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2023 Military Heroes

Rafael Aguilera

Rafael Aguilera

Nominated by 72ND Military Police Company

Master Sergeant Aguilera has served 22 years of military service and 16 years in law enforcement service with 5 overseas deployments. MSG Aguilera has achieved Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC) of Joint Task Force 17 during the COVID-19 pandemic response, Primary Instructor for Active Shooter Response, and First Sergeant (1SG) of the 72nd Military Police Company. Aguilera's courage and dedication have been recognized with a Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, and numerous others.

MSG Aguilera is a positive change to those around him. He finds a development opportunity in every challenge and encourages those around him to focus on the positives. MSG Aguilera continues to support the State of Nevada by training local law enforcement and coaching and mentoring local youths through sports and religious programs.

Mort Friedlander

Mort Friedlander

Nominated by Kline Veterans Fund

Lieutenant Colonel Mort Friedlander (retired) joined the Air Force at 18 years old and has served 25 years of military service across 6 continents. Commissioned in 1958, his assignments include Air Force Communication Center in the Pentagon, Logistics Plans Officer in the Presidential Wing at Andrews AFB, Group Staff Supply Officer at Tachikawa and Yokota Air Bases in Japan, and more.

As a director of the Kline Veterans Fund, he insists on making every applicant feel important. Mort has decades of volunteer service on behalf of homeless veterans and volunteers his time with a local food pantry along with other veteran organizations striving to ensure basic needs are met for those who have served our country.

After his service, Mort attended California Western Law School and opened his own private law practice. Mort is now 91 years old, was married for 64 years, and has four children. He continues to keep a genuinely optimistic attitude. Mort is an inspiration and a true servant leader.

Brianna Mendenhall

Brianna Mendenhall

Nominated by Nellis Air Force Base

Technical Sergeant Brianna Mendenhall currently serves as the administrative troop for the United States Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron "Thunderbirds", Nellis Air Force Base. As part of an elite team administratively serving 130 Airman with 28 diverse career fields, Brianna also deploys 200 days annually to support air shows nationwide, inspiring over 7 million spectators. In 8 years, Brianna has served at the Squadron, Group, Wing, and Numbered Air Force levels at Nellis. For her excellent service, she has been awarded numerous awards such as CMSAF Benken Administration Professional of the Year 2022, 57th Wing Force Support Non-commissioned Officer of the Year 2020, 338th Training Squadron Airman of the Year 2016, and Air Force Sergeants Association Chapter 652 Top Recruiter 2019.

TSgt Brianna Mendenhall demonstrates excellent service on duty by taking initiative and seeking innovative ways to improve processes. She is always smiling, willing to help others, and is a positive representation of the United States Air Force Thunderbirds.

Jacob M. Tucco

Jacob M. Tucco

Nominated by Nevada Test and Training Range

Staff Sergeant Jacob M. Tucco currently serves as Joint Interface Control Cell Watch Officer for the 710th Combat Operations Squadron at Langley Air Force Base. Jacob started his active-duty career in Italy then was deployed to the United Arab Emirates, and later moved to Nellis AFB. He has accomplished many courses of Command-and-Control Battle Management Operations, Control and Reporting Center Surveillance Technician Center, and has an Associate in Applied Science, Air and Space Operations Technology. Jacob has also received the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, National Defense Service Medal, and Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, along with many others to recognize his service to our country.

Jacob Tucco embodies a proactive mindset and continuously strengthens his environment by putting his team and customers before himself. He constantly volunteers to support off-duty events at the Nevada Test and Training Range. Jacob's positive attitude is contagious throughout the unit and Nellis AFB.

Sojourner Stewart

Sojourner Stewart

Nominated by Creech Air Force Base

Technical Sergeant Sojourner Stewart is serving her 8th year in the Air Force as an MQ-9 Crew Chief. With an Associate in Aircraft Maintenance Technology, an Associate in Business Administration, a Bachelors in Environmental Science, and is currently working on her masters in Environmental Science. She has thrived in her role as a maintenance data analyst.

Sojourner serves in several on base and community forward clubs and causes such as sexual assault prevention and diversity programs. She continues to advocate a sense of community and belonging. She also coordinates clothing drives to help local homeless communities. She has a personality that can pull people together. Her commitment to the mission and people is exemplary and she does it with a smile.

Daniel Peterson

Daniel Peterson

Nominated by Military Order of the Purple Heart Chapter 730

Daniel Peterson is a 24-year U.S. Army Aviation Veteran and has now been the Commander for MOPH Chapter 730 for seven years. When he was in combat in Vietnam and Desert Storm, he was wounded in which he received the Purple Heart and Distinguished Flying Cross Medals. Through his work with the chapter, he has made Pahrump the first Purple Heart Town, Nye County to become the first Purple Heart County, and Boulder City to become a Purple Heart city. Daniel also supports advocates who help veterans with claims, records, awards, and financial aid for burials.

Daniel has received countless awards like the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Air Medal 27th Award, and the Army Good Conduct Medal. Once he retired, he became a Medical Administrator for clinics in Henderson and Las Vegas for 20 years. He is described as a team player who supports various military veteran organizations in the community.

Robert Butterfield

Robert Butterfield

Nominated by Nevada Paralyzed Veterans of America

Since joining the Air Force in 1973, Robert (retired) was a crew chief for a variety of locations from Utah to Guam to Thailand. He was recognized with two Meritorious Service Combat Accommodation Achievements, expert firearms longevity ribbons, and Good Conduct ribbons.

After retirement in 1993, he was diagnosed with an illness he acquired in the Gulf War which left him paralyzed. Despite his disability, he graduated from Fresno State University with a Bachelor's in Mechanical Engineering, worked for the DOD for the Navy as an in-service engineer, and retired from the government in 2014.

Robert continues to expand and share his knowledge by traveling to see different aircrafts and space museums across the nation. He gives tours of museums and gives speeches about his career to inspire young individuals to search for a career.

Donna K. Lee

Donna K. Lee

Nominated by Veterans Action Foundation

Donna K. Lee is a retired 20-year Navy veteran and community leader. She has a passion with working for veteran populations and dedicates her time to philanthropy and creating opportunities. As a founder of Mentor for Veterans, President of the Nevada Veterans Association, and mentor coordinator for the Veteran's Treatment Court, Donna is actively involved in the veteran communities.

Donna has been awarded the Navy Achievement Medal, Good Conduct Medal, and the National Defense Service Medal. She is recognized for her positive attitude, and she strives to help veterans in any way possible. Her volunteerism makes a change in organizations through her team building and dedication to helping veterans.

Candace Carradine

Candace Carradine

Nominated by Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight

Candace Carradine joined the Air Force in 2021 and became a bioenvironmental engineering technician at Nellis AFB. Candace administers the Installation Respiratory Protection Program, Fetal Protection Program, and Occupational Illness and Injury Programs where she has ensured the safety of 4000 workers, mothers, and newborns. As president of the Airmen Committed to Excellence (ACE) Council at Nellis AFB, she also supports her base by having professional development workshops to provide over 3000 Airmen with financial readiness education, mental health and stress management seminars, and strategic promotion forums.

When Candace is off the base, she volunteers her time organizing food drives to help a local food bank and she helps raise money to purchase and donate Thanksgiving meals to families at a domestic violence shelter.

Candace is very dependable and influential to her peers and the individuals she supports. She demonstrates teamwork and uses her position to continuously seek ways to aid her community.

Joseph P. O’Neil

Joseph P. O'Neil

Nominated by U.S. VETS

Master Sergeant Joseph P. O'Neil joined the United States Air Force in 1979 and is now retired after 20 years of service. Throughout his 20-year career, he held various roles, including Civil Engineering Plumber, Pararescue member, Scheduling and Training Manager, and Air Crew Instructor. Joseph has supported operations across the globe and has received numerous awards. Joseph also decided to further pursue his education by getting a Master's in Organizational Leadership, a Bachelor's in Workforce Education, Training, and Development, an Associate in General Studies, and an Associate in Rescue and Survival.

After completing his services, Joseph decided to share his passion to make a difference in his community through nonprofits. He has provided housing solutions for those facing homelessness and aided with emergency response programs. Joseph has exemplified the spirit of service and has made a lasting and meaningful difference.

Joseph is said to be the backbone of his team, which shows the true essence of teamwork. The support he gives makes everyone feel valued and empowered. No matter the circumstances, he approaches challenges with a "can-do" spirit. Joseph P. O'Neil is a beacon of positivity who is optimistic in supporting change for his community.

Adrian Sanchez

Adrian Sanchez

Nominated by Nevada Army National Guard

Staff Sergeant Adrian Sanchez has been serving the National Guard for 13 years and has also been a police officer at the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department for 4 years. Through his many years of service, he has been recognized with numerous awards such as the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, NATO Medal, Overseas Service Ribbon, and the Army Achievement Medal.

Adrian shows high excellence with the National Guard and LVMPD. He communicates with his soldiers as a friend and mentor. He also shows his caring support by volunteering within his community. He reads to students during reading week and helps at firework booths during the 4th of July celebrations. Adrian is seen to be a morale booster and a friend in the community.

Sitthichai (On) Ritthiphon

Sitthichai (On) Ritthiphon

Nominated by Merging Vets and Players

Sitthichai is an Army Combat veteran of the Iraq war, serving two tours as an infantry soldier. He was put on medical retirement due to his injuries during his second deployment. He has obtained the Army Accommodation Medal, Purple Heart, and the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal.

After serving two tours, Sitthichai returned to pursue a criminal justice degree and became a business owner selling his famous Thai chili peppers. He volunteers with numerous organizations across the Las Vegas Valley and encourages others to join. Sitthichai is very enjoyable to be around. He is quick and witty and has a positive attitude and is there for others during challenging times.

Michael Mahavong

Michael Mahavong

Nominated by Nevada Army National Guard – 17th SB

Michael Mahavong joined the military in July 2015 as a first-generation Asian American. Michael assists on missions to provide security and crowd control for the presidential inauguration and public relief during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a current College of Southern Nevada student, he has completed the 36B Financial Management Technician Course, Combat Life Saver Course, and Suicide Prevention Courses like ACE, ASIST, and Purple Resolve.

Michael maintains the army's values both in and out of the uniform. He volunteers with local organizations like Las Vegas PRIDE, Three Square, and New Vista. He takes the time to help, communicate, and ensures everyone's voice is heard. As an Equal Opportunity Leader, Michael strives to carry out any mission with effectiveness across all leadership roles.

Henry James III

Henry James III

Nominated by Army National Guard 539rd MTC/17th STBC

Sergeant First Class Henry James III has dedicated 20 years of service as a Marine and as a U.S. Army soldier. Henry is known for his ability to teach, coach, train, and mentor young soldiers. During Task Force 17, he devoted his excellent leadership to a multitude of soldiers and pilots who selflessly volunteered to combat during the COVID-19 pandemic.

SFC James helps in every opportunity to create the environment needed to accomplish the mission. He reflects commitment to excellence, teamwork, keeps a positive attitude, and volunteers for his community. He also sings on the worst days just to make everyone happy. Henry is the epitome of a Marine and a U.S. Army soldier.

Teresa Thurtle

Teresa Thurtle

Nominated by Veteran Social Club

Teresa has honorably served in the United States Air Force in the communications career field and is currently an adjunct professor in political science and government subjects. During her years of service, she has supported Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Deep Freeze. She is also the Vice President of the Veteran Social Club, Las Vegas Chapter Captain, Nevada State Coordinator for Team Red, White, and Blue (Team RWB), and an advocate on Capitol Hill for ALS-related matters.

To give back to her community, Teresa volunteers for veteran and military communities in Nevada. She organizes events, empowers veterans after leaving the military, serves free meals, and enriches the lives of members through physical fitness and social events. Teresa maintains an optimistic mindset by focusing on positive outcomes and believing that things will work out for the best.

Monifa Caines

Monifa Caines

Nominated by Southern Nevada Veterans Chamber of Commerce

Monifa Caines is a proud veteran who dedicated 8 ½ years of her life to the United States Air Force as a registered nurse. She played a vital role in delivering exceptional medical care to injured airmen, soldiers, marines, and sailors. For her exceptional service, she was appointed as wing executive officer of the 99th Air Base Wing on Nellis Air Force Base.

As part of the Southern Nevada Veterans Chamber of Commerce Member Operations Committee, Monifa contributes a focus on enhancing awareness and fostering engagement between businesses and the military. She is also the founder and CEO of Queen of Spades Style where she provides a wide range of beautiful accessories for Black women with diverse hair. Monifa is an empowering person who cares about the individuals in her community.

Darryl LeBouef

Darryl LeBouef

Nominated by Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 12093

Darryl LeBouef has served 28 years in the U.S. Air Force as a security forces member. Through his years of service, he has held the positions of MTI, Army Range School Instructor, Wing Safety Instructor, and Anti-Terrorism Officer. Darryl has earned a Bronze Star, five Meritorious Service Medals, and has been the All-American Quartermaster twice for the VFW.

Sharing his responsibility as quartermaster, he has also spent the last 11 years teaching a Junior Reserve Officer Training Course and Aerospace Science at Sunrise Mountain High School. Darryl also is in charge of the largest fundraiser of the year where thousands of dollars are donated to directly aid veterans in our community. As a very positive person, Darryl is very passionate about his community service, his students, and Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Desirée Broussard

Desirée Broussard

Nominated by Southern Nevada Veterans Chamber of Commerce

Desiree has 23 years of service with the United States Airforce and she is currently the Deputy Director of the J9 for the Nevada National Guard. She spent 6 years as an active duty Force Support Officer, 4 years as staff operations officer in the USAF Reserve, and 14 years in the National Guard in a multitude of roles. In her current position, Desiree streamlines all resiliency programs for members to make sure the men and women of the National Guard are mentally and physically prepared for their missions.

During the 4 years of living in Las Vegas, she has embedded herself in the community through volunteering at veteran organizations and starting her professional etiquette and protocol consulting business, Elevating Etiquette, LLC. Desiree is a dedicated advocate to services that promote well-being and development for military members, families, and veterans.

Kaiim Goff

Kaiim Goff

Nominated by USO Nevada

Sergeant Kaiim Goff joined the U.S. Army Reserves in 2019 as a Private E1 and is now a 91B Wheeled Vehicle Mechanic for the 645th Inland Cargo Transfer Company. During the few short years of his service, he has received the Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Army Overseas Service Ribbon, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, and the Global War on terrorism Service Ribbon.

Along with his tremendous accomplishments, Kaiim volunteers with the USO to better other service members in his community and hopes to inspire individuals to become passionate about making a difference. Kaiim is an exemplary role model to the USO and to the community.

Richard Lee Moyer

Richard Lee Moyer

Nominated by Veterans Action Foundation

Richard is a U.S. Army veteran who served in Vietnam from 1968 to 1969. He was in 2 elite units, F Co 51st Infantry (Long Range Patrol) Airborne and P Co (7th Ranger Regiment). Since retiring from the transportation industry (aviation and ground), he now serves as vice chairman of the Nevada Veterans Foundation/Fisher House as well as Junior Vice Commander for the state of Nevada Military Order of the Purple Heart.

Throughout his remarkable career, Richard also volunteers with several veteran organizations where he tirelessly helps veterans, their families, and survivors. He makes himself available to anyone that needs his support. Richard is a strong individual with a big heart that always looks at life with the glass half full.