3- Mike Talleda

Mike Talleda – President

Mike Talleda is a first-generation Cuban who immigrated to Miami in 1962 at the age of nine, with his parents and four siblings. He has been fortunate to have lived the American dream since. Shortly after arriving in the States, Mike and his family moved to Southern California, where he grew up and attended El Camino College. He became interested in real estate and started his own Hawthorne-Lawndale company, which, when the market was booming, employed 40 full-time agents and offered escrow and mortgage services.
It was precisely Mike’s experience as a refugee from Cuba that made him want to give back to the nation that had offered him and his family a safe haven as well as so many other opportunities. The attacks of 9/11 hurt him deeply, and he immediately decided to do something to help his adopted country. He founded 9-11Help America to assist victims’ families, which started with one family that was decimated by the horrific event. Over the years, he began to help some of the wounded heroes and surviving spouses of fallen warriors that served in the long conflicts after the attacks on 9/11.

2- Harvey Jacobson

Harvey Jacobson – Chair

Harvey H. Jacobson is President and CEO of California Financial Partners, Inc., a registered investment advisory and fee-based financial planning organization. He has spoken at the national level on a number of topics, including charitable planning, family limited partnerships, generation-skipping (dynasty) trusts, fee-based money management, and qualified plan distributions.

Harvey joined the financial services industry in 1985 in Rochester, New York. After working as a financial consultant for several years, he then managed the Rochester office for Sagemark Consulting from 1988 to 1995. He was promoted to Regional Chief Executive Office of the Greater Los Angeles office, a position he held until August 2000.
After serving 2 1/2 years as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Amazon jungles of Peru, Harvey returned to the U.S. and taught high school math and science classes in both English and Spanish in Rochester, New York.

1- Mariana Gitomer

Mariana Gitomer – Director

Mariana retired from federal service in 2012 after 31 years of work at the Social Security Administration (SSA) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). She worked as the Public Information Officer for both agencies and her job consisted of providing information to the public about the services provided by SSA and USCIS. She served as the media spokesperson for these agencies in the Los Angeles media market in both English and Spanish.

Mariana has a B.A. in History from California State University, Long Beach, and a M.A. and C.Phil in History from UCLA. She lives in Torrance, CA, with her husband Jeff. Mariana is on the Board of the Wounded Heroes of America Foundation and is spending part of her retirement time to help our veterans.

4-Jeff Durbin

Jeff Durbin- Treasurer

Jeff Durbin is Chief Financial Officer of F. Gaviña & Sons, a $150 million roaster of specialty coffee in California. He has been in that role since October of 2013. Prior to joining the Gaviña family, Jeff was a Director of Finance for DIRECTV in Denver, CO. He has held an assortment of finance and accounting positions during his 30-year career, including Eastman Kodak, First Interstate Bank, McLeodUSA, and myriad smaller firms. He earned his BSBA from Creighton University and his MBA from the University of Rochester’s William E. Simon Business School.

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Rosy Riera-Schwartz

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Vance Bennett

Vance Bennett is an Operations Manager at Albertsons LLC. He has been an active fundraiser for Wounded Heroes of America since 2009 and heads several campaigns, some of which have raised money to feed our Wounded Heroes on Thanksgiving and Christmas as well as to provide presents to the families of our Wounded Heroes for “Operation Santa”. He is an outgoing, fun, and energetic person who has one goal in mind: helping the Wounded Heroes of America.

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Sgt. Erick Castro

Sgt. Erick Castro enlisted in the Army at the age of 19. He was shipped to Fort Lenard Wood for basic training and advanced individual training (AIT). During his time at AIT, he was taught how to operate heavy construction equipment, renovate structures, create tank obstacles and construction management, and use explosives. After he graduated, he was sent to Germany to serve with the 9th Engineers, 1st Infantry Division. During his two years in Germany, he was taught how to lay, defuse, and neutralize land mines.

His next duty station was with the 43rd Combat Engineer Company, 3rd Armor Calvary Regiment in Fort Carson, CO. During his first year there, he was sent to the Primary Leadership Development Course and was promoted to the rank of Sergeant. He was able to reach this rank before three years of service.

In 2003, Erick was deployed to Iraq. While in Iraq he performed conduction, raids on key targets, foot patrols, undercover missions, traffic control points, guard duty in high-value areas, and more. Six months into his deployment, he was involved in an ambush. His team was hit with a light anti-tank weapon that took Erick’s leg off at the hip. He was flown from Iraq to Walter Reed Medical Center. A week later, President George W. Bush presented Erick with the Purple Heart. At Capitol Hill a month later, the late Senator Kennedy performed Erick’s American citizenship naturalization.

In May of 2004, Erick was medically retired from the Army and was able to keep his rank of Sergeant. He went to school in the fall and graduated from Arizona State University with a Math degree. In 2009, he moved back to Southern California to work for a small telecommunications company. In 2014, Erick completed his MBA with a concentration in Accounting. He is now the president and majority owner of Kana Subsurface Engineering.

Awards: Purple Heart, (3) Army Commendation Medals w/ V device, (3) Army Achievement Medals, Army Good Conduct Medals, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, and VA-DAV Freedom Award 2004.

In 2005, Erick was honored at the Memorial Day Concert in Capitol Hill, which aired on PBS. In 2010, Erick was featured in “Latinos Living the American Dream”, which was sponsored by Pepsi Co. and directed by Eva Longoria.