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2016 ANNUAL REPORT

2016 Operation Vet Fit Annual Report

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
MISSION
Operation Vet-Fit's mission is to assist our nation's combat veterans, active duty members and
affected family members through advocacy, exercise, fitness, and group based motivational activities
and events. Operation Vet-Fit is accomplishing this mission through free fitness club memberships,
and camaraderie based motivational events and excursions geared toward fostering a healthy
transition following combat service. Additionally, we serve as a free liaison and veterans advocate
supporting combat veterans with service-connected disabilities by assisting in the process of locating,
accessing, and navigating the many available veterans benefits currently being offered.

VISION
To embolden our next generation and inspire a greater future for all who have served our nation in
combat.

VALUES

Purpose . Achievement . Service . Integrity

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2016 Operation Vet Fit Annual Report

CONTENTS
Executive Summary .................................................................. 1
Contents ..................................................................................... 2
Situation ...................................................................................... 4
What we do ................................................................................ 7
Testimonials ............................................................................... 8
Community Awards and Recognition.................................... 9
Background The OVF Story .............................................. 12
Fitness Facilities ...................................................................... 16
Highlighted Success Story Mission Accomplished ......... 22
Financials .................................................................................. 24
Revenues Jan 1st Dec 31st, 2015 ......................................... 24
Annual Tax Return: 2015 IRS Form 990 EZ ..................... 26
Board of Directors .................................................................. 28
Advisory Board ........................................................................ 30
State Representatives .............................................................. 36
Overview of those we serve .................................................. 38
Grants ....................................................................................... 40
Forward Thinking ................................................................... 41

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2016 Operation Vet Fit Annual Report

Since our inception we have


not lost a single combat
veteran to suicide.
Instead, we have continuous
stories of veterans successes
through
adversity.
- Daniel R. Gaita, MA
Founder, Operation Vet Fit
Veteran, USMC

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2016 Operation Vet Fit Annual Report

SITUATION
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th ed. (DSM5) (American Psychiatric
Association, 2013) provides the diagnostic criteria for PTSD which includes a history of exposure to
a traumatic event that meets specific stipulations and symptoms from each of four symptom clusters:
intrusion, avoidance, negative alterations in cognitions and mood, and alterations in arousal and
reactivity (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).
PTSD Symptom Clusters
-

Intrusion symptoms. Intrusion symptoms are defined as the re-experiencing of symptoms via
recurrent and intrusive distressing recollections of the/an event(s) (American Psychiatric
Association, 2013). Re-experiencing includes memories of the traumatic event, recurrent dreams
related to it, flashbacks or other intense or prolonged psychological distress.

Avoidance symptoms & negative alterations in cognitions and mood. Avoidance


symptoms are displayed as a variety of symptoms such as loss of interest, restricted range of
affect, detachment from loved ones, avoidance of thoughts and feelings related to the
trauma, sense of foreshortened future,
and inability to recall an important aspect
of the event (American Psychiatric
Association, 2013). Intrusion refers to
distressing memories, thoughts, feelings or
external reminders of the event. Negative
cognitions and moods represent myriad
feelings, such as having a persistent and
distorted sense of blame of self or others,
estrangement from others or markedly
diminished interest in activities, and in
some cases an inability to remember key
aspects of the event.

Increased arousal symptoms. Symptoms


such as irritable behavior, reckless or
destructive behavior, hyper vigilance,
exaggerated startle response, problems
with concentration, and sleep
disturbances often accompany marked
alterations in arousal and reactivity
associated with trauma (American
Psychiatric Association, 2013). Thus,
arousal is marked by aggressive, reckless
or self-destructive behavior; sleep
disturbances, hyper-vigilance or other
related problems. The culmination of
research, studies, and data cited herein clearly demonstrate the strong prevalence, likelihood, and
probability of development of PTSD following childhood physical abuse. As the DSM-5 details,
PTSD is the result of exposure to actual or threatened serious injury, violence, traumatic events,
or even witnessing or learning about traumatic events (American Psychiatric Association, 2013,
pp. 272-273).

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PTSD Social, Behavioral, Cognitive and Economic Considerations
-

Consideration of Symptoms. We have also learned that PTSD symptoms such as negative
alterations in cognition, irritable behavior, angry outburst, recklessness, self-destructive behavior,
sleep disturbances, impairment in social
functions are commonly observed in
combat veterans exposed to traumatic
environments. Additionally, there are the
accompanying symptoms of fear, guilt,
sadness, shame, confusion, and avoidance
of social functions, people, conversations,
or even interpersonal situations that arouse
recollections of the trauma/abuse
(American Psychiatric Association, 2013,
pp. 274-275)

Social and Developmental Impact.


Additionally, we have learned that PTSD is
also associated with high levels of physical,
social, and economic disability and that
these tend to result in higher levels of
medical utilization. Furthermore, the
associated impaired functions exhibited by
those suffering from PTSD transcend social, interpersonal, developmental, educational, physical
health, and occupational domains (American Psychiatric Association, 2013, pp. 278-279).
- Comorbidity. Equally as
worrisome is the high
probability (80%) that
individuals with PTSD are
more likely to develop at
least one other mental
disorder, such as depression,
bipolar, anxiety, or substance
abuse, with comorbid
substance use disorder and
conduct disorder more
common among males than
females. There is also
considerable comorbidity
between PTSD and major
neurocognitive disorders
with symptoms overlapping
between these and other
disorders (American
Psychiatric Association,
2013, pp. 280)
- Research. The research
results are clear, repeated, and provide the information relied upon to link combat exposure to
onset of PTSD and the myriad of disabling symptoms that accompany the disorder. Further, we
can now detail how these symptoms manifest in the neurological, biological, psychological, and
social realms of human development across the lifecycle.

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2016 Operation Vet Fit Annual Report

Treatment. Evidence based treatments, such Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Trauma
Focused Therapy (TFT), Eye Movement Desensitization and Repossessing (EMDR) as well as
other standard and individualized psychotherapy techniques are being widely used today by
mental health professionals to free victims of combat trauma from the long-term and lingering
symptoms suffered as a result (Institute of Medicine, 2008; Kuehn, 2008; Cahill, & Foa, 2007;
Rausch, & Foa, 2005).
References
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th
ed.). Washington, DC: Author.
Cahill, S. P. & Foa, E. B. (2007). PTSD: Treatment efficacy and future directions. Psychiatric
Times, 24(3), 32 34.
Institute of Medicine (IOM). (2008). Treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder: An assessment of the
evidence. Washington, D. C.: The National Academies Press.
Kuehn, B. M. (2008). Scientists probe PTSD effects, treatments. Journal of the American
Medical Association (JAMA), 299(1), 23 26.
Rausch, S. & Foa, E. (2005). Encyclopedia of cognitive behavior therapy. New York, NY: Springer
Science +Business Media, Inc. doi: 10.1007/0-306-48581-8_86.

Combat

PTSD

Disease

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2016 Operation Vet Fit Annual Report

WHAT WE DO
Physical & Mental - Operation Vet Fit provides
referral services to our area agency mental health
specialists, free fitness center memberships, team
oriented motivational fitness events, and stress reducing
outdoor social excursions for returning combat veterans
working through PTSD and other visible and invisible
service connected injuries.

Social Advocacy Additionally, we serve as a free


liaison
supporting
veterans with
serviceconnected disabilities by assisting in the process of locating,
accessing, and navigating the many available veterans benefits
currently being offered.
We also provide free advocacy services for our Veterans and
continue to work within our served communities to aid in
civilian life reintegration through social service, mentoring
programs and volunteerism
while identifying and
engaging in opportunities
geared toward fostering a
sense of continued and
improved purpose amongst
our member combat
veterans.

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2016 Operation Vet Fit Annual Report

TESTIMONIALS

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COMMUNITY AWARDS AND RECOGNITION


During the previous years, Operation Vet fit
was nominated as Non-Profit of the year by
two local agencies. The first nomination came
in 2013 from our area online news outlet (The
Bethel Patch); the second nomination coming
earlier in 2014 by the Bethel Chamber of
Commerce.
During 2014, Operation Vet Fit was
recognized as a Guide Star, Great Nonprofits,
Top Rated Nonprofit.
Additionally, due to our reporting and transparency
methods, the Guide Star Exchange certified us as a
Gold Participant.
It is an honor to have our efforts noticed in or
community, and we look forward to maintaining
continued momentum toward a day when we can
realize our goal of stopping veteran suicides through
exercise, fitness, camaraderie, and in the attainment of
a higher purpose through both hardship and resilience.

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BACKGROUND THE OVF STORY

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FITNESS FACILITIES
The first location, Bethel Wellness Center, is located in the heart of downtown Bethel, CT. It is a
beautiful 3,000+ Sq., 24/7 Fitness center. Formerly the headquarters for Operation Vet Fit, the
facility and its equipment were sold on July 1st, 2015 to an Operation Vet Fit Army veteran of
operations in Bosnia.
The facility is still provided, free of charge to OVFs
first 98 Combat and combat theatre veterans and
provides a full line of industrial high-end
cardiovascular equipment, commercial grade freeweights and cable machines. All necessary apparatus
are available to safely and effectively implement a
guided, safe and effective fitness program for our
combat veterans.
In addition, the facility provides flat screen TVs in
front of all cardio equipment with cable as well as
Direct TV, sports and news packages. Wi-Fi access is
free of charge and Pandora radio is streaming through
the facilitys controllable audio system via an IPad that
stands ready for general use by patrons.
Electronic key fob access and automated 24 hr.
surveillance provide a safe and easily accessible point
of entry. Automated lighting and complete climate control provides for ease and comfort during use.
Complimentary fresh towels, free
coffee and re-fueling snacks and
drinks are always available.

COMBAT VETERANS
ASSISTANCE
Operation Vet Fit aids its member
combat veterans through the
burdensome process of obtaining
and utilizing the many available
programs, services and benefits
currently available through the
Department of Veterans Affairs,
State resources, and other emerging
local and federal agencies that serve
the combat veteran population.
Additionally, we act as an advocate
in cases of veterans exploitation and
or abuse.

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CAMARADERIE BUILDING PROGRAMS AND SERVICES


We host a variety of regular
physical, and social activities
including but not limited to:

5Ks
Golf Outings
Veterans Recognition
Dinners
Veterans Social
Luncheons
Camping Trips
NCAA Basketball games
NCAA Football games
River Rafting Trips
Sports Car Races and
Events

One key factor to the success of OVF is in the understanding that camaraderie, once lost following
combat service, is a key element in social reintegration. The bond we share with one another is
unbreakable, for each of us has a history that has been forged through the alchemy of those whom
served before us and this bond, this experience, can never be taken away.
Thus, we strive to re-ignite that same sense of brotherhood, except now its shared through
recreational activity, far from the threat of combat, judgment, or misunderstanding.
Operation Vet Fit provides fully funded, all expenses paid get-a-ways and opportunities for its
combat veterans:
Elementary School
Veterans Day Visits
Many local schools like
to teach their students
about Veterans Day,
what it means, and
what we do. We are
often invited to visit
the schools, provide
keynote speeches and
to greet the children as
they enter the school.
Often we are asked to
visit their classrooms
to discuss uniforms,
how we travel, and
what some of our
missions are. Showing
the kids how to use an
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E-Tool as a toilet seat seams to get the
greatest laughs. Which are often
accompanied by a period of instruction on
proper push-ups.
Golf Outings, and Tournaments While
improving the lives of our veterans at these
events, we also support other local veterans
charities at these seasonal fundraising
events.
Comedy Night Dinners For this event we
invite our veteran members and their
significant others for a night of food,
beverages, and laughs at Bethels Putnam
House Restaurant. These events have
proven both cost effective and instrumental
in allowing our veterans spouses to meet,
catch up and discuss the challenges and
benefits of being in a
relationship/marriage/family with a combat
theatre veteran.
Lime Rock Park, Fall Weekend racing
and camping inside the track Situated in
the beautiful hills of CTs Litchfield County,
this event last for 3 full days and takes place
inside the racetrack. A golf cart is provided
for our veterans to make their way
comfortably around the venue, which
provides multiple viewing points to observe
each of the weekend auto racing events.
Food, Camping, Racing, and of course a
fire.

Lime Rock Park, Memorial Day Weekend


Racing and camping inside the track. We had
such a great time last fall that we committed to
doing it again in the spring.
For obvious reasons we selected Memorial Day
Weekend. For this event we were provided an
RV by OVF volunteer and donor. This time
around we upgraded to two 4-passenger golf
carts in order to provide transportation around
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the park for our
volunteers, veterans,
and donors.
Deerfield River
rafting and
camping trip This
trip runs for four
days and is situated
in the heart of the
Berkshire Mountains
in the North West
corner of Mass. We
camp in style,
usually with an RV and
all the amenities. River
rafting along the calm
section of the Deerfield
River provides for five
to eight hours of
relaxation and
recreation on the river.
This event is a cure all
for almost anyone, but
a true source of great
camaraderie building,
laughs, brotherhood, &
a much needed exhale
for OVF vets from the
daily grind
Toy Drives For the
annual Dorothy Day
Santas Workshop that
provided toys to over
800 needy families in
the greater Danbury
Area last Christmas.

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Food Collection For
our area charities, which
provides food to those
that cannot afford to
buy their own. Our food
collection program is
ongoing and our
collaboration with other
area charities to help the
poor, hungry, and needy
is both essential for the
success of our
community but equally
for the successful
reintegration of our
volunteer combat
veterans during these
events.
Advocacy Services During the last
two-years, Operation Vet Fit has
invested a substantial proportion of its
volunteer efforts toward the advocacy
of a WWII Veteran that was exploited
by the State of CT Probate Court
System. Through our collaboration
with our elected State and Federal
leaders and other veterans agencies like
Purple Heart Homes, National
Veterans Service Foundation and
Work Vessels for Veterans, we rescued
Louis J. Russo from an involuntary
conservator that was
assigned by the CT
Probate Court whom
stole his life savings,
scrapped his personal
property, illegally rented
out his home, and kept
him in a nursing home
rather than a free VA
hospital.
SSGT Louis J. Russos
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plight garnered local and State media
attention and led to a continued call for
Probate reform in the State of CT.
You can review a synopsis of our
advocacy for Mr. Russo at this link:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=
L4qq6QRUMkE
Direction and Motivation - For those
that have come home from the
battlefields, finding a sense of purpose
tends to be the crucial link required for
successful reintegration.
We fully intend to continue to assist
our veterans in finding what their
purpose is. And doing so in a way that
inspires the next generation and
encourages leaders to emerge from
the abyss of the challenges that
accompany the loss of purpose felt
following combat action or
honorable service to ones nation.

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HIGHLIGHTED SUCCESS STORY Mission Accomplished


Since late September 2014 I was contacted by one of
our OVF Member veterans, also our district State
Representative, Dan Carter. He was seeking our
assistance in helping a 96 year-old World War 2
combat veteran
that had been
involuntarily
conserved by the
CT Probate Court
System, wrongfully
placed in a nursing
home that racked
up a $108,000 bill
and while he was
being held in the
nursing home, the
court appointed
conservator
stripped his bank
accounts clean, as well as his personal property and heavy building
equipment.
Within the next 6 week period our agency contacted our elected representatives, the judge, Attorney
General, VA, Department of Justices, and the Statewide Grievance Committee. OVF assisted, in
tandem with the guidance of our State Officials, in aiding the veteran in filing a criminal complaint
that is now under investigation with the CT State
Police, a grievance complaint with the Statewide
Grievance Committee, and a complaint to the
Department of Justice.
By Veterans Day 2014 OVF had coordinated over 30
volunteers and
raised the
money needed
to repair his
home, return
him home, and
restore his
sense of
dignity.
Multiple
investigations
are still
ongoing, and
our WWII

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Veteran has become a source of both
inspiration to others as well as a whistle
blower on the corrupt state of CT
Probate Court affairs that has amplified
the investigation and overhaul of the

CT Probate Court System at the legislative level.


His story gained wide local media attention and
appeared on the front page of our local paper,
The Danbury News Times, over a half dozen
times as well as a TV media story that aired on
CTs WFSB News Channel 3.

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FINANCIALS
Operation Vet Fit is proud to announce that it continues to utilize an all-volunteer force to fund,
design, implement, and manage the entirety of its charity.

REVENUES JAN 1ST DEC 31ST, 2015


Contributions,
$22,297
Sale of
Equipment,
$57,000

Membership
Dues, $29,257

Programs
Service
Fees, $8,715

Revenues vs Expenses 2012-2015


$120,000
$110,000
$100,000
$90,000
$80,000
$70,000
$60,000
$50,000

Revenues

Expenses

2012-2013

$97,008

$95,101

2013-2014

$117,277

$99,719

2014-2015

$102,701

$93,755

2015-2016

$113,360

$70,056

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2015 Expenses by Category


Printing,
Publications,
Postage and
Shipping,
$10,628
Benefits Paid to
or for veterans,
$26,252

Fitness Center(s)
Rent,
Memberships,
Utilities, and
Equipment
$30,977

Professional
Fees, $2,198

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ANNUAL TAX RETURN: 2015 IRS FORM 990 EZ

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Complete IRS Form 990EZ and all schedules can be located here:
http://www.operationvetfit.org/legalfinancial/

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BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Daniel R. Gaita, MA - Founder
Dan served in the United States Marine Corps from
1992-1996 as an Artillery Forward Scout Observer in
the Fifth Battalion, Tenth Marine Regiment, deployed
with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit and
participated in Operation Restore/Continue Hope in
Somalia, Operation Deny Flight in Bosnia and also
Operation Support Democracy in Haiti.
Following his honorable discharge Dan went on to earn
an Associates Degree in Science and Bachelors Degree
in Psychology from the University of Connecticut and
Western Connecticut State University. He later went on
to complete his first Graduate Masters Degree in
Organizational Leadership from Gonzaga University
and is currently working on his second Masters Degree
in Clinical Social Work from combined studies at
Fordham University and the University of Southern
California. Dan has participated in Military Clinical
Skills training and participates in research currently
being conducted through the Center for Innovation
and Research on Veterans and Military Families.
Dan was a AAAI/ISMA certified personal trainer,
weight management specialist, pre/post natal
certified, and a recognized master level trainer
through IDEA for over twenty years and has been
active in the health and fitness industry for over
twenty years serving in all roles from Maintenance
Manager, Fitness Director, Assistant Manager,
Manger, and Owner.
Dan's Grandfather, Leonard Palmer, was an
Ammunition Handler in the second beach landing
wave in Normandy, WWII. He fought for nearly two
years in Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes and
Central Europe before being nearly fatally wounded
and declining to receive the Purple Heart. Dan's
Great Uncle, Vincent Lasalva, was not as lucky and
would be killed aboard ship in the Pacific Theatre by
a Kamikaze attack. His uncle, H. Palmer served in
Vietnam.
Dan now dedicates his life to the service of our
combat veterans through Operation Vet Fit, and
through his various other veterans agency
affiliations. He is a ten-year member of the American
Legion as well as a member of the Veterans of
Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, and the
Marine Corps League. Has is currently serving as
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Veteran's Service Officer for VFW Post 935 in Bethel, CT.
Additionally serving as a volunteer veterans advocate, Dan has successfully assisted veterans of all
ages in matters requiring social and restorative justice advocacy services. Several of his advocacy cases
have garnered local, state and national attention and have led to the investigation, prosecution and
judgments against individuals, and agencies that have exploited our most vulnerable veterans
populations; the elderly and disabled.
Erin OMeara Gaita - Co-Founder
A dedicated mother of three, She is married to
Marine veteran and Founder of Operation Vet
Fit, Inc., Daniel Gaita. Erin has personal
experience and compassion for the real effects
combat has on our veterans, and is committed
to being a true advocate.

Credited by her husband as the catalyst to his


investigating and understanding the impacts
that PTSD has on veterans and their families,
Erin has served an integral role in the
founding, formation and functions of
Operation Vet-Fit.
Erin holds a B.A. in Psychology from Western Connecticut State University and group class
certifications including Spinning and Pilates. She successfully trained for and completed both 2010
and 2011 New York City Marathons, over a dozen various Half-Marathons, a Tough Mudder, and
countless 5K's and 10K's.

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ADVISORY BOARD
Sgt. Maj. Brandon Eckardt - Active Duty
Liaison
Brandon Eckardt enlisted in the Marine Corps
in 1990. During his career in the Marine
Corps, Brandon has served in all four Marine
Corps Divisions, in diverse assignments,
giving him a unique perspective on the
dynamics that accompany a calling to fulfill the
duties of a Marine for a lengthy time. With
deployments to Somalia, Haiti, Yemen, East
Timor and Iraq, Brandon has experience in a
variety of expeditionary operations. Brandon
is currently serving as the Squadron Sergeant
Major for VMU-2 with 2D Marine Aircraft
Wing in Cherry Point, North Carolina.
Brandon holds a Bachelors Degree in
Business Management from Grand View
University.
Among the many professional military
education schools completed during his career
in the Marine Corps, Brandon is proud to have
graduated from the first ever Marine Corps
Sergeants Major Course. In his spare time,
Brandon is an avid distance runner with the goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon.
Concerned with the ongoing issues plaguing combat veterans departing the active ranks, Brandon is
committed to providing insight and assistance to this most honorable endeavor that seeks to identify
sustainable solutions for veterans in need.

Lt. Col. Mike Zacchea - Veterans


Programs Outreach

Mike Zacchea was commissioned in the


Marine Corps in 1990. He served as a
forward observer and platoon commander,
deploying to Somalia for Operation Restore
Hope and to Haiti for Operation Support
Democracy. In March 2004, as a major, he
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deployed to Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom II. His team's mission was to build, train, and lead in
combat the first Iraqi army battalion trained by the US military. During this time, the battalion
participated in Operation Phantom Fury, the 2nd Battle of Fallujah. During the battle, Mike was
wounded by a rocket-propelled grenade, but declined to be medically evacuated.
Mike's military awards include the Bronze Star Medal for Valor (with gold star in lieu of 2nd award),
the Purple Heart Medal, a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, a Combat Action Ribbon,
and numerous unit and campaign awards. Mike was also the first and at the time only American
recognized by the Iraqi government by the Order of the Lion of Babylon. As a result of his wounds,
Mike was medically retired with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
Mike's education includes an MBA from the University of Connecticut, an MA in Organizational
Dynamics from Hawaii Pacific University, and a BA from the University of Notre Dame. He is the
Program Director of the University of Connecticut Entrepreneur Bootcamp for Veterans with
Disabilities.
He is also involved in the creation of ConnectVets, Inc., a non-profit organization of veteran-owned
businesses in the state of CT. He was appointed to a multi-agency cross-disciplinary working group
chaired by the Commissioner of the CT Dept of Veterans Affairs to align veteran education, jobtraining, and workforce re-entry issues. The Small Business Administration recognized Mike as the
2011-12 Veterans Business Champion. Mike is the author of Veterans Advocacy: the Fight for
Social Justice and Healing Through Activism in Healing War Trauma: A Handbook of Creative
Approaches (Routledge: 2013).
Mike has been featured in several documentaries and books about returning veterans, and has been
interviewed in numerous national media venues discussing the war and related issues. He continues
to be active in veterans affairs and Iraqi refugee affairs. Mike lives in Brookfield CT with his wife and
infant son.

SSGT Louis J. Russo - WWII Combat Veterans


Liaison
Louis Russo served in the Pacific Theatre from April
10, 1942 through July 2nd, 1945 participating in the
battles of New Guinea and Papua before coming
home to settle as a single bachelor in CT. After
building his own homes during the 1950's and 1960's
Lou enjoyed horse racing. His knowledge of fitness
and nutrition was decades ahead of his time and only
now have the "experts" discovered the secrets that
Lou has long since known and lived by.

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In 2013, at 95 years of age, Lou suffered a fall and was transported to the
hospital and placed under an involuntary conservatorship through the
Housatonic Valley Probate Court System. The conservator, rather than
fixing up Lou's home for his return, never placed him into a VA Healthcare
facility which resulted in a $40,000 debt at a non VA nursing home, a lien on
his property, sold off his assets, rented his home out to strangers and tried
to obtain a reverse mortgage on his property. Lou, being no stranger to
battles, sought our help in attaining some restorative justice.
Within 3 weeks, Operation Vet Fit coordinated 20 volunteers and repaired
Lou's home in time for his return on Veterans Day, Nov 11th, 2014. Now
Lou seeks justice against all those that are responsible for the 17 months of
hell he endured while held hostage by the Probate Court system. Today,
January 2015, Lou is still seeking to regain his dignity and independence
from the probate court system. Here is an overview of the "Louis Russo
Project" http://youtu.be/L4qq6QRUMkE

HM3 Todd Angell - Post 9/11 Combat Veterans Liaison

Todd Angell served in the United States Navy as a Combat


Fleet Marine Force Corpsman attached to the 1st battalion,
8th Marine Regiment. Deployed September 2010 March
2011 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Helmand
Province, Afghanistan.
While deployed Angell served in direct combat operations
participating in over 150 combat patrols providing battlefield
aid to injured Marines, local nationals, and other coalition
forces.
Angell would go on to earn the nations third highest military
award, the Silver Star and complete his term of active service
with both honor and distinction.
Today Angell continues to serve in his community working as
firefighter in Florida.

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PVT Thomas Burke - Chaplain

A Meritoriously promoted Marine Corps Boot camp graduate,


in 2008 Thomas deployed in support of Operation Iraqi
Freedom as a Squad Automatic Rifleman and Arabic cultural
advisor.
After a few unfortunate traumatic events, Thomas was
diagnosed with PTSD upon returning from his first
deployment. Not to be deterred, he deployed again in 2008 in
support of Operation Enduring Freedom as a Designated
Marksman and Pashto linguist.
Upon completion of this combat deployment, Thomas was a
shell of the boy who left for war. Luckily the Marine Corps
and his command decided he deserved help and was sent to
the Department of Defense Substance Abuse Rehabilitation
Facility in San Diego, CA. After successful treatment, Thomas
was ready to start becoming the man he was meant to be.
After transitioning out of the Marine Corps and returning home, Thomas finally received his VA
benefits after over a year of doubt.
In doing so he was able to complete his undergraduate degree in Religious Studies and English.
Currently, Thomas is in seminary at Yale
Divinity School training to become an
Episcopalian Priest and US Naval Chaplain.
As one of the earliest members of Op-Vet
Fit, Thomas was able to utilize the programs
and accessibility to benefits provided by such
a great organization to further his successes
and ease his transition into civilian life.
Thomas is an accomplished and published
writer, and forever a student of the world. As
a world traveler and with a proficiency in
foreign languages Thomas has devoted his
life to social justice and helping those without
a voice.
He his honored to fulfill his role as Chaplain
at Op-Vet Fit and is ready and willing to help
any veterans in their spiritual and emotional
recovery

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2016 Operation Vet Fit Annual Report


SPC Bradley Noone - Outdoor Program
Coordinator/Guide

Bradley Noone enlisted in the US Army in


2005 as an Infantryman. Immediately upon
graduation from basic training he was
deployed to Afghanistan in support of
Operation Enduring Freedom. Upon his
return to the United States, he served
another 6 years with the CT and FL Army
National Guard and was honorably
discharged after 8 years of service, primarily with the 1-102 INF
(MTN) of the CT Army National Guard. Leaving the military,
Bradley takes with him a number of awards to include; The
Combat Infantryman's Badge, and a pair of Army
Commendation Medals.
Bradley incurred a number of injuries during his time in the
service, to include; PTSD, TBI, Hearing Loss, a back injury, and
a reconstructed ankle. He is a class of 2014 graduate from
Western Connecticut State University with a B.S. in Justice and
Law Administration and a minor in History, a 2014 graduate of
SOLO Wilderness Medicine School with certifications as a
Wilderness EMT. Bradley is also a published author of a chap
book of poetry about his time in Afghanistan and the military.
Being active in the outdoors, Bradley has discovered the healing
power that nature holds when dealing with combat and reintegration related stress. He is active with
an organization who builds communities of veterans in the outdoors entitled Veterans Expeditions
and hopes to bring this same mantra to Operation Vet Fit. His life's mission is to help other veterans
find healthy coping mechanisms to dealing with their military and reintegration issues via the great
outdoors

HM3 Christina Marie Colla- Legal Liaison


Virginia and DC State Representative

Christina Colla served in the United States Navy as a


Corpsman from 2002-2006, before an injury/illness
rendered her unable to deploy. She was deployed multiple
times in support of Operation Enduring
Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom, earning several
awards for her service.
Since being discharged, she has gone on to earn her law
degree with a concentration in health law from Quinnipiac
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2016 Operation Vet Fit Annual Report


University School of Law in Hamden, CT. Her ultimate goal is to advocate for veterans in the areas
of health, benefits and employment - 3 areas that many veterans and their families struggle with
everyday.
Christina lives in New Milford with her service dog, Copper, who has been instrumental in assisting
Christina with the effects of PTSD and some mobility issues. They have been very active throughout
the community, and can be seen visiting the veterans in CTs two VA facilities.
Valerie Plue - Substance Abuse Resistance
Advocate
Valerie is on the Board of Directors of Success
Residential, which provides sober housing for
both men and women in the Danbury/Bethel
CT area. In addition, Valerie is on the Board of
Directors of the Fellowship Center where 32
Twelve Step meetings are held weekly and
1200-1500 people pass through the door each
month. Valerie has been in recovery for close
to 19 years. Valerie's brother Ray, served in the
US Army and is a Vietnam combat veteran.
Valerie's fianc, Tom served as a paratrooper
and medic in the US Army and is also a
Vietnam combat veteran. Her father, Raymond
was also a combat veteran in the US Army.

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2016 Operation Vet Fit Annual Report

STATE REPRESENTATIVES
Kevin Kirk - California
Kevin Served in the United States Navy from
2009-2015, where he humbly operated as a
United States Nave SEAL, During his time in the
Navy, Kevin had the privilege of serving on the
highly decorated SEAL TEAM 10, where he had
the opportunity to travel to both the good and
bad regions this world has to offer., This led to a
deep appreciation of American values and
opportunities.
Since exiting the military,
Kevin has developed an
aggressive entrepreneurial
mindset and has launched
four start-ups within a year
of his military exit. Two of
these start-ups have been
award winning, including a
competitive contest
sponsored by Google, as
well as winning the title
"Best Start Up in San
Diego". He looks forward to
attacking the business world
with the same energy and
vigor that he channeled in
the military.
Kevin holds a bachelor's
degree in Sociology and a
minor in Criminal Justice.
He has also completed many endurance events including a 50 kilometer Ultramarathon through the roughest terrain Vermont has to offer, as well as a full
Ironman triathlon (2.4 mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2 mile run). He is currently
applying to top MBA programs to help develop his business skill and talent.
Upon his transition out of the military, Kevin was extremely disturbed by the lack of organization
and support during his exit. He is extremely determined to assist operation vet-fit in it's mission to
help streamline and offer guidance through this extremely challenging and fragile time in one's life.
Upon returning from Afghanistan in 2013, Kevin lost his brother Ryan Kirk and was offered full
access to the Vet-Fit gym in Bethel, CT. This service offered him a positive place to channel his pain,
and he has never forgotten how important the resource was at that time. He's looking forward to
help in the expansion of Vet-Fit to offer other's the same support, guidance, and positive outlet that
he was so graciously given.

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2016 Operation Vet Fit Annual Report


Dan Welch - Connecticut
Dan served in the United
States Marine Corps from
1966-1970 and spent 22
months in Vietnam. He was in
7 major operations: Khe Sahn,
Allenbrook (1, 2, and 3),
Mameluke Thrust, Fort
Apache, and the A Shau Valley
and was awarded 3 Purple
Hearts. He was attached to the
27th, 28th and 7th Marines.
Following his honorable
discharge Dan went on to earn
his Master Electrician license in Vermont where he owned his own
electrical business for over 20 years. He has since retired and enjoys
woodworking, re-building classic cars and playing with his
grandchildren.

Timothy Mallette - New York

Served four honorable years in the US Marines from


1992-1996 as on 0311 infantryman. Developed,
scheduled and implemented training programs for
U.S. Marines, including programs on physical
training, job specific training, disciplinary action,
and motivational incentive programs as well as
mastering logistics of security intelligence. Served
during U.S. operations in Somalia, Haiti, and Cuba.
Analyzed and advised Senior Officials regarding
management discrepancies within task force team.
Formulated solutions to correct all problems and discrepancies within fire teams. Awarded
Meritorious Mast, Recognized for superior team leadership skills; Good Conduct
Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, and the National Defense Service Medal.
Tim is a 2001 University of Connecticut graduate with a Bachelors degree in Corporate and
Organizational Studies and a current MBA student at Devry College with a concentration in
International Business.
Professionally, Tim is responsible for maintaining a 6 million dollar residential and commercial
property portfolio while also prospecting and calculating the ROI for future real estate opportunities
within the greater Fairfield County, CT areas. Tim works on budgeting, property management, and
manages a $26 million portfolio.

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2016 Operation Vet Fit Annual Report

OVERVIEW OF THOSE WE SERVE

WHERE THEY SERVED:


-

3 WORLD WAR II
1 KOREA
25 VIETNAM
8 SOMALIA
7 BOSNIA
1 BEIRUT
6 GULF WAR
25 IRAQ
30 AFGHANISTAN
2 WORLD TRADE CENTERS
SEPTEMBER 11 , 2001
1 SANDY HOOK
ELEMENTARY SCHOOL FIRST
RESPONDER
TH

MAJOR AWARDS FOR


VALOR AND SACRIFICE
-

1 SILVER STAR
16 PURPLE HEARTS
7 BRONZE STARS

ARMED FORCES
BRANCHES
REPRESENTED
-

4 AIR FORCE
46 ARMY
13 NAVY
33 MARINE CORPS
1 NYPD
1 FDNY

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2016 Operation Vet Fit Annual Report

JOHN BUZZ HOGAN


SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM
Inspired by United States Marine, Vietnam Veteran,
Two-Time Purple Heart recipient, John Buzz
Hogan,
PURPOSE:
To assist children or grandchildren of a currently
serving or former combat Veteran.
SELECTION CRITERIA:
Male or Female Applicants must be under the age of 22.
Applicants must be at least a C student. Participate in an
institution sponsored extra-curricular activity. Have done or
are currently involved in a community service program. Have
been selected or have pending acceptance as a full-time student
in an accredited post-secondary educational institution.
HOW TO APPLY:
Email all required information and attachments listed below to:
danielgaita@me.com Application period is open with a
deadline of March 20th annually:
Applicants must submit a
written essay of up to 200
words includes: A brief
description of why the
scholarship is needed. A brief
description of the
parent/grandparents combats service. Must submit a copy of
parent/grandparents "Certificate of Release or Discharge from
Active Duty" a.k.a. "DD-214" to prove combat service (no other
documents will be accepted). Course of study and future career
plans. An undecided answer is acceptable as long as some sense of
current areas of potential interest is equally well explained. Some
sense of why the candidate believes he/she is a candidate worthy of
this scholarship. Brief description of community service
experience(s).

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2016 Operation Vet Fit Annual Report

GRANTS
Operation Vet Fit continues to apply for hundreds of thousands of
dollars in grant funds to continue and expand its mission and services.
Even with broad federal and state endorsements large grants have been
unattainable thus far.
Here is an overview of our grant request efforts, successes, and denials.
Grants Applied For 2015-2016:

Savings Bank of Danbury Awarded $1000


Big Y - $4,000
Home Depot Foundation - $5,000 (July 2015)
Bristol-Myers Squibb Grant Request Denied
Lockheed Martin Grant Request Denied
Maximus Foundation Grant Request Denied
Purple Heart Foundation Grant Request Denied
Tyson Corp Grant Request Denied
Newtown Saving Bank - Grant Request Denied
Union Savings Bank - Grant Request Denied
Bob Woodruff Foundation - Grant Request Denied
JP Morgan Chase Giving - Grant Request Denied
Knights of Columbus - Grant Request Denied
Cargil - Grant Request Denied
Staples Foundation - Grant Request Denied
Ford Foundation - Grant Request Denied
RGK Foundation Grant Request Denied
Coca Cola - Grant Request Denied
SC Johnson Philantropy - Grant Request Denied
Bank of America Philanthropic Giving - Grant Request Denied
Wounded Warrior Project Grant Request Denied
George A. & Grace L. Long Foundation Grant Request Denied
CSX Grant Request Denied
David, Helen and Marian Woodward Fund - Grant Request Denied
Lowes Charitable Foundation - Grant Request Denied
Walgreens All Grant Request Denied
Dalio Foundation - Grant Request Denied
Diebold Foundation - Grant Request Denied
Dr Scholl Foundation - Grant Request Denied
Ben & Jerrys Foundation - Grant Request Denied
Newmans Own - Grant Request Denied
Veterans Service Foundation - Grant Request Denied
Disabled Veterans National Foundation - Grant Request Denied
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2016 Operation Vet Fit Annual Report

FORWARD THINKING
For the upcoming year, Operation Vet Fit is continuing a major expansion of services from our new
Headquarters located in Mount Pleasant, SC Our goal is to begin to establish a State
Representative Program, with a long-term goal of providing an Operation Vet Fit member liaison
in all 50 US States. This program will provide a point of contact in each participating State
Representatives area of operation. It will enable OVF to provide expandable services while also
promoting a sense of purpose, for participating OVF Combat Veteran members.
We are proud to announce that we accomplished all goals from last years forward thinking agenda.
We sold our fitness center in Bethel, Connecticut. As a result, OVF now has its first official satellite
fitness center location and our first OVF member fitness center owner.
As planned, We have relocated our headquarters to South Carolina as of June 2016 where we now
have closer proximity to many of the east coast military establishments and active duty personnel.
Additionally, we have established State Representatives in Connecticut, New York, California, South
Carolina, Virginia and DC.
Our motto: Per Aspera As Astra meaning, through hardship to the stars. Our call to arms for
every combat veteran to believe and seek to find that purpose that drives effort while inspiring the
next generation to greatness, fulfillment and achievement.
This is who we are this is what we do!

Dan Gaita, Founder, Operation Vet Fit

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2016 Operation Vet Fit Annual Report

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