This is ThinkAdvisor’s sixth version of the Advisors Who Serve(d) slideshow, each of which we’ve debuted over Memorial Day weekend and repeated on July 4th and Veterans Day. And this year we highlight and honor 14 veterans in the advisory world.
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 initially chose Memorial Day 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, whether on those departed or those still with us. So we hope we’ve educated you somewhat, as the naval vet urged us, about these important holidays.
Name: Monte Clark Ferguson
Title/Company: Pivotal Financial Advisors LLC
Branch: US Army Aviation
Rank held at beginning of service and at end: 2LT – CPT
Service Dates: 1987 – 1995
Work you did: Helicopter Pilot
Brief story that stands out from your service time: For those in the aviation world this story will cause you to scratch your head on weight/balance but for the rest of the world … just kinda cool. I was a platoon leader in Desert Storm with Nomad Troop, 4th Squadron 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, proud Dragoons, where we acquired white and pink paint to attempt to blend in with surroundings. The picture says the rest as we had a great time painting the old Cobras … awesome airframe and a tremendous group of patriots! Best to all.
Name: Chris Kojak
Title/Company: Director of Operations – Lincoln Park Financial Group
Branch: US Air Force
Rank held at beginning of service and at end: 2nd Lieutenant – Major
Service Dates: 2003- 2016 US Air Force Active Duty; 2016 – Present US Air Force Reserves
Work you did: Office and Pilot
Brief story that stands out from your service time: The feeling of flying troops home to see their families after months of being away from loved ones is priceless. It helps you remember that day and night people span the globe sacrificing for our freedoms and well-being.
I will also never take for granted the camaraderie that is found in the military. It is like nothing else in this world. You have an immediate bond with all your brothers and sisters in arms. When it comes down to it, you are there to stand shoulder to shoulder with the person next to you. No matter what awaits over the horizon.
Name: Michael Gold
Title/Company: Summit Brokerage Services/MG Squared Investments
Branch: US Marine Corps.
Rank held at beginning of service and at end: Private / Corporal
Service Dates: 1966 – 1969
Work you did: Helicopter/Jet Avionics
Brief story that stands out from your service time: Sgt Dallas Shelton served with me and we did not get along. He constantly assigned me duties that were at the bottom of the barrel. I literally hated him. On one of the first flights of Marine Helicopter Squadron, 463, Sgt. Shelton’s helicopter crashed and he was killed. I didn’t care, I disliked him that much. Years later when the Vietnam wall was built I was compelled to go find his name. I went to Washington and found it. I cried. I told him I was sorry for hating him. He was a great Marine and I think about him often.
Name: Jennifer Ziegler
Title/Company: Vice President – Morgan Stanley
Branch: US Naval Reserve
Rank held at beginning of service and at end: E1 and E5
Service Dates: 1993 – 1999
Work you did: Personnel and benefits
Brief story that stands out from your service time: I worked at the US Embassy in London for 4 years. I enjoyed helping, so service members could go home to the States to take their leave. Everyone in the military treated you like family.
Name: Kevin Laraia
Title/Company: Chief Strategy Officer – Docupace Technologies
Branch: US Air Force
Rank held at beginning of service and at end: Cadet / Captain
Service Dates: 1986 – 1992
Work you did: Weather Officer
Brief story that stands out from your service time: I served as a Weather Officer at Offutt Air Force Base, Omaha, Nebraska, where I briefed the 4-star General responsible for all strategic forces and also provided weather support for all flights in an out of the base. I also flew as the weather officer on the “Looking Glass,” an EC-135 that flew 24/7 from 1961 to 1990.
Finally, I was stationed in Suwon, South Korea as a 1st Lieutenant and was the youngest commander in the U.S. Weather Service at the time. The four years I spent at the US Air Force Academy were an incredible experience. In addition to learning about teamwork and all of the lifelong friends I made, the thing that stands out the most about the Air Force Academy is the Honor Code – “I will not lie, steal or cheat, nor tolerate anyone who does” – something that we learned to live by and stays with me still today.
Name: Bailey B. Bartee
Title/Company: Senior Vice President – Investment Officer – Wells Fargo Advisors
Branch: US Army National Guard
Rank held at beginning of service and at end: 2nd Lieutenant to Captain
Service Dates: 1996 – 2005
Work you did: Field Artillery Officer
Brief story that stands out from your service time: Work completed during Operation Iraqi Freedom II and multiple Hurricane mobilizations.
Name: John Cunningham
Title/Company: Chief Information Security Officer – Docupace Technologies
Branch: US Army/Army Reserve
Rank held at beginning of service and at end: Private / Captain
Service Dates: 1984 – 2001
Work you did: Military Police
Brief story that stands out from your service time: During Gulf War I, I played a key role in saving the lives of three Iraqi children that were thrown from a car that hit a bomb crater.
At another point during the war, I was the deputy commander of a unit responsible for guarding 4,000+ prisoners of war and civilian detainees.
Name: Sean Barrett
Title/Company: Co-Founder – Cornerstone Family Office
Branch: US Navy
Rank held at beginning of service and at end: Ensign – Lieutenant
Service Dates: 1966 – 1971
Work you did: Supply Officer USS Tinosa SSN-606
Brief story that stands out from your service time: Over a beer with our chief engineer one afternoon I commented that he could be making twice as much money on the outside running a nuclear power plant, to which he replied without hesitation, I know that Sean, but what we are doing here is much more important! That says it all! It was a pleasure serving with such a dedicated bunch of guys who knew their job and why they were there!
Name: Mike Jarvis
Title/Company: Legacy Financial Advisors
Branch: US Marine Corps
Rank held at beginning of service and at end: Air Defense Platoon Commander
Service Dates: 1985 – 1988
Work you did: Air Defense
Brief story that stands out from your service time: N/A
Name: Don Akridge
Title/Company: CPA/PFS, CFP – CITADEL CPA & Wealth Care Services
Branch: US Marine Corps.
Rank held at beginning of service and at end: E-1, E-4
Service Dates: 1965 – 1971
Work you did: All Marines Infantry First; Motor Transport Bn.
Brief story that stands out from your service time: The number one thing that I always remember was my arrival as a kid to Parris Island, South Carolina, at age 19, during a war era. Remember the 1980s movie: Full Metal Jacket? See that movie! It’s a brutally true depiction!! Our chartered bus full of young men arrived at the Recruit Depot around 11:00 p.m. The doors to hell greeted us. I was quite sure that I had gotten on the wrong bus and ended up at a place that I did not want to be! The screaming DIs would have none of that nonsense as we were unloaded into the bowels of that monster. I was certain that every day was going to be my last on this earth. Yet, each day we got stronger and stronger.
Two months later and still alive, I graduated and left The Island forever. Leaving Parris Island via the bus to Camp Lejeune, I remember proudly thinking: I actually made it through that monster. The experience was one of the best things that I could have done as a young man. The USMC Code of Honor remains a part of me and has served me well throughout my life. The quote: “Once a Marine, always a Marine” is very, very true. Semper Fi and Hurrah!!
Name: Doug Foreman
Title/Company: Chief Investment Officer, Portfolio Manager, and member of the Executive Management Committee – Kayne Anderson Rudnick
Branch: US Navy
Rank held at beginning of service and at end: Midshipman (Naval Academy) to Lieutenant
Service Dates: 1975 – 1984
Work you did: Surface Warfare Officer, ROTC Instructor
Brief story that stands out from your service time: The first week I reported to the Naval Academy during plebe summer, my squad was being yelled at by our first class squad leader. He shouted, “The only two guarantees we would get for sure during our four years at Annapolis was knee surgery and our wisdom teeth removed.” I thought there was no chance that would happen to me, but before I graduated I had knee surgery and my wisdom teeth pulled.
Name: Steven Sanson
Title/Company: Branch Manager-Registered Principal – Financial Voyages LLC
Branch: US Army
Rank held at beginning of service and at end: PFC E-3/COL O-6
Service Dates: 1987 to Present
Work you did: Medical Service Corps Officer
Brief story that stands out from your service time: Any soldier that has ever attended Basic Training knows the fear that a Drill Sergeant can instill in a new Private. I just showed up at my AIT (Advanced Individual Training) School at Ft. Lee, Virginia. I hadn’t yet been assigned a place to stay and knew nobody that showed up for the first formation right before evening chow (dinner). I was the only new solider in formation that day, at that time. The Platoon Guide and all four squad leaders where there for a secondary MOS (Military Occupation Specialty) and were Specialists (E-4s). The Drill Sergeant called the Platoon Guide and Squad leaders for a quick meeting and Commanded “Get some responsible PFC (Private First Class) to march the Platoon to chow.”
In Basic Training, I never was assigned a leadership position; never gave cadence or marched soldiers anywhere. Much to my surprise (dismay); the Platoon Guide somehow found me in the back row and called me up to assume command and march the platoon, in formation, to chow. Note: I had yet to visit the mess hall and had no idea where it was located. I took my position, looked back at the Platoon, and nothing was coming out of my mouth. I just stood there with an oh boy kind of look. The Drill Sergeant noticed and started to jump in my face asking me “Well, are you going to say something?” I was forced to admit to the Drill Sergeant that I was unable to comply with the order as I didn’t know the location of the Mess Hall. I was promptly relieved of Command after some required pushups. The shortest in charge moment of my military life. Thank goodness as an Army Colonel I have had a bit more success since then.
Name: Nick Serenyi
Title/Company: Senior Vice President – Investments – Morgan Stanley
Branch: US Navy
Rank held at beginning of service and at end: Ensign – Commander
Service Dates: 1991 – 2012
Work you did: Surface Warfare Officer
Brief story that stands out from your service time: My first Commanding Officer was a gentleman named CDR Bob Conway. We arrived on the ship in Bahrain on the same Desert Duck Helicopter flight. He was an extremely important mentor to me, both as a Naval Officer and a person. On our deployment, the officers kept a book of his sayings such as “PROWAR” – Perceptions, right or wrong, are realty. One of the officers still has the book to this day. CDR Conway retired as an Admiral and we are still in contact today.
Name: Darel Gallagher
Title/Company: First VP Investment Officer – Wells Fargo Advisors
Branch: US Army
Rank held at beginning of service and at end: Private 1st Class – Major
Service Dates: 1978- 2005
Work you did: Helicopter Pilot and Russian Attache
Brief story that stands out from your service time: Serving in Bosnia 2001-2002, in addition to my aviation duties, I was able to work with schools, refugee camps, and orphanages in the Tusla area. With the support of members of my unit and their families, we built and furnished with books, a small library in the school building. The dedication coincided with my birthday. The students sang for me, made cards, and the principal even wrote a poem for me. During our tour, I was very proud that our unit was not only able to demonstrate our strength but also our compassion.
— Check out our special Advisors Who Serve(d) page to read more stories by advisor-veterans.