Karen Hernandez Executive Director
Karen Hernandez enlisted into the U.S. Army in 2008. Karen currently serves as a Captain as the Medical Operations Officer for the 108th MMB. Karen graduated from Lewis University with a Bachelors of Arts in Political Science/Criminal Social Justice. Karen is the mother of an intelligent, highly energetic four-year old who challenges her to continue excelling in her career fields every day. Karen currently serves as a Board Member and the Executive Director for Chicago Veterans.
Kevin Barszcz President
Kevin grew up on the North-west side of Chicago. After High School, he joined the US Navy and was attached to CVN-77, Engineering Department, with the ''Mighty E-Division.'' In 2011 he deployed to the Persian Gulf with Carrier Strike Group Two in direct support of Operation Enduring Freedom with the Navy’s 5th and 6th Fleets. Kevin returned home in 2012 where attended college at DePaul University. While a student, he connected with other student veterans and helped launch Chicago Veterans. Kevin holds a BA in Communications and Advertising from DePaul University and is currently a Marketing Director. Kevin is a Board Member and the President of Chicago Veterans.
Pedro Lopez Employment Manager
Pedro served in the U.S. Army from 2004 - 2010 (Active) as an Infantry Motarman for 3-8 Cav. (Warhorse) 1st Cavalry Division. During his tenure, Pedro was based at Ft. Hood and deployed twice to Iraq. Since leaving the Military, Pedro began recruiting for Fortune 500 companies in multiple industries. Pedro has been involved with initiating military recruiting programs for multiple corporate entities. Pedro's passion is to see Veterans hired and become successful in their civilian life.
Jose Campos Family Events Coordinator
Jose served in the U.S. Marine Corps and is a veteran of the war in Afghanistan. He is a huge supporter of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) and is currently an officer at the American Legion Dorman Dunn post on Chicago’s south side. Jose Campos is our Family Events Coordinator for Chicago Veterans focusing on producing more family focused events in the Chicagoland area and is currently a board member.
Karina Lopez Membership Director
Karina Lopez was born and raised on the Southwest side of Chicago, IL. She is a U.S. Army Reserves Veteran from 2007 to 2016, with all nine years as a Human Resources Specialist. Having deployed twice to Afghanistan and traveled all throughout the United States to various military bases, she has a wide range of experience and fun stories to tell. Karina holds a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Business Management from Driehaus College of Business at DePaul University and is a graduate of Chicago Booth. Karina is a Board Member and our Membership Director.
Angel Melendez Media Production Coordinator
Born and raised on the Northwest side of Chicago, Angel enlisted in the United States Army in 2007 and served as a Paratrooper with the1-501st PIR, 25th Infantry Division, deploying as part of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2009. He separated from active duty service in 2011 and joined the Illinois National Guard where he continued his service with the 178th Infantry Regiment until 2014. Angel is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Audio Design and Production. He is currently the Production Coordinator at the Pritzker Military Museum and Library where he helps produce the television show ``Pritzker Military Presents`` aired on WTTW.
Noel Rivera Community Engagement Coordinator
Noel served in the U.S. Navy from 1990 – 1996 (Active) and from 2000-2009 (Reserve). He previously held a leadership position at the Ted Stempien VFW Post and is still very involved in their work. Noel is currently a Board Member of Chicago Veterans and assists in helping build a stronger connection between veterans and their community.
Gabrielle Castaldo Marketing Manager
Gabrielle was born and raised in southwest Ohio, where she was surrounded by service members in her extended family and her community. Now calling Chicago home, she wanted to give back to the local veteran community that taught her lessons of selflessness and friendship growing up. She is excited to be taking her skills and experience gained in her work to support marketing and event initiatives for Chicago Veterans.
Jac Charlier Chairman of the Board
Jac Charlier is a Chicago native and United States Army Veteran. He currently serves as the National Director for Justice Initiatives and leads the Center for Health and Justice (CHJ) at TASC. He is a co-founder of the Police, Treatment and Community (PTAC) Collaborative. Jac holds a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from The Ohio State University. Jac is a father of three (mostly) great kids. He is a recipient of the Outstanding Eagle Scout Medal, and played rugby for far too long. Jac is a Board Member as well as our Advisory Board Chairman.
Rolando Zavala Recreational and Social Therapy
Rolando grew up on the South-east side of Chicago. After High School, he enlisted in the U.S. Army deploying to the Diyala province and Mosul in support of OIF (07-09). After his redeployment he was then assigned to the “Fighting 101” and was part of Alpha Battery 1/320th Field Artillery Regiment, 2 BCT, 101st ABN DIV (AASLT). He deployed with the 101st in support of OEF (10-11) to the Arghandab River Valley in Kandahar where he earned a Bronze Star Medal with “V” device for valor, and a Purple Heart for wounds sustained in theater. He was medically retired in 2013. Rolando went on to earn his Bachelors of Social work in 2017 at Northeastern Illinois University with an emphasis on Veteran Recreational and Exposure Therapy.
Donna Manella Board Secretary
Donna Manella, a veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard / Coast Guard Reserves from 1989-1997, is a board member of Chicago Veterans and an active member of the American Legion Post 134, Morton Grove. Donna is a managing broker for a real estate firm in Chicago IL and holds a Military Relocation Professional (r) designation, which focuses on the needs of active, retired, and veteran military personnel.
Johnny Gonzalez Interim Volunteer Coordinator
John joined the U.S. Army while in High School. He was trained as a Communication Specialist and assigned to 37th Engineer Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division. After serving four years on Active Duty, which included a deployment to Operation Uphold Democracy in Haiti, he served as a Combat Medic for the 113th Reserve Infantry Unit in his hometown of Newark, NJ. Once John moved to Chicago and entered the workforce, he attended college ultimately earning a B.S. in Aviation from Lewis University and M.B.A. from Benedictine University. John works as a Business Development Representative for a Chicago-based eCommerce company and assists Chicago Veterans in Process Development and Strategy.
Jose Carlos Vega Veteran Community Liaison
Jose Carlos Vega joined the U.S. Army in 2003 after experiencing the events of 9/11 first hand while working for a corporate investment firm located in the World Trade Center. He went on to serve three tours in Iraq. He recently graduated from DePaul with a degree in IT. He currently works as an associate at a Chicago based corporate investment firm. Jose Carlos is a former Board Member and continues to serve our veteran community as a Trustee.
Stephen Hellauer Web Developer
Stephen joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 2006, with two deployments with 1st Battalion, 9th Marines. After separating, Stephen enrolled in college and graduated with a degree in Web Development. He is now a web developer working for a company in St. Charles, IL. Stephen helps with website maintenance and updates.