VHA 2019 Votes – Veteran Hero Awards

Veteran Hero Awards Nominees

Vote today! Voting closes October 10th.

All Award Categories
Tyrone Vargas

Organization UCLA Army ROTC

Position Assistant Professor of Military Science UCLA, Major Tyrone Vargas


Major Tyrone Vargas has served in the United States Army for 24 years, He has accomplished many things during this time. He has guided several members of the armed forces through their careers and led them to paths of success. As he has dedicated his life to serving his country, he has also taken the time to help others, both peers or mentees. He has not done this because it was his job, but rather because he cares for individuals as they develop into stronger soldiers, civilians, people. As he is reaching the end of his military career, he still has the desire to aid future generations to become more motivated and accomplished, As an assistant professor of military science he guides ROTC cadets through the initiation of their careers through more than just lectures. He takes the time to not only be a professor, but to be a mentor. He answers any question a student has whether it be academic or in regard to their mental state and future as a soldier. As having had several interactions with his peers, he has also aided in their careers, as he always seeks to provide them wisdom and resources to further advance their success as soldiers and individuals. He has never asked for recognition of this, he sees it as just doing what is right. This has made him an strongly influential person to several , it has made him an outstanding soldier, professor, mentor, and father. The qualities he possess will be what leads him to continue mentoring individuals and lead them to excel in their careers and personal life.
Cory Vigil

Organization Strong Families Strong Children

Position Peer Navigator


Over the course of the last 6 years, Cory has become a leader and an advocate in the veteran community. He has persevered through his own experiences with his transition from the military and found strength to utilize his experiences to serve and support our veterans and active duty military members and their families. His passion to serve and stand up for what he believes is right, always comes through with his work. Cory often works nights and weekends to provide services, whether that consists of outreaching to veterans on the street, giving a phone call and an ear of support or working an outreach event. His desire to ensure all veterans are taken care of, never falls short. Cory has an ability to collaborate and build relationships within the community that he utilizes to assist in any capacity he can. Cory is approachable, unassuming and you always feel completely heard and understood when speaking to him. Throughout our service provider community and beyond, he has the reputation of being passionate and always willing to go the extra mile. His integrity is unquestionable and he always ensures his goals are met, tasks are completed and no one gets left behind.
Blas Villalobos

Organization Chapman University

Position Director of Veterans Affairs


Hello, I would like to nominate my friend for this award, and thought it would be much easier to cut and paste his bio to this. I will first cover some things he has done that are not included in his bio. Dr. Villalobos has been working with veterans since he left the military, and started by helping them with their VA education benefits as a work-study student at Long Beach City College in 2004. In 2008, he was hired a non-profit as an outreach worker to help find homeless veterans. He was later promoted to run a homeless Iraq and Afghanistan veterans program. All the work he has done has been for veterans and their families, and as you will see from his bio, it is quite extensive. Lastly, in 2018, he was appointed by Governor Brown to the California Community Colleges Board of Governors, where he advocates for student veterans in all community colleges in California. This is his bio: Dr. Blas Villalobos currently serves as the Veterans Affairs director at Chapman University, where he provides resources and services for the student veteran population and their families. Previous to his current position, Dr. Villalobos managed Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Office of Veterans Affairs. Under this position, Dr. Villalobos developed, and implemented, Mayor Garcetti’s strategic vision to leverage private and public resources to assist veterans and their families reintegrate into civilian life, managing the 10,000 Strong Initiative, a program that helped more than 12,000 veterans find full-time employment. Dr. Villalobos also served as the Executive Director of Community Programs and Veteran Services for U.S.VETS Patriotic Hall, where he managed the Outside the Wire program, the Career Development Initiative, and the Supportive Services for Veteran Families program. Dr. Villalobos also serves as a member of the Veterans Administration Advisory Committee on the Readjustment of Veterans, and was appointed to the committee by VA Secretary Shulkin in 2018. As a member, his role is to promote the effectiveness and adequacy of VA programs, to include the availability, ease of access, quality and consumer satisfaction with delivery of services designed to meet the readjustment needs of America’s war Veterans, by providing consumer-based recommendations to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Dr. Villalobos served in the United States Marine Corps from October 1999-October 2003. During his military service, he was deployed to Iraq during the invasion in March 2003, where he served as a Squad Leader during combat operations earning several awards, including the Combat Action Ribbon, Presidential Unit Citation, Meritorious Unit Commendation, Iraq Campaign Medal with two bronze campaign stars, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Humanitarian Service Medal. After his military service, Dr. Villalobos attended Long Beach City College, then graduated from Cal State Long Beach with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, and received a master’s degree in social work from the University of Southern California with a concentration in community organization, planning and administration, and a sub-concentration in military social work. Dr. Villalobos also completed his doctoral program in social work at USC. Dr. Villalobos loves spending time with his daughter, Jessica, and his wife Vanessa.
Tony Villegas

Organization American Patriot Music Project

Position Executive Director


As the Executive Director, Tony is in charge of the foundation on a daily basis. He is an Army Veteran, is the Manager of the foundation's Award Winning Rock Band American Patriot Band and is also a member of the band. He ensures that this foundation is always networking with other VSO's that are using music as a form of therapy to treat Veterans that are battling PTSD, TBI and MST. He has started an instrument giving program through APMP that donates free instruments to therapy groups. Tony is also the lead with the Veterans STEM Guitar Building Project and travels throughout the country to support Veterans attending this project. The Veterans build their own Electric Guitar and in the process re-engage with other Veterans battling PTSD, TBI or MST.
Betty Volk

Organization Volunteers for Veterans Foundation / Veterans Car Show

Position Financial Coordinator


Betty Volk with Volunteers for Veterans Foundation is my go to whenever I have a veteran in need and they do not fit within the guidelines/criteria for programs provided by federal, state &/or local government. they have helped to temporally house veterans until housing kicks in, have helped repair cars so the Veteran can get to work/school, they assist in filling the pantry at the US Vets housing-March Veterans Village & Loma Linda Veterans village so that Veterans with no income or very low income have food to eat.....etc. When there is too much red tape in government programs or a Veteran makes a $1..00 too much to be eligible it is Volunteers for Veterans and Betty Volk who save the day! So thankful for Betty and Volunteers for Veterans!
Shelley Wax

Organization ccd

Position Career Development manager


Shelley ALWAYS works her magic to connect veterans to each other, to community partners and to connect community partner with each other to proved the most efficient and supportive services to veterans and each other. The best way to describe her is "the oracie" she knows what, who, how, when and. why people need to be connected.
Leona Wheeler

Organization AMVETS Dept. of CA Service Foundation

Position Executive Director


As a female Command Sergeant Major, Leona worked hard to ensure that her troops had all they needed to succeed. Leona retired after 28 years of service in the U.S. Army.. She joined AMVETS Department of California Service Foundation to lead a dedicated team of individuals who care about California's Veterans. As Executive Director of AMVETS Dept. of California Service Foundation, she ensures resources are available to the men and women who have served our great nation.. She is also a proud member of AMVETS and Commander of AMVETS Post 48 in Long Beach, CA.
Jody White

Organization Bibles and Bread Ministries

Position Pastor


Pastor Jody works selflessly to bring food to veterans that are homeless and also those who are low income in homes. He will take food out to the streets no matter the weather. He doesn't care if its 105° or 17°. Some days he does this alone and some days he has a team. He lives very humbly, in his RV. He works other jobs, like driving Uber Or lift to help support what goes on in the ministry. He is a blessing to so many people. Check out the ministries Facebook pages. Bibles and Bread Ministries and Sansom Park Community Church.
Barbara Winkler

Organization SoCal Quilts of Valor

Position Coordinator


Barbara Winkler serves thousands of veterans as coordinator of SoCal Quilts of Valor, a local chapter of the Quilts of Valor Foundation. Since 2004, her team has awarded over 5,500 hand-crafted quilts to veterans who have been touched by war, giving each a warm and tangible reminder that they are appreciated. The purpose of the Quilts of Valor Foundation is to honor our veterans’ service to the country, welcome them home and help in their healing. Barbara personally sews 50 – 75 quilts each year, and facilitates the entire process as she recruits volunteer quilters, coordinates weekly sew-days, special events and obtains donations of fabric, services and meeting space. Through her cheerful and tireless efforts, many lives have been improved. She established liaisons with many local groups servicing our veterans, given speeches for other charitable groups and organized volunteer quilting events for local companies. Each quilt requires about 10 yards of materials, and many hours of design, cutting, sewing, pressing, quilting the layers, binding, labeling and washing. The group has received numerous responses from the veterans and their families about how much their quilt means to them. Barbara’s accomplishments include organizing volunteers and activities for Big Sunday and Make a Difference Day, teaching high school students in Long Beach Unified School District to volunteer making quilts to earn their service learning, and providing quilting service activities for private companies such as Activision in Santa Monica to help them fulfill their community service commitments.She teams up with LA Works who connects volunteers with SoCal QOV. She works with SAR, AVAG, American Legions, DAV and At Ease Ministries as well as local VA hospitals to get referrals for Veterans. She was a guest speaker in 2018 at OC SAR, DAR Lakewood, and Lakewood Women's Club. She also volunteers with fundraising events through the Garden Grove Emblem and Elks Lodge. She arranges for booths at local events to let people know about the Quilts of Valor ministry and sometimes does quilt awards at those as well. For her service to veterans, Barbara was awarded the Presidential Volunteer Service Award (the MLK award) in 2017, the Angel Light Academy Award Above and Beyond, and was named Woman of the Year in 2019 for the city of Bellflower by state Assemblywoman, Christina Garcia. The SoCal QOV group has been given several awards and certificates of recognition for their work. ABC7 News even did a Salute video of the group in Dec 2017.
Jason Zaideman

Organization Operation Combat Bikesaver

Position Founder / President


Jason Zaideman served as a 12 Bravo Combat Engineer in the U.S. Army from 1996-2004. In 2015, he and his wife Lindsey founded Operation Combat Bikesaver, a unique non-profit therapy program for veterans afflicted with PTSD, TBI, and/or depression. Operation Combat Bikesaver practices "Hot Rod Therapy" by pairing a veteran with a broken down motorcycle. The veteran, also known as a Gear Head, will resurrect the bike using new learned skills in welding, fabricating, electric, and paint. At the end of the bike build, the title of the motorcycle is signed over to the veteran at no cost. Operation Combat Bikesaver brings back camaraderie for like-minded veterans and gives them a new sense of purpose by creating distinctive works of art from nothing. Veterans in the program work toward goals and can apply the skills they have learned to their personal lives. Operation Combat Bikesaver is in Crown Point, IN and has recently expanded to Tallassee, AL and Copperopolis, CA. Jason and Operation Combat Bikesaver were featured on season 1, episode 1 of Returning the Favor with Mike Rowe on Facebook Watch. On a second episode highlighting Operation Combat Bikesaver as the finale of season 3 of Returning the Favor, Mike Rowe claims Jason is responsible for the chain reaction across the entire United States of others following in his footsteps by giving back to their communities.