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We’re pleased to present ThinkAdvisor’s 11th annual Advisors Who Serve(d) compilation, in which we highlight stories of veterans in the advisory world, told in their own words.

Advisors Who Serve(d) highlights financial advisors and other industry professionals who have served or are serving in the military. Each year’s initial compilation has debuted over Memorial Day weekend.

We recognize that Memorial Day is meant to honor those who have lost their lives while serving in the military, not for all who have served (who are honored on Veterans Day) or who are actively serving (recognized on Armed Forces Day).

May — which is Military Appreciation Month — and the time around Memorial Day were chosen for this coverage, however, since it is when many Americans focus on military service and thus should give extra attention to this important compilation of stories.

This group is arranged in alphabetical order and includes the first group of the many submissions we received.

The remaining advisors will be featured around July 4 and Veterans Day, when ThinkAdvisor also recognizes financial advisors and professionals who have served in the military.

Joe Bautista

Title/company: Grow With Joe LLC/Financial Planner

Branch: U.S. Marine Corps

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

Service dates: 2004-2011

Work you did: Supply Administration

Brief story that stands out from your service time: When I was in the Marines, I got in trouble for underage drinking, and afterward, we had this educational brief about the anthrax vaccine. And the doc leading the brief asks all the Marines who invented the vaccine.

In high school, my biology teacher taught us about Louis Pasteur, so I was the only one that knew the answer. After I got the answer correct, the doc said to give me a beer, and my whole company laughed because they knew I couldn't drink and recently got in trouble for it.

I also had to pay a heavy price because I was selected for mess duty on a ship for three weeks, where I had to work 15-hour days on a ship and it was miserable, but I was able to show my higher-ups that I was a good worker and recovered my reputation.

Erik Goodge

Title/company: uVest Advisory Group LLC/President

Branch: U.S. Marine Corps

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: Private (E-1) and was medically retired as a Sergeant (E-5)

Service dates: 2007-2012

Work you did: My MOS was 0861, which is a forward observer. My job was to locate enemy targets and call in artillery or mortar strikes.

Brief story that stands out from your service time: I was wounded by an improvised explosive device while on patrol in Helmand province, Afghanistan. I lost my right eye and spent about a year in the hospital recovering. I was awarded the Purple Heart for wounds received in action. I was medically retired in March 2012. A funnier aspect of that story is that American cigarettes were a big commodity in Afghanistan; I had been hiding some American cigarettes among my gear at our patrol base. After I was wounded, my unit members promptly found and stole all of my cigarettes before sending all my gear back to the States. Even the corpsman who helped me on to the medevac helicopter as I was unconscious felt obliged to help himself to the Marlboros I had in my pocket! I don't blame him, I would have done the same thing!

Gail M. Harris

Title/company: Wealthspire Advisors Senior Vice President

Branch: U.S. Navy

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

Service dates: 1980-1984

Brief story that stands out from your service time: During my second assignment while stationed in Naples, Italy, I worked for COMFAIRMED (Commander Fleet Air Mediterranean) with responsibilities for providing air logistics support for the 6th Fleet. As part of my job I would attend logistics meetings, some of which would take place on aircraft carriers. At this point in time women were not allowed to serve as combatants. I would typically arrive via helicopter, so when I stepped off the helicopter onto the flight deck it would be obvious even from a distance that at 5 feet tall, a woman had arrived. I would be the solitary woman on a ship with approximately 6,000 men! Although I experienced this situation several times, I never quite became accustomed to my arrival causing legions of men to stop and stare at the rare sight of a woman. It certainly made for some memorable experiences!

Michael Hunsberger

Title/company: Next Mission Financial Planning Founder and Owner

Branch: U.S. Air Force

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: 2nd Lieutenant/Colonel

Service dates: 1996-2021

Work you did: Communications and Cyber Operations Officer

Brief story that stands out from your service time: I had been in the Air Force about two and a half years and wasn’t sure if I was going to stay in or get out when my four-year service commitment was finished. My commander, Col. Mike Deacy, pulled me into his office one day for a chat and told me he was impressed with my work based on the few months I had worked for him and he thought I would do well if I stayed in. That encouragement made a big difference and led to an awesome 25-year career.

Samuel J. Lewis

Title/company: Samuel J. Lewis/Founder, Financial Planner

Branch: Delaware Air National Guard — Air Force

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: E-3 Airman First Class/Currently an E-8 Senior Master Sergeant

Service dates: 1999-present

Work you did: Air Cargo "Port Dawg," Recruiting and Retention

Brief story that stands out from your service time: The greatest part of military service is the people you'll meet and the lessons they can teach you. I've learned so much from various mentors throughout my career. I wish I could go back and ask them more questions. One question I really wished I had asked is for a complete packing list for basic training. I was not aware of the need for shower shoes, so I took my first shower in the cowboy boots I wore. I'm sure the TIs and my flight members shared that story for years afterward!

Kimberley J. Mendall Mondonedo

Title/company: Mendall Financial Group, Raymond James Financial Services/Financial Advisor

Branch: Active-duty Army for 20 years; Maine Army National Guard & Army Reserves for five years

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: Private (E-1)/Lieutenant Colonel (O-5)

Service dates: 1983-2008

Work you did: Adjutant General (Human Resources & Personnel) Officer and when I was enlisted, a Combat Medic

Brief story that stands out from your service time: Overall the people with whom I served and the camaraderie stand out. One forms lifelong bonds in the military, and the only way to accomplish the mission is with all team members being focused, dedicated, and caring about the welfare of each other. Highlights include: jumping out of airplanes (Airborne!); being on a biathlon team at 19; having our son while obtaining a master’s degree at West Point; living in Germany, Spain, Japan, DC, Texas, New York; deploying with the 1st Cavalry Division to Bosnia and Herzegovina; deploying with NATO to Kosovo; having a supporting husband and family; helicoptering with the Red Sox visiting troops in Tokyo; helping lead Boy Scouts to Guam and Korea; and working with incredible men and women both military and civilian from all U.S. branches and services and even from other countries. I truly thank God and the American people for the life-changing honor and opportunity to serve our wonderful nation.

Sean Moore

Title/company: Moore Wealth/Associate Advisor/Director of Operations

Branch: U.S. Army

Rank held at beginning of service and at end:Private First Class (E-3)/Staff Sergeant(E-6)

Service dates: 2011-2017

Work you did: Green Beret/MOS: 18C Special Forces Engineer Sergeant

Brief story that stands out from your service time: During the Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC) there are multiple land navigation courses, which students must pass in order to continue through the course. These are — effectively — orienteering courses conducted while carrying military equipment, at night. Map and compass, no GPS, no lights. Students can expect to traverse something like 50 miles per night, and it is generally the case that a land navigation course will be run two nights in a row.

While conducting one land navigation course, I found myself very lost. I was steadily working my way back to where I might figure out where I was when an instructor on an ATV flagged me down (students are tracked with GPS). He made me an offer: continue as I was and hope for the best, or he could use his GPS to tell me exactly where I was. The rub was that if he told me exactly where I was, I would have to achieve a perfect score on the course — not the required 80% passing score. Without hesitation, I had him give me my location. I ran through the woods for the rest of the night — 50-pound rucksack and rubber rifle in hand. In the end, I achieved a perfect score, and eventually completed the SFQC.

I ran into the instructor who had helped me following the land navigation course. He remembered me, and asked what I was thinking (not sarcastically, genuinely curious) why I hadn’t hesitated to use his GPS. I told him (to paraphrase), “I didn’t have the information I needed to complete the course. You offered me a big piece of information, and at that point all I had to do was try really hard. I knew I could try hard, I just wasn’t sure if I would ever get the information I needed.” He shared that (surprise) his offer was a test. The entire SFQC is designed to essentially determine whether or not a student can make thoughtful choices under pressure. By presenting me with that choice, he was distilling the course down to a single choice, with what was at that point the highest possible stakes.

John W. Olson

Title/company: 2250 Financial Services Inc./ Financial Planner /President

Branch: U.S. Navy

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: Midshipman (went to U.S. Naval Academy); left service as Lieutenant (O-3)

Service dates: 1998-2008

Work you did: Submarine Officer

Brief story that stands out from your service time: Every time an enlisted person reenlists, they get to choose the officer that gives them the Oath of Enlistment. I considered it a great honor when one of the men in my division asked me to reenlist him near first base at Fenway Park. It is a short but meaningful ceremony that fills you with pride and patriotism!

Brian P. O’Neill

Title/company: Winged Wealth Management and Financial Planning LLC/Founder

Branch: U.S. Air Force

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: 2ndLieutenant/Colonel

Service dates: 1997-2020

Work you did: F-16 and F-35 Instructor Pilot, Group Commander

Brief story that stands out from your service time: I was fortunate to be commissioned by Colin Powell in 1997. As he prepared to read our group the Oath of Office, he noticed that we had our backs to our families. He jumped off the stage, marched behind us, barked a crisp “About Face” and ensured that our families could see us and take pictures as we recited the oath. What an amazing role model to get to start a career off with!

Liam Powell

Title/company: Beacon Pointe Advisors/Wealth Advisor

Branch: U.S. Marine Corps

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: Private First Class (PFC)/Sergeant

Service dates: 2006–2012

Work you did: Coordinated supply logistics and served as platoon sergeant for C Co. 4th Combat Engineer Battalion

Brief story that stands out from your service time: Our engineering unit was deployed to Kotzebue, Alaska (in the Arctic Circle), to survey a build site for a road to the town, as the people who lived there currently relied solely on barges for their supplies. For the entire time we were there, the sun never set, and the ground was covered in a thick layer of spongy moss over the permafrost. The sleep deprivation made for a surreal experience, and it was very interesting to interact with the Inuit tribes people that live there, and to see how even though we are all citizens of the same country, our lives could not have been more different. I believe military service gave me opportunities early in life to interact with cultures outside my own and craft a larger worldview than I would have experienced otherwise.

Matthew Pruitt, AIF

Title/company: Patriot Wealth Management of Raymond James and Associates/Senior Vice President Investments, Branch Manager

Branch: U.S. Navy

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

Service dates: 1989-2014

Work you did: Supply and Logistics Officer at sea and ashore

Brief story that stands out from your service time: While serving as a Navy Reservist, I was recalled to active duty in January 2002 to serve in Operations Enduring Freedom and Noble Eagle. I was mobilized, left my family and sales manager role at Morgan Stanley, and shipped off to serve in Bahrain for a year. This assignment was deeply personal, as I had three FA trainees who had been in the South Tower on the day of the collapse.

Assigned to Commander 5th Fleet, I was tasked with daily logistics briefings of our coalition force representatives from 17 nations. It was during this time serving in the Friendly Forces Coalition Center (F2C2), that I met a fellow naval officer who, like me, had been recalled to serve abroad. During the course of 2002, we logged many 16-plus hour days working in the F2C2.

Within days of meeting, we discovered we were both attached to separate Reserve Units of COMUSNAVCENT in Tampa, Florida. However, I had never set foot on the Air Force base at MacDill as I had been fulfilling my reserve duty at Naval Reserve Center Fort Dix, New Jersey. Ironically, Keith and I met in Bahrain for the first time in our naval careers. As it turned out, we both had left our civilian jobs for the ensuing 12 months and more importantly, we left our spouses and a combined five small children all under the age of 8. Needless to say, we immediately became a support mechanism for one another given our similar circumstances.

Keith and I forged a friendship that to this day is a bond that only brothers can enjoy, and it is equally special that our wives, Nina and Michele, became very close friends. The icing on the cake is that our children (Keith’s three and my two) enjoy a strong friendship that I hope will last a lifetime. They say it is a BIG Navy, and it is; however, I am grateful for the many friendships I developed prior to and after my retirement in the Navy for more than 25 years. My friendship with Keith is just a bit more special as we served during a time where our nation and the world was under attack. Today, I get to visit Keith and his family during some of my visits to Raymond James HQ. We enjoy scuba diving, boating, golfing and live music, to name a few things, and for this I am eternally grateful.

Dr. Wheeler Pulliam, Ph.D.

Title/company: Xponify Financial/Financial Advisor

Branch: U.S. Army Infantry

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

Service dates: 1995-2000

Brief story that stands out from your service time: One commander was a West Point graduate and a real stickler for "the rules," even while deployed. One day in the officers tent I was entertaining my fellow platoon leaders with what I thought was a pretty accurate impersonation of the commander — in a respectful manner, of course. Then all of a sudden their laughter stopped and a look of fear came across their faces as their eyes looked beyond me and my Oscar-winning performance. I knew instantly what had happened, bowed my head and relinquished, "He's standing right behind me, isn't he?" Yep, not a good day for me!

Jack Reiff

Title/company: Edward Jones/Financial Advisor

Branch: U.S. Army

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: Private/Lieutenant Colonel

Service dates: 1977-2002

Work you did: I started my military career as a truck mechanic in the Illinois Army National Guard. Joined Army ROTC, received a commission as a Cavalry Officer and transitioned to the active Army. As a Cavalry officer, I was able to patrol the DMZ in Korea, the West/East German border, commanded A Company, 1/34th Armor, First Infantry Division during Desert Shield/Storm and was the Army's first product manager of the Stryker Mobile Gun System,

Brief story that stands out from your service time: I learned a lesson on day one of boot camp and had this lesson reinforced throughout my 25-year career. Service to our country is the highest calling one can make. This service is performed willingly by young people from across these United States. Honorable service is rooted in loyalty to those you serve side by side with and makes no distinction for social class, race, geography, experience, or any other distinction.

Curt Sheldon

Title/company: C.L. Sheldon & Co. LLC /President

Branch: U.S. Air Force

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: 2nd Lieutenant/Colonel

Service dates: 1983-2010

Work you did: Fighter Pilot

Brief story that stands out from your service time: My fondest memory of my time in the military was the opportunity to lead 200 or so of America’s finest sons and daughters as the commander of the 13th Fighter Squadron at Misawa Air Base, Japan. It was truly a privilege to lead such a great team. I think back on it fondly. Beyond that, I remember trying not to fall asleep flying in an F-16 across the Atlantic Ocean in the middle of the night deploying in support of Operation Desert Shield. There was no moon, and it was really dark. It was a 16-hour-plus mission. In case you don’t know, the F-16 is a single-seat fighter.

James Vermillion

Title/company: Vermillion Private Wealth/Owner

Branch: U.S. Air Force

Rank held at beginning of service and at end: Commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant/separated as Captain

Service dates: 2008-2012

Work you did: Munitions and Aircraft Maintenance Officer (B-52s)

Brief story that stands out from your service time: It was the people that made my service memorable, particularly a colonel that I had the pleasure of working for. As a young officer, I was appointed his executive officer, a role many wanted to avoid. Colonel J. was old-school. He didn't tolerate nonsense and was willing to let you know when you weren't getting the job done. I was incredibly nervous to take that role, but he ended up being an influence and mentor. He showed me that you can be tough but fair and have high expectations while still being sympathetic to life's surprises. Working for Col. J. gave me confidence that's helped me well beyond my military service … .and I was the recipient of his rage only once or twice (and deservedly so).


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