Browns Canyon 3 July VetEx group

Our Board of Directors and Staff Members

Our Board of Directors

Lee Hunnicutt, who serves as president of the board of directors, is a US Army veteran and two time Purple Heart recipient during the Vietnam war. Lee graduated from The Citadel in Charleston, SC and currently lives in Salida, CO with his wife, Susan, a local artist and gallery owner. Lee is an avid outdoorsman who can often be found boating and camping on western rivers, hiking, biking or riding his motorcycle. He is also a world record holding skydiver, a scuba diver and a woodworker. He is a business consultant and has long been involved in veteran causes. According to Lee, “Nature assisted therapy has helped me overcome many obstacles in life, from the stress of combat to the stress of daily life. At Veterans Expeditions, we see this at work every time we take a group of veterans into the backcountry.”

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Elizabeth Ritchie is the Secretary of the board. She spent 25 years in the US Army Nurse Corps and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1996. She has continued her service by volunteering to help organizations maximize their potential in helping others. As the lead nurse for the Chaffee County chapter of the American Red Cross she is active in disaster response work in the region. The research she conducted with the local Chaffee County Healthcare Coalition demonstrated the need for urgent care and more primary care. While serving on the board of the Salida Sangha she helped organize yearly meditation retreats and supported education programs in the community. Her many talents make her an invaluable resource in helping injured veterans get back on their feet and return to a productive, quality life style.

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Steve Burns is the Treasurer of the board. Steve grew up in Simsbury, CT then attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, graduating in 2005 with a degree in economics. He went on to serve 6.5 years on active duty.  During his time in the Army, Steve commanded two companies and held other leadership positions.  Steve left the Army in 2012 and moved to Minnesota where he worked for Boston Scientific for a year and went on to get his MBA at the University of Minnesota.  Steve now works in Corporate Finance at DISH network in Englewood, CO. In May of 2014 Steve sustained a severe traumatic brain injury in a ski mountaineering accident.  After spending weeks in a coma and months in the hospital, Steve overcame significant odds to return to doing the things he loves – skiing, climbing, hiking, and triathlons. Steve has successfully finished three ironman triathlons. He went on his first trip with VetEx in the winter of 2015 and also went on the Veterans Expeditions Alaskan fly fishing trip.  Through these trips, Steve has seen first hand how taking a great team full of vets into the outdoors to overcome challenges, support each other, and develop relationships is truly rehabilitative.

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Josh Oakley is the Vice President of our board. After Josh graduated from high school he attended the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. After graduating Josh cross-commissioned into the US Army and served as an Infantry officer for five years, where he completed one tour to Iraq as a Platoon Leader.  Upon his return, he went to Special Forces Assessment and Selection and was picked up for the Special Forces Qualification Course.  After graduating he served two years as the Detachment Commander ODA 0211 as part of 10th Special Forces Group in Colorado Springs.  During which he completed two tours in support of Operation Enduring Freedom-Trans Sahel.  After finishing his time in the military, Josh moved back to Colorado where he is pursuing his MBA at the University of Denver.  He and his wife Jayme live in Denver.  Josh is an avid outdoorsman and enjoys rock and ice climbing, hiking, big mountain expeditions, and skiing.  Josh joins the board in his second year with VetEx.  According to Josh, he knew from the very first trip with VetEx that this was a special organization, making a real difference in veteran’s lives.

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Our Staff

Nick Watson, is the Executive Director and Co-Founder of VetEx. Nick served 5 years as a US Army Ranger with the 75th Ranger Regiment. Nick is a graduate of Airborne School, Ranger School, S.E.R.E. Survival School, Non-Commissioned Officer Primary Leadership Development Course, Combat Lifesaver, and Field Sanitation. He was involved with numerous national and international deployments. After leaving the military in 1995, Nick received a Recreation Management degree from the University of Vermont and has worked numerous outdoor industry jobs for the last twenty years to include Park Ranger, Biological Technician, Trail Crew Boss, Wilderness Guide, Field Staff, and Field Director. Nick has a great deal of experience leading groups of people outside. He uses this experience to design and create innovative trips and expeditions using a very talented volunteer staff of veteran leaders. Nick is committed to the community that is generated on VetEx’s trips and expeditions. He was recognized as 2014 National Geographic Adventurer of the Year for creating an outdoor community that extends back home with VetEx vets.

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Dan Wiwczar, the Northeast Program Director: After graduating high school in New York, Dan enlisted in the US Army National Guard as an infantryman for 8 years and served a tour in Afghanistan in 2008. Dan runs Veterans Expeditions trips in the North East, and makes a living by running an independent guide company out of New York taking clients on various activities from weekend yoga/camping trips to hikes and rock climbing trips. When Dan is not working, he can be found outside climbing rock or ice. In May/June of 2015 Dan successfully climbed Denali with Veterans Expeditions.

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Katelyn Sheehan, Northeast Team Leader: Katelyn grew up in Brooklyn Pennsylvania where after high school she enlisted in the US Air Force where she worked in logistics and supply. During her four year enlistment she deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2015-early 2016 she lived in Asia working in anti-human trafficking and Emergency Response Crisis Counseling. During her time in Asia she either lived in or traveled to over 40 countries.

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Antonino (AJ) Hunter, Northeast Team Leader: AJ Joined the Army in July 2004 and spent a year in Korea with E CO (LRSD) 102 MI BTN 2ID and B CO 1st Tank BTN 2ID. AJ was then then sent to Ft. Carson, Baker CO 2/12 INF BTN and deployed to Al Dora Baghdad Iraq from OCT 2006- Dec 2007. After leaving the army in Apr 2008 AJ spent a year as a mechanic then enrolled at Keene State College where he got his B.S. in Architecture. He fell in love with the outdoors and climbing in college and was introduced to VetEx. The pinnacle of his life thus far (aside from combat) was the time spent on Denali in May-June 2015 with the VetEx 8for22 team.

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Nathan Perrault, Colorado Team Leader: After graduating high school in Maryland, Nathan enlisted in the Marines at 17 years old as an infantryman. During his time in the Marines he served on two deployments taking him to Iraq once and to Afghanistan once. After his military service, he moved to Colorado to pursue a degree in Natural Resource Management at Colorado State University (CSU). During his time at CSU Nathan was able to study for a semester in Christchurch New Zealand where he was able to hike and climb frequently. He is currently in his last semester of school and doing an internship with Veterans Expeditions. When time allows, Nathan is outside rock or ice climbing, split-boarding, or hiking around Colorado. In January of 2015 Nathan successfully climbed Cerro Mercedario (21,980 feet) in Argentina, and in May/June of 2015 successfully climbed Denali with Veterans Expeditions.

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Daniel Pond, Colorado Team Leader: Daniel grew up moving around due to his dad being a career military member so naturally he followed in his father’s footsteps. Dan enlisted in the Marine Corps as an Amphibious Assault Vehicle Crewman and served 8 total years in the military. After he finished his time in the military he pursued his interests in the outdoors and has worked as a mountain bike guide and helps teach veterans proper rock and ice climbing techniques. In May/June of 2015 Dan successfully climbed Denali unguided with Veterans Expeditions. When Dan is not traveling with work he is most likely outside hiking or climbing with friends or with Veterans Expeditions.

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John Krueger, Colorado Team Leader: John graduated high school in Phoenix Arizona and then enlisted in the Marine Corps as an Artilleryman and deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan during his time in the military. After finishing his time in the military he moved to Denver Colorado where he is currently an Engineering student at Colorado University of Denver. When John is not studying for school he is outside climbing rock or ice, mountain biking, or skiing. In May/June of 2015 John successfully climbed Denali unguided with Veterans Expeditions.

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Brendan Drapeau, Colorado Team Leader: After graduating high school in Maine, Brendan enlisted as a medic in the US Army Rangers. During his time in the military Brendan served on multiple tours to Iraq. After finishing his time in the military, Brendan went to college in Maine and earned his Bachelors of Science in Biology. Brendan has worked on the North Slope in Alaska doing various types of research and now lives in Fort Collins with his dog Kai. Brendan has a passion for getting outside to ski, climb rock or ice, and hike. He has successfully hiked the Appalachian Trail, The Continental Divide Trail, and the Pacific Crest Trail.

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Robert Hayes, Colorado Team Leader: After graduating high school in a rural town in Indiana, Robert enlisted in the Marine Corps as an Artilleryman and served two tours overseas, one to Iraq and one to Afghanistan. After finishing his time in the military, Robert moved to Denver with a friend from the military due to his passion for being outside. Robert then moved to Fort Collins to finish his Bachelor’s degree in Turf Management. After finishing his degree at Colorado State University he started a job near Vail Colorado working at a very prestigious golf course. When Robert is not at work (which is a rare occurrence) he is organizing trips for friends to go rock or ice climbing around the state of Colorado.

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Scott Partan, Colorado Team Leader: After graduating high school in New Hampshire, Scott enlisted in the US Army as an Intelligence Solider and served two tours in Iraq. After his time in the military, Scott received a B.A. in Political Science and pursued his passion for the outdoors in New Hampshire before moving to Colorado. Scott currently works for SOS Outreach in the Vail valley sharing these outdoor passions with underserved youth. He climbs rock and ice regularly and he is often out of cell range split-boarding in the backcountry during the winter.

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Jordan Vaughn, Colorado Team Leader: After Jordan graduated high school from a rural town in Virginia he enlisted as an infantryman in the US Army. Jordan served in multiple units and served overseas on multiple deployments. Jordan currently lives in Denver and likes to travel around the world, with the goal of visiting 30 countries before he turns 30 years old. Jordan is very active and likes to go rock and ice climbing as much as time allows him.

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