Dog Tag, Inc. Fellowship Program Alumni
summer Class of 2016
Dog Tag Inc. fellows represent a sample of the talent and drive that exists in the veteran community. Success looks like the faces and stories below now gainfully employed in government, non-profit and corporate enterprises, or entrepreneurs launching their own endeavors!
DANA LaMARR TOLSON BLAKE
A graduate of the Summer Class of 2016 Dog Tag Fellowship Program, Dana Blake is a Native DMV resident, born in DC and raised in Maryland. After trying her hand at working in the federal government, Dana decided that she wanted to broaden her horizons by going back to school, traveling and venture into being more than an executive GS5 executive secretary. In order to do that, she decided to join the military. After checking out all the services, she decided the Air Force would be her best fit. So March 5th 1986 began her military adventure. She served 4 years active duty; then 8-1/2 years in the reserve; then went back on active duty for the remainder of her total of 27 years of honorable service. Dana was an Aerospace Medical Service Craftsman most of her career, but she did have a stint as a reserve recruiter, education & training tech, mobility technician and squadron medial element technician. In 2000, she went to Prince Sultan AB, Saudi Arabia for operation enduring freedom as the NCOIC of the Coalition Clinic and in 2010 she went to Balad AFB, Iraq as the A8 Medic for the 732 AES.
Dana earned her AA degree in Allied Health Science from the Community College of the Air Force in May of 2007. She is currently 5 classes from her BS degree in Social Sciences w/Education Concentration from Ashford University. Upon her Retirement from Active Duty on 31 January 2013 out of Luke AFB, AZ (where she spent the last 9 years of her enlistment) as a E-7 Master Sergeant she returned to her hometown of Upper Marlboro, MD (where she currently resides) and got a job as an adjunct professor for Westwood College teaching Medical Assistant Courses from Aug 2013 to March 2016. She also is a local area published 40+ print and runway model, has been in several local plays and has a small role in an upcoming independent film called “Secret Admyrer”. Since retiring Dana is very active in the Veteran community. Since 2014, she is the VP of Events for Women Veterans Interactive (WVI), a non-profit organization which helps women veterans and families with homelessness and transition issues at their point of need.
Dana is also the proud mother of 2 handsome boys (Julian 26 & Darrius 23); and she also had a set of fraternal twins for another couple as a host surrogate in 1995. She found out about the Dog Tag, Inc. Fellowship Program through the WVI FB Page and decided to apply to learn more about the business world and venture into Marketing and PR.
A graduate of the Summer Class of 2016 Dog Tag Fellowship Program, Ramona Clifton is an Army veteran, an Army spouse, and a Navy Mom with a passion to serve her fellow military veterans and families. In the Army, she served as an enlisted soldier from 1990-1996, 1998-2003 and 2003-2007 when she accepted a commission to 2nd Lieutenant. In 2012 while her spouse attended the Army War College, Ramona separated from the Army and took a job at the Army War College as the Family Readiness Coordinator, and the Community Outreach Liaison for Carlisle Barracks which allowed her to spend more time caring for her youngest child that had been recently diagnosed with Autism. In the summer of 2013 the family received military orders to South Korea where her husband served in 8th Army as a Brigade Commander, and Ramona would continue to serve veterans and families in South Korea working as a civilian contractor helping service members as a VA Benefits Coordinator all over the South Pacific.
When the Clifton family relocated back to the U.S. in 2015 they settled in Northern Virginia and decided to fully retire from military life after 25 years. Ramona applied for the Dog Tag Fellowship and was accepted into the June 2016 Cohort and she hopes to use the platform that she builds while in the fellowship program to eventually start a business or programs that support young adults with developmental disabilities to become gainfully employed.
Since graduating from the Dog Tag Fellowship Program Ramona has accepted employment with the consulting firm PriceWaterhouseCooper.
A graduate of the Summer Class of 2016 Dog Tag Fellowship Program, Betsy Eves is a native of the Seattle, Washington area where she received her Bachelors in Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences with concentration in Self & Society from the University of Washington in 2009. She is a caregiver to her husband, a soldier in the US Army, who is being medically retired from the US Army after 12 years of service due to combat related PTSD, TBI and chronic depression. Betsy has two children, Matthew, 4, and Emily, 16.
Over the last 10 years, Betsy has been an active member of the military community volunteering as the Family Readiness Group Leader at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and USAG Bavaria, Germany and has also given her time and skill to the USO at Fort Belvoir, VA. Betsy was awarded the Department of the Army Commanders Award for Civilian Service and a Certificate of Appreciation for Patriotic Civilian Service for her time spent volunteering with the FRG. Additionally, Betsy discovered a passion for helping Arab refugees displaced by war while she lived in Germany. She organized several donation drives within her military community and personally delivered the donations to refugee shelters in Germany. Betsy has a passion for helping others and hopes to continue this work after her husband retires and they transition into civilian life.
Not only is Betsy a volunteer, military spouse & caregiver, and mother, she is a small-business owner. Betsy is the CEO of the world-renowned baking & lifestyle blog, The JavaCupcake Blog, where she shares her love of baking, crafting, and parties. Her work has been featured in many online & print publications including The Huffington Post, Food Network, Red Book Magazine, Cupcake Heaven & Baking Heaven magazines, Parade, BuzzFeed, and Food Gawker. As her brand continues to flourish, Betsy has had the pleasure of partnering with several of her favorite companies including KitchenAid, Walmart, Godiva Chocolatier, Nickelodeon, and Tiny Prints.
A graduate of the Summer Class of 2016 Dog Tag Fellowship Program, Kasam Gillis is a native Washingtonian graduating from Howard D. Woodson Senior High School class of 1997. He dedicated seven & half years to the United States Air Force, during which time earned a rank of E-5, Staff Sergeant.
Karsam participated proud & honorably in Post 9/11 Operation Enduring Freedom & Operation Iraqi Freedom. He also attended Johnson & Wales University, Norfolk campus obtaining an A.A.S. in Culinary Arts, class of 2002. He was a member of the final class at JWU of Norfolk obtaining a B.S. in Food Service Management in 2005.
Future accomplishments will be to use his military career, educational experience, & professional endeavors along with the Dog Tag, Inc. opportunity as a giant melting pot to unlock future success within the small business realm.
A graduate of the Summer Class of 2016 Dog Tag Fellowship Program, Ryan Haley is originally from Portland, Oregon. He is passionate about the outdoors to include hiking, mountain climbing, and snowboarding. He climbed several mountains in middle and high school in Boy Scouts and eventually reached the rank of Eagle Scout. Ryan also enjoys reading, traveling, playing drums, learning and connecting with new and different people. He has been encouraged by many people in his life to write, and started a blog in 2014 which he looks to continue and build upon as a possible career transition into writing. Ryan’s dad was in the US Air Force in Vietnam. He and Ryan’s mom both believed Ryan would be a good fit in the military and were positive influences on him joining the Navy.
Ryan attended the University of San Diego on a NROTC scholarship where he graduated with a BA in Psychology and was commissioned as a Naval Officer in May 2003. After college, Ryan attended flight school in Pensacola, Florida where he earned his Naval Aviator’s wings as a helicopter pilot in January 2006. After wings, Ryan went back to San Diego to learn his operational platform, the SH-60B Seahawk Anti-Submarine and Anti-Surface helicopter. Before leaving on his first operational deployment in 2010, Ryan was involved in an aviation mishap where his helicopter crashed. Luckily, all crewmembers walked away from the crash without serious injury.
After a long period of not practicing the faith he grew up with, the crash served as Ryan’s literal and figurative “come back to Jesus” moment after which he recommitted his life to God and living out his faith. After the mishap with the helicopter, Ryan stopped flying but was able to attend the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA to receive his MBA in Financial Management. His next assignment was as an Individual Augmentee with an Army infantry battalion in Andar, Afghanistan from 2010-2011 as Officer-in-Charge of an intel support unit. Ryan’s last assignment was at the Pentagon as a Navy Manpower Action Officer (defense budget analyst) in the Expeditionary Warfare Division (N95) on the staff of the Chief of Naval Operations (OPNAV). He separated from the Navy as a Lieutenant (O-3) in February 2014.
Before he got out of the Navy, Ryan became interested in entrepreneurship and cultivating deep relationships in a church small group he led and organized, which grew from 4 people to over 70 people within 9 months. After separation from military service, Ryan applied his entrepreneurial and relational interests to working as a Realtor in Alexandria, Virginia with a veteran owned and operated real estate brokerage called @home real estate. After 18 months of building his real estate business, he was offered an opportunity at a startup company in Vail, Colorado as a Sales & Account Manager for a mobile marketing application called TheDropp. While in Colorado, Ryan also became involved with a healing prayer ministry called Operation Restored Warrior that helps military veterans deal with life trauma. Despite numerous successes, the company had to discontinue operations in May 2016 due to lack of funding. In June 2016 Ryan heard through a friend about Dog Tag, Inc. and was very quickly and unexpectedly accepted to the June 28 class.
Ever since his tour in Afghanistan, Ryan has been on a quest of identifying, uncovering and pursuing his passions, gifts, talents and higher purpose in life. At present he feels called to writing, which he hopes will also open the door to speaking, coaching, teaching, counseling and encouraging people to find their own passions, talents, gifts and purpose. Having dealt with anxiety, depression, and alcohol & drug abuse, a central part of Ryan’s life message will be helping people find peace, joy and hope by abandoning the limitations and anxieties of self-effort and instead, resting in God’s incredible grace to find their higher purpose in life, further helping others to do the same.
Since graduating from the Dog Tag Fellowship Program, Ryan has enrolled in a ministry program based in Colorado.
A graduate of the Summer Class of 2016 Dog Tag Fellowship Program, Mir Khaled was born and raised in Kabul, Afghanistan. He served as a linguist and cultural advisor for the US Army, and the US government for over six years (2005-2013). During his time with the US Army, he and my team were faced with lots of dangerous situations like enemy ambushes and improvised explosive devices. As he provided an excellent translation job for the US Army and US government, he received a special immigration visa (SIV) by the US government for his service. SIV was a program made by the US government for those who served as a linguist or cultural advisor in Afghanistan during the combat operation, and that was a great opportunity to come to US and start a new chapter of his life.
Mir came to the United States Nov. 2013. Before coming to the US, Mir graduated from university and earned a bachelor degree in Business Economics.
As a Fellow in Dog Tag, Inc., Mir’s hope is that by completing this program, he will be able to run his own small business or lead a team in a business environment. He is strongly motivated to rise to new challenges and to learn and to explore new concepts. He hopes to be the best possible employee at Dog Tag now, but also to learn more about management, marketing, finance and statistics to be a valuable member of the American workforce.
A graduate of the Summer Class of 2016 Dog Tag Fellowship Program, Fallon Mitchell is originally from Millen, Georgia and is the youngest of four siblings. She grew up with a family of Army Veterans started by her grandfather who served in WWII. In September 2002, Fallon enlisted in the Army National Guard at age 17. During her service she held three Military Occupational Specialists, was stationed at Fort Lee, Virginia and Fort Sam Houston, and served two combat tours to Iraq in support of OIF 05-06 and 10-11. Fallon’s last assignment was Walter Reed National Naval Medical Center, where she served as a Behavioral Health Non-Commissioned Officer. Fallon was medically retired in April 2016 after a total of 14 years both Active and National Guard time.
Facing the transition from an Army career to Civilian life, Fallon was blessed to be able to be selected into Dog Tag Inc. The program will provide her with hope, guidance to follow her dreams, and the necessary tools to be able to succeed in the civilian sector as a disabled veteran. After baking for the last two years, Fallon will follow her heart and attend Le’ Academie de Cuisine in January 2017 for Culinary Arts with a specialty in Pastry. Her ultimate goal is to open A Piece of Joy, a bakery in memory of her grandmother Mattie P. She is also working on a “Journey to Comfort,” a recipe and poetry book focused on her background of Georgia comfort food and the journey to a life outside of the Army. Currently she is attending Montgomery College with an overall goal to obtain her License Clinical Social Worker degree from University of Maryland Baltimore College.
Despite Fallon being medically retired, the Army has provided her with an abundance of perseverance, managerial knowledge, and the ability to adapt. She credits her success to her single mother Mary, disabled veteran uncle Ricky, Dr. Laurie Brown, and Metropolitan Community Church of Baltimore. Fallon’s overall goal is to be of service to not only veterans but also her community. Dog Tag, Inc. will be the gateway to ensure she succeeds in all her goals.
Since graduating from the Dog Tag Fellowship Program, Fallon has started a program in culinary arts in pursuit of her future business goals.
A graduate of the Summer Class of 2016 Dog Tag Fellowship Program, Megan Murray grew up in Guyton, Georgia. She is the military spouse of an 8-year Army Veteran, an active volunteer and a board member with Army Community Service at Joint Base Myer- Henderson Hall. Megan supported her husband during two deployments and has lived at five different Army Installations across the country over the last six years. At each new location she seized the opportunity to share her love for dance and the performing arts through teaching and serving numerous organizations in public, private, non-profit, and military/Department of Defense settings.
Megan attended Brenau University in Gainesville, Georgia. As a student she performed as a company member with the Gainesville Ballet Company and was an active member and chapter president of Tau Chapter of Alpha Chi Omega. In 2007 she graduated as a Cum Laude honors graduate and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance Pedagogy. Megan loves working with children & military families and has instructed, directed program planning and coordination for SKIESUnlimited and Child and Youth Service programs at Fort Bliss, Fort Leonard Wood, and Fort Campbell. Most recently, Megan has worked in program management, planning, and coordination as the Program Assistant for Exploring Ballet with Suzanne Farrell at the renown John F. Kennedy Center for the Arts in Washington D.C.
Since graduating from the Dog Tag Fellowship Program, Megan started in a position with OSEHRA, Open Source Electronic Health Record Alliance, as the Communications and Membership Manager.
A graduate of the Summer Class of 2016 Dog Tag Fellowship Program, Merceditas Parrilla enlisted into the Puerto Rico National Guard in 2003. While there she worked as a Recruiting Assistant, Budget Analyst, and in the Distinguished Visitors Program for United States Army South Command USARSO. She was then was accepted in the Title 10 Program for the National Guard Bureau in Arlington, Virginia and mobilized to support KFOR 13 mission. After 12 years of service Merceditas retired as a Sargent First Class.
Currently Merceditas is pursuing an Acquisition and Contracting Diploma and a Bachelor Degree in Accounting at George Washington University in the District of Columbia. She is also working on a certification as a Certified Tax Professional from George Mason University as well as looking to earn an Event Coordinator Certification from George Washington University, DC.
Her future goals after completing the fellowship program are to open a Café business and continue to help her husband develop his general contracting business. Part of that future goal is also to develop an intern program within her family business to help other veterans and minorities.
A graduate of the Summer Class of 2016 Dog Tag Fellowship Program, Sharod Wade is a proud native of Washington, D.C. The summer after graduating from H.D. Woodson High School in 2003, Sharod enlisted into the United States Marine Corps. He attended basic training at Recruit Depot Parris Island, SC where he learned the core values by which he lives: Honor, Courage and Commitment. After basic training, Sharod served as a Supply Administration and Operations Specialist aboard Marine Base Camp Lejeune, NC. As a supply specialist, Sharod served on the forward operations detail while deployed with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit in 2005-2006 and 2006-2007. He would earn the rank as corporal before leaving the active duty component of the Marine Corps to join the Reserve component. Sharod was medically retired from the US Military in 2014.
Upon being retired from the US Marine Corps, Sharod enrolled into Marymount University where he is currently an Education major. Sharod continues to serve by offering his time to local non-profit agencies as a mentor to youth throughout the Washington metropolitan area. He hopes to utilize the knowledge gained from the Dog Tag Bakery Fellowship Program to start an entrepreneurial venture in the field of electronic recycling.
Of all of the accomplishments achieved in life, Sharod is most proud of his marriage to his wife Brittany, a veteran of the US Air Force and their four daughters and one son.