now, the millions who served in that war are disappearing. Fortunately, many have had their stories recorded, giving us a deeper and more colorful understanding of a soldier’s life. But soldiers serve in the military in peace as well as in war, and those peacetime stories are often ignored.

So for Memorial Day, ThinkAdvisor continues our now four-year-old tradition of honoring advisors who served in the U.S. armed forces, whether in war or peace. This slideshow presents their names, images and what they remember about or learned from their service.

ThinkAdvisor had such a big repsonse to our request for stories, we will only present 16 veterans deserving of praise and do a second round for the Fourth of July holiday.

Bill Grantham 

Name: Bill Grantham

Title/Company: Financial Planner / Paragon Financial Advisors

Branch: US Army

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: Beginning: 2LT Current: 1LT (P)

Service Dates:  2010 – Current

Work you did: Field Artillery Officer

Brief story that stands out from your service time: I commissioned onto Active Duty from Texas A&M University in 2010 and have since transitioned into the Army Reserves. I’ve got a lot of good memories of the soldiers I served with and the posts I was stationed. One of my favorite memories was during my deployment to Afghanistan. My folks put me on a care package distribution list with a local charity group. They would send us packages once every few weeks and one day they mailed me a full set of golf clubs and just about 300 golf balls. We had a great time hitting those out into the middle of nowhere and our Battalion Sergeant Major, a huge golf fanatic, had a detail construct a driving range out of plywood and a canvas tarp to catch the balls before they hit the backstop. I still don’t know where he resourced Astro Turf from, but the whole set up really boosted morale.

Fred Taylor

Name: Fred Taylor

Title/Company: Investor Coach / Professional Associates Wealth Coaching

Branch: US Navy

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: SA – SN

Service Dates:  1957 – 1963

Work you did: Radar

Brief story that stands out from your service time: Providing air cover for Marines removing Americans from Nicaro, Cuba in the middle of the revolution.

Frank Barrella 

Name: Frank Barrella

Title/Company: Advisor / Summit Brokerage Services

Branch: US Navy

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: E1 – E5

Service Dates:  1977-1981

Work you did: Boiler Tech

Brief story that stands out from your service time: I was stationed on board the USS Josephus Daniels CG-27! After 7-8 weeks of training down in Guantanamo, Cuba, my ship’s first port of call was St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. Our ship was anchored off shore and there were about 100 sailor’s topside as the liberty boats were scheduled to start bringing us ashore. In the distance a small skiff with two young ladies were approaching our ship and being on a guided missile cruiser we were not far above the water line. As soon as they were close enough to the ship they took they’re tops off and said “hey sailor boys how do you like these” and kept circling the ship! As they continued to circle sailors (including officers) were running from port to starboard and back! Several sailors jumped in water as this frenzy continued to build! Needless to say “Black Beard and his band of pirates had one hell of a time in St. Thomas!”

Dean Owen

Name: Dean Owen

Title/Company: President / M Dean Owen CPA

Branch: US Navy

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: E-3 to E-6

Service Dates:  1987-1997

Work you did: Submarines and Tactical Operations

Brief story that stands out from your service time: Learned to do financial planning and taxes in the Military

Charles Reeder

Name: Charles Reeder

Title/Company: CSA / Barclays Wealth

Branch: US Marine Corps

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: E-1 PVT — E-4 CPL

Service Dates: 2006 – 2010

Work you did: 0331 Heavy Machine gunner

Brief story that stands out from your service time: While serving with 2nd battalion 6th marines, my unit was invited to Fleet Week in 2009. As the USS Iwo Jima was pulling into port, the USO show troop boarded our ship to give us a performance. I was one of the marines selected to do the color guard for the show. Before the performance we were asked to take a picture with the USO girls standing boy girl boy girl. I didn’t know it at the time, but the beautiful young girl that I was standing next to would later become my wife. I officially met her the next night when we were both mutually invited to an event in the city. I ended up talking to her the whole night and we spent every day of Fleet Week together. After my unit departed from NYC we keep in constant contact with each other and made trips to see each other every other weekend, and when I left the Marine Corps a few months later I move to NY to be with her. She is the reason I am here and also the reason why I am in my current industry. Memorial Day is a special day for us because we mark it as our anniversary. This year, 2015 will mark six years that we have been together.

Peggy Stephan

Name: Peggy Stephan

Title/Company: Financial Advisor / Retirement Capital Strategies

Branch: USN

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: Ensign – Commander

Service Dates:  1989 – Present

Work you did: Naval Aviator

Brief story that stands out from your service time: I flew many missions in the Persian Gulf, often in countries where women were not allowed to drive and men were not supposed to be seen with women they were not related to. In Kuwait I had a problem with a fuel line fitting, and a local man drove me all over the airfield to find the part I needed. It was culturally challenging for both of us. When I thanked him for his help, he replied “I would do anything for an American pilot, because you saved my country.”

Joe Lyons

Name: Joe Lyons

Title/Company: Chief Investment Officer / Tricord Advisors Inc.

Branch: US Navy

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

Service Dates: 1971 – 1978 

Work you did: Surface Warfare Officer

Brief story that stands out from your service time: Evacuated 1,700 Vietnamese civilians in 1975. Recently met a Vietnamese woman who was on one of our squadron ships after a helicopter delivered her from the US embassy roof in Saigon. She was so grateful it brought a tear to my eye.

Sean Michael Pearson

Name: Sean Michael Pearson

Title/Company: Financial Advisor, Associate Vice President / Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc.

Branch: Pennsylvania Air National Guard

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: A1C to Captain

Service Dates:  1997 to Present

Work you did: Willow Grove Air Reserve Station, Horsham Air Guard Station

Brief story that stands out from your service time: During March of 2003, I was deployed to 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, Southwest Asia. During the 1st hours of Iraqi Freedom, my weapons load crew was working a 12 hour shift at the end of runway. We’re essentially in the middle of the desert, waiting to launch aircraft that taxi from the flight line. We heard air raid sirens blaring, and since the nearest building is approximately a mile away, the only unexposed area was inside the back of our work van, in our charcoal-lined chemical suits. Fortunately a combined effort of base air defense and poor aim on the part of the Iraqi missiles kept us safe. That day gave me perspective – no matter how bad the market or the economy might get, I likely won’t have any days as an advisor that are more stressful than being an A-10 weapons loader. Providing financial advice has been very rewarding, and my military experience has made me better at helping my clients through difficult periods in their lives.

Jason Reiman 

Name: Jason Reiman

Title/Company: Owner/Financial Planner & Coach / Get Financially Fit

Branch: US Air Force

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: E1/E5

Service Dates:  2003 – 2009

Work you did: JAG Paralegal

Brief story that stands out from your service time: Serving in southern Iraq at one of the (at the time) largest Iraqi detainee operations compounds, the song “Apologize” from One Republic played often…one of my colleagues replaced “It’s too late to apologize” with “it’s too late to throw the chai” – (Iraqi detainees were known to make “chai rocks” which were sun-baked balls of mud derived from their chai tea) – they’d often throw them at the guards and such…Now, that song will forever bring me back to Iraq and, I suppose it’s one of those, “you just had to be there” moments.

John Michel

Name: John Michel

Title/Company: CEO / CircleBlack, Inc

Branch: US Army

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: Started as a Second Lieutenant and left as a Captain

Service Dates:  1980 – 1986

Work you did: Armor Officer

Brief story that stands out from your service time: I graduated from West Point in 1980 and served as an Armor Officer during the time President Regan was building up the military. My oldest son was born while I was in the military. I remember vividly when he was two years old he would pack a paper bag with some of his things whenever I deployed to the field. Each time I would have to tell him that he could not go with me. As I would drive away he would stand on the steps of the house and cry. Twenty years later, after my son graduated from the Naval Academy I was with him the night before his first deployment to wartime Iraq. As he packed his duffle bag I kept having flash backs to that time when he was two. We had come full circle as so many families that serve do.

Steven Podnos

Name: Steven Podnos

Title/Company: CEO / Wealth Care LLC

Branch: US Air Force Reserve

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: Lt. Colonel

Service Dates:  2008 – Present

Work you did: Flight Surgeon/CCATT physician

Brief story that stands out from your service time: I had the honor to serve as an ICU physician at Landstuhl Army hospital in Germany in 2009 and 2010. We took care of severely injured servicemen from the Afghanistan war. The quality of medicine was exceptional and very moving to see. It was the highlight of my medical career.

John R. Power

Name: John R. Power

Title/Company: Principal / Power Plans

Branch: US Army

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: 2LT – COL

Service Dates:  1963 – 1992

Work you did: Signal Officer

Brief story that stands out from your service time: Worked closely on project with Sec. Army Mike Stone. Went to an event at Ft. Hood as a “lowly Colonel” and Sec Stone was surrounded by generals. When he saw me across the room he shouted out “Hey Dick. I didn’t know you’d be here!”

Jeff Weeks

Name: Jeff Weeks

Title/Company: Principal / ATX Portfolio Advisors, LLC

Branch: US Army Reserves

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

Service Dates:  1990 – 1999

Work you did: Infantry Officer

Brief story that stands out from your service time: Nearly created an international incident while attending the Infantry Officer Basic Course at Ft. Benning, GA. We trained officers from allied countries. One of the crown princes of an African country I won’t mention narrowly missed shooting me during a live fire exercise. My “feedback” to him earned me a trip to the commanding officer of the school. “LT Weeks, we invite our friends here to teach them and form bonds of friendship, not to strangle them. Dismissed!”

Gary Watts

Name: Gary Watts

Title/Company: Financial Consultant / AXA Advisors

Branch: US Army National Guard

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: PFC – CW2

Service Dates:  1987 – 2001

Work you did: Aircraft mechanic, crew chief, Helicopter Pilot UH-1, AH-1

Brief story that stands out from your service time: Assisting during forest fires, floods, law enforcement training.

Phil Fusilier

Name: Phil Fusilier

Title/Company: Financial Consultant / Cetera Advisor Networks

Branch: US Army

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: W1-CW2

Service Dates:  1970-1972

Work you did: Helicopter Pilot

Brief story that stands out from your service time: As a fairly new Warrant Officer and Flying a mission in Vietnam, I was given the controls to fly below Artillery fire. As I climbed back to altitude, I tried to be cool and do a cyclic climb and pulled too much torque. By the time we returned to base for repairs, everyone was calling me “Torque”, and it stuck.

Rob Smith

Name: Rob Smith

Title/Company: Financial Advisor / Edward Jones

Branch: US Marine Corps

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

Service Dates:  1992 – 2012

Work you did: Counterintelligence Agent

Brief story that stands out from your service time: With all that is going on right now, when I think of my time in the Marine Corps, I think of my Marines. They are the best; selfless, dependable, brilliant, honorable, dedicated to serving others. From the Marine Security Guard detachments in Luxembourg and Dakar, the extremely professional internal security dept at HMX-1 and pilots who made the advance work entertaining, the tip of spear group with MARCENT FWD, the every persistent group of reservists of Intel Support Battalion, and the absolutely incredible men of 1st CI/HUMINT Co. It was an honor to serve with all of them, each unit had its unique challenges, but each was special in its own way. I miss being around Marines every day. They are a special bunch. We celebrate 240 years of being Marines this year, God Bless the Marines Corps and Marines everywhere.

– Check out the other years where ThinkAdvisor honored Advisors Who Serve(d).

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