Jesse Acosta - President
Sergeant Major (Retired), United States Army
Born in East Los Angeles and raised in Santa Fe Springs, CA. At the age of 18 in 1975, he joined the United States Army. By December of 1979 he earned his well deserved Sergeant stripes. He separated from the active military after completing his second contract November 15, 1982. After a short break, he enlisted in the Army Reserves and continued to progress quickly through the ranks. In 1998, he was promoted to Master Sergeant, and soon after became the First Sergeant for the 349th General Hospital in Los Angeles.
In June 2003, he joined the Individual Ready Reserve program and remained there until he was called to active duty for Mobilization with the 376th Adjutant General Battalion Detachment 4 in June 2005.
The unit was deployed in 2005 to LSA (logistical support area) Anaconda in Balad, the largest support base in Iraq. January 2006, he was promoted to Sergeant Major; two weeks after his promotion, he was wounded in a mortar attack on LSA Anaconda.
Acosta's injuries included loss of his eyes and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). At the time of his injuries he was one of the highest-ranking, non-commissioned officers with the most severe injuries. Despite his injuries, he continued on active duty for four years. Sgt.Major Acosta then retired in 2010 from the Army to begin another battle for his fellow veterans.
Since 2007 he has traveled throughout the country – from the White House to a prison – with the help of his first guide dog, Charlie Boy, assisting vets navigate the same system as he has as an unsighted veteran. He and Charlie Boy were named Heroes of the Fortune 500 for 2014 nationally for their work.
He has also testified before Congress to address accessibility issues for the disabled and been recognized by President Barack Obama, former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, several Congress members and city officials for service to his country.
His awards include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medals (6), Army Achievement Medals (3), Army Reserve Component Achievement Medals (6), Armed Forces Reserve Medal with a Silver Hourglass and the" M" device, Combat Action Badge, and the Presidential Certificate of Appreciation among many others.
Charlieboy was born March 2004, in Morristown, New Jersey on the "Seeing Eye" grounds - the number one school in the world for German Sheppard guide dogs.
After being hit by a bomb in Iraq in January 2006, I was introduced to the Seeing Eye by my instructor at a blind school in West Los Angeles. In October 2007, my intention was to acquire a female guide dog, became interested in acquiring a guide dog, but was given a male instead. However, once he and I were introduced and they told me his name was Charlie, I busted up laughing as this was my borther's name as well.
Charlieboy served as more than my guide dog. He was always there waiting to serve me and became extremely instrumental in helping me deal with my PTSD. He was very comforting, loyal, and loving. Charlieboy traveled the entire country with me and went to Congress twice, including an invitation to the White House to witness a bill being signed by the President.
Charlieboy passed away October 8, 2015 from MRSA while at an animal hospital. Charlieboy will always be loved by all and is the logo to TAV. We/I miss you lil' buddy. RIP.
Erick Castro, Vice President & Treasurer
Sergeant (Retired), Unites States Army
Erick enlisted in the Army at the age of 19. In 2003 he was deployed to Iraq. While in Iraq he was conducting raids on key targets, foot patrols, undercover mission, traffic control points, guard on high value areas and other duties. Six months into his deployment he was involved in an ambush. His team was hit with a light anti-tank weapon that took his leg right off at the hip. From Iraq he was flow out to Walter Reed Medical Center. A week after getting to Walter Reed, President Bush presented Erick with the Purple Heart. A month later the late Senator Kennedy approached him to do his citizenship. Erick was naturalized as an American Citizen at Capitol Hill.
In May of 2004, Erick was medically retired from the Army and was able to keep his rank of Sergeant. He graduated from Arizona State University with a Math degree and University of Phoenix with an MBA degree. In 2005, Erick was honored at the Memorial Day Concert in Capitol Hill which was aired by PBS. In 2010 Erick was featured in “Latinos Living the American Dream” sponsored by Pepsi Co. and directed by Eva Longoria.
Awards include the Purple Heart, (3) Army Commendation Medals w/ V device, (3) Army Achievement Medals, Army Good Conduct Medals, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, VA-DAV Freedom Award 2004.
Louie Herrera - Secretary
At the young age of 15 Louie built his first computer from mail order kits. Several years later he tried to join the U.S. Air Force to work in radio intelligence but was declined because of his disabilities. For almost 20 years he has worked in the computer service and support engineering field for large aerospace and military contractors. He was also appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on the 21st Century Communications Act. Louie currently holds a Bachelor in Electrical Engineering (University of Arizona), Bachelor in Computer Science (University of Arizona), Masters in Assistive Technology and Rehabilitation ( Cal State University Northridge) and Masters Certification in Robotics and Artificial Intelligence (UCLA Extension Program).
Alfonzo Jackson, Chaplain
Lieutenant Colonel (Retired), United States Navy
Lt. Col Alfonzo Jackson served twenty-two plus years in the Navy and retired. His awards include National Defense, Air Medal, China Service, Good Conduct, Vietnam Service Campaign, and Gallantry Cross with leaf. Latest awards are International Educators Hall of Fame Veterans award and Senior Serve Veterans Hero award. Jackson served as a flight engineer, then went on to flight training to become a pilot, served three tours in Viet Nam, with Carrier Air Groups 15 and 16. Jackson joined the Civil Air Patrol in 1991 and was the first black commanding officer of the Augusta Composite Squadron from September of 1991 until June 1992, and later as Public Affairs Officer for Group Three of the Georgia Wing. Jackson moved to Alabama in September 1993, and served as PAO and Career Development Officer for Composite Squadron 34 and 90 in the Birmingham area. Jackson was later advanced to the Alabama Wing staff. Jackson served as Commanding Officer for Kingdom Life Composite Squadron 124, in Talladega, Alabama. Jackson now serves as a master Recruiter for Civil Air Patrol. Jackson became a member of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, Inc., at the request of members of the original group of aviators from Tuskegee in 2002. Jackson spends his time traveling and speaking on behalf of the Tuskegee Airmen. Jackson founded a chapter in the city of Augusta, Ga. and has served as it’s President, and now past president. Lt. Col. Jackson is now serving with the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship in America as a Field Representative and Vice President of the North Augusta chapter in South Carolina. Jackson is self- employed as a certified Life Coach. In April of 2013, Jackson entered into the ministry of Jesus Christ, to further serve his fellow man. Jackson is serving as the senior chaplain for the Orange County California Regional Group for the Blind Veterans Association.
Vincent Lymon, Board Member
Sergeant First Class (Retired), United States Army
SFC (Ret.) Vincent Lymon- Vincent joined the U.S. Army in 1973 and has participated in several missions. He has had the pleasure of serving in different military installations like Fort Ord, Fort Sill, Germany, Norco, California, Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base, Fort Irwin, March Air Force Base and Marine Corps Logistics Base. At his last duty station he was promoted to Manager where he oversaw the day to day operation of Equipment Concentration Site 171. This also included maintenance, command missions, training, unit mission support and storage functions. After 40 years of service, Vincent retired from the US Army in 2015.
Evelyn McLarty, Board Member
Staff Sergeant (Retired), United States Army
Evelyn began her career in the U.S. Army Reserves in January 1986. She deployed in support of Operation Joint Endeavor in Germany; served in a designated imminent danger area in Kuwait/Iraq and Active Duty in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. She has held various leadership positions to include Hospital Nutritionist, Food Service Administration, collect and safeguard funds, Cash - Collection forward to the US Treasury, Squad Leader, and Equal Opportunity Representative.
McLarty’s awards include the Army Commendation Medal (4), Army Achievement Medal (2), Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal with Bronze Star, Armed Forces Reserve Medal with M Device (2).