Our ambassadors are veterans, first responders and family members who share their stories of service and sacrifice to encourage Americans to learn about Carry The Load and how they can honor and celebrate our nation’s heroes. To request an ambassador to speak at your company or next event, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Cody Bandars grew up in Omaha, NE, enjoying all the pastimes of the Midwest: Hunting, Fishing, Football and stomping through the woods. Nearing the end of high school he gave serious thought to joining the Marine Corps with a few close friends. They did - he didn't. Our nation wasn't at war but things were boiling internationally. Instead, with the suggestion of his parents he chose the safe option - College. While Cody was attending the University of Nebraska, 9/11 unfolded. After graduating college with an engineering degree, Cody relocated to Dallas, TX to start his professional career. Still holding the heart to serve his country, he made the decision to Enlist in the Navy and pursue a contract to become a SEAL. After completing SEAL Qualification Training in 2011, Cody reported to SEAL Team TEN in 2012 where he served for 5 years, training and deploying in two cycles and a few special assignments closer to home. He finished his time working for the Training Detachment in the Land Warfare Division. Cody currently lives in Dallas serving as an Ambassador for Carry The Load and is a project manager for AT&T.
Matthew Caldwell, a second generation Marine, was born in Pensacola, FL, where his father attended naval flight school. Matthew enlisted in 1996 and completed the Ammunition and Explosives Course at Redstone Arsenal, AL, before being assigned to the 2nd Supply Battalion, Ammo Company at Camp Lejeune, NC. During his time in active duty, Matthew was part of the School of Infantry and attended desert warfare training in Twentynine Palms, CA, before receiving an honorable discharge in 2000. Matthew graduated from University of Texas at Dallas in 2004 with an economics degree and is currently a vice president at PlainsCapital Bank. Matthew has served as an ambassador and committee member of Carry The Load; he lives in Dallas.
Glen Dare graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point in 1996, where he earned a degree in systems engineering. As an officer in a Combat Heavy Engineer Battalion, Glen was deoployed on multiple national and international missions. After leaving the Army in 2001, he joined Raytheon as a manufacturing engineer before being called out of the Inactive Ready Reserves in 2006 to deploy to Iraq. There he worked with the Multinational Security Transition Command and the Department of Homeland Security to help secure Iraq’s ports of entry and borders. He returned to Raytheon in 2008 and is the vice president of operations for RAYVETS, Raytheon’s Employee Resource Group focusing on veterans both inside and outside of the company. He also serves on the USO Advisory Board for the DFW area. Glen’s wife, Alissa, is an Army combat veteran who served in Afghanistan. He’s been a part of Carry The Load since 2012 and lives in North Texas.
Joshua Davis is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, where he earned his psychology degree and played football. In 2004, Josh was commissioned as a field artillery officer and in 2007 served as a battery commander. He deployed to northern Iraq in 2008 for Operation Iraqi Freedom as the fire support officer for an 11-man military transition team. He completed his MA in Economics at the University of Oklahoma in 2009. Josh is currently a vice president at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, where he is heavily involved with veterans’ initiatives. Josh served as the Carry The Load National Relay Chair for three years and is an on-going corporate team leader. Josh lives in the New York City.
Andrew ‘Drew’ DeLeon
Drew DeLeon was born and raised in Dallas, where he attended Skyline High School. He joined the Marine Corps in 2002 and served for eight years. He was stationed at MCAS Cherry Point, NC, with MALS 14 and then with the 14th Marines HQ Battery at the JRB in Fort Worth. Drew joined the Dallas Fire Department in 2014 as a fire prevention and inspection officer. In 2017, he reenlisted in the Air Force Reserves and is a staff sergeant with the 489 MXS Bomb Group out of Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene. Drew is part of Carry The Load’s relay team and he carries his fellow Marine Sergeant Thomas Callahan (KIA 2006) and his father, Alex, who passed away in 2008. Drew lives the Dallas area.
Steve Dunnahoe is a native Texan, born in Corpus Christi and raised in North Texas. He served six years in the US Coast Guard with duty stations in Texas, California, Alaska, North Carolina, Maryland, and Massachusetts. Utilizing the leadership and logistic training he received in the Coast Guard, Steve has gone on to have successful and multifaceted careers both in aerospace – with assignments in Singapore, Australia, and Panama – and the water industry. Steve is the business development manager for Aqua America and organized support for Carry The Load by providing water for participants in the national relay. He is a passionate and vocal advocate for veterans and first responders. Steve lives in Fort Worth, TX.
Since Justin Ellis was a child, he knew he wanted to be a detective. He began his career in law enforcement in 2004. In 2016, he had just passed the detective entrance test when, serving as Dallas Area Rapid Transit police officer, he was in a life-altering incident while on his patrol motorcycle. Critically-injured, his journey to recovery was long and difficult. However, Justin persevered is back where he always dreamed he'd be, working as a detective for DART. He is a true inspiration to everyone he meets. In addition to his detective work, Justin is a member of the Assist the Officer Foundation, vice president of a local police association board. He has also earned his master peace officer’s license. Justin lives in the North Texas area.
David Haas was born and raised in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and graduated from the University of Texas at Dallas. He enlisted in the Navy in 1982 and served for four years in various roles, ultimately being forward-deployed out of Guam and participating with allied naval forces in joint exercises throughout Indonesia and the Indian Ocean. David now works with non-profit organizations to develop fundraising strategies, particularly for organizations championing veteran causes. David currently serves on Carry The Load’s Operations Committee. David lives in Lewisville, TX, and is a sales manager for a technology company.
Chris Harding graduated from West Chester University with a BA in Political Science and an MBA in Business. Chris has served on the Yardley Borough Council for eight years, and is currently in his second term as the Mayor of Yardley Borough. Additionally, he is a senior loan officer with Northeast Equitable Mortgage in Bucks County, PA. Yardley Borough has hosted Carry The Load rallies every year since 2014 and has a team of six that walks in the relay from Washington Crossing, PA, to Independence Hall in Philadelphia, covering just under 40 miles in 15 hours.
Steven Hensley was born and raised in north central Wisconsin. He graduated with an Associate Degree in Fire Science and Paramedicine, and has worked as a structure firefighter, hotshot, heli-rappeller, as well as in the Wildland Fire Service. He was a field training officer and a corporal for eight years. He was recently promoted to operation supervisor for clinical services and is an educator at the Mayo Hospital. Steve is currently a member of the La Crosse County Tactical Team and the Statewide ALERT Tactical Team. Steve has been a key member of Carry The Load’s National Relay for the past six years.
Cody Huggins was born in South Korea and raised in Wasilla, Alaska. He attended the United States Military Academy at West Point where he ran cross-country and earned his degree in business management. After graduating on the Dean’s List, Cody was commissioned as an infantry officer in the Army, where he spent his first four years at Ft. Bragg, NC, serving as a rifle platoon leader, company executive officer, and company commander in the 82nd Airborne Division and XVIII Airborne Corps. Cody’s last assignment was as a ranger instructor and battalion operations officer in the second phase of the US Army Ranger School with the 5th Ranger Training Battalion. After his service, Cody was selected to be a part of a highly competitive JP Morgan Chase & Co. rotational program designed to recruit and develop top-tier military officers into executive private sector leadership positions. Cody lives in Austin, TX.
Stacy James, originally from Boyd, TX, enlisted in the US Air Force in 1991 and has served for 20 years. Among his various duties, he served one tour in Iraq and spent the last 12 years as a security forces instructor, training more than 10,000 airmen. He has earned numerous awards and commendations for his service and volunteerism throughout his career. He is currently an active duty reservist and runs Team Defenders, an organization that supports our military and first responders through fundraisers and events. Stacy is a valuable member of Carry the Load’s Relay Team and lives in El Paso, TX.
J.J. Leonard graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1995. He then served as an intelligence officer in the US Marine Corps for five years, specializing in aviation intelligence and strategic targeting. Currently, J.J. is the managing director of the Dallas division at Stream Realty Partners and has more than 18 years of commercial real estate experience. J.J. serves on Carry The Load’s Operation Committee and lives in the Dallas area.
Josh Lewis enlisted in the US Marine Corps in 2003 and served deployments with the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines Regiment in both Afghanistan and Iraq. After leaving the Marines in 2011, Josh earned his degree in international business at the University of Texas at Dallas and is currently an underwriting associate with JPMorgan Chase. For the past seven years, Josh has participated in Carry The Load’s National Relay and the Dallas Memorial March to honor four warrior brothers who were killed by an IED in Iraq on June 15, 2005. He walks for their families, to recognize their great sacrifice and the times they had together, sharing their stories with friends and family along the way. Josh lives in Dallas.
Kyle Lund enlisted in the US Army in 2004, when he was just 18 years old. Assigned to the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team in Ft. Lewis, WA, he served two deployments in Iraq. Kyle reached the rank of staff sergeant before being honorably discharged in 2011. Since then he has been a driver engineer with Dallas Fire-Rescue Department, where he received a Meritorious Service Award. Kyle is also a volunteer firefighter in his hometown of Lavon, TX. Kyle serves as a medic on the Carry The Load National Relay and lives in North Texas.
Sean Magee joined the US Navy in 1990 and served aboard the USS Thorn in support of Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm. He is the founder of Anchor Media Services and has more than 22 years of experience in media, finance and corporate trade. Sean serves on the board and advisory council for several veteran organizations. He is a rally chair for Carry The Load and lives in Congers, NY.
After marrying a Marine in 2003, Michelle Mangio channeled her passion for helping others into serving the families of troops and veterans through various outreach programs. She’s volunteered at the Brook Army Medical Center Burn ICU, where she assisted severely-injured patients and their families after life-altering injuries. She currently volunteers with the Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society and serves as the Family Readiness Advisor for the Marine Corps’ Wounded Warrior detachment, helping patients with the recovery process. Michelle lives with her family in San Antonio and is an amazing resource for families in the military.
Scott McLachlan was born in Detroit and graduated from Gaither High School in Tampa, FL. In 1987, he enlisted in the US Army as a combat engineer and completed one deployment to the Middle East participating in Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. During his time in the Army, McLachlan served with a mechanized combat engineer detachment for the NATO Allied Mobile Force. This provided McLachlan an opportunity to cross train with NATO countries in Norway, Denmark, France, Turkey and Italy. After his military transition, he attended the University of South Florida where he earned his undergraduate degree in Computer Science. He currently specializes in Enterprise Architecture and serves as an Information Technology Architect for Chase Merchant Services. He is active in the Tampa community where he devotes time to many different charities including Carry the Load.
Charles Meachum’s father and grandfather were both military veterans. His father flew round-the-clock air vigilance with Strategic Air Command during the Cold War, and later he flew in Vietnam. Back at home, his dad was his Cub Scout Pack Leader and Troop Scoutmaster and stayed involved in scouts until his passing. Inspired by his father’s service and integrity, Charles continued that legacy of scouting with his two sons, who are now both Eagle Scouts, serving as their scout leader while they were young. He continues to support the scouts in various district positions, such as a commissioner, Lone Star District Chairman and currently he is the finance chair for the district. Charles was the liaison for the scouts for the Dallas Memorial March from 2011-2018 and continues to serve on Carry The Load’s Operations Committee.
Junior Ortiz is a retired Lieutenant Colonel of the US Marines and the former Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Veterans Employment. He has more than 30 years experience in government, corporate and the non-profit sector. Junior has served on numerous corporate board of advisors, board of directors and board of trustees of associations and organizations throughout the United States. He has also participated in a number of White House Task Forces and public policy initiatives. He is a Life Member of the Naval Academy Alumni Association, the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation, the Military Officers’ Association of America, the American GI Forum and the American Legion. Junior has been an integral part of Carry The Load’s Operation Committee since 2011. Junior lives in the Dallas area.
John Reed was born and raised in Dallas and attended W.T. White High School before enlisting in the Marine Corps where he served with the 1st Battalion 7th Marines Weapons Platoon. He was deployed to Panama, Japan, the Middle East and Somalia and rose to the rank of corporal. After leaving active duty, John graduated from Southern Methodist University with a finance degree and is currently a wealth management advisor for Merrill Lynch in Dallas. John was a charter member Carry The Load’s Operation Committee, which oversees the logistics and production of the Dallas Memorial March.
Jamie Rufolo is the proud wife of an active duty officer and is currently part of the Public Safety Solutions Organization supporting the FirstNet Program at AT&T. Her team is responsible for delivering on AT&T’s commitment to successfully deploy the nation’s first public safety broadband network, dedicated to America’s first responders. Jamie served as the 2014-2016 National President of AT&T Veterans, an employee resource group and non-profit with over 10,000 members and 43 chapters across the country. She continues to serve by leading AT&T’s sponsorship efforts with Carry The Load. She and her family live in Columbia, SC.
Justin Salsano of Madison, WI, first joined protective services his senior year in high school when he became a volunteer fire fighter. For the past nine years, he's been with City of Madison fire department as a fire figther and paramedic. Justin is also a member of the department’s Heavy Urban Rescue Team (HURT). It’s been during this time Justin has become more aware of the sacrifices made by our military and the dangers faced by police, fire, and EMS personnel. Justin is a medic on the Carry the Load’s National Relay Team.
Jason Santos became a first responder in 1999 when he joined the Onalaska Fire Department, where he served for 13 years. Jason completed EMT basic education in 2001 and in 2005 studied at Western Technical College where he became a Nationally Registered Paramedic. Jason then worked for the Gundersen Tri-State Ambulance service as a paramedic. In 2016, he completed his certification as critical care paramedic at the University of Baltimore. He currently works as a certified flight paramedic on a medevac helicopter for the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.
Paul Schecklman lives in Wisconsin where he is a firefighter and paramedic for the City of Madison Fire Department. Paul has been in emergency services for more than seven years in multiple cities. Paul is the Task Leader in Wisconsin for Sons of the Flag, a burn survivor non-profit organization, and sits on the University of Wisconsin Burn Advancement Board. Paul co-founded a recovery and supplement company, helping hundreds of first responders and veterans regain health and wellness. He also organizes the Badger Fire Conference, a charitable training event benefiting Sons of the Flag and the UW Burn Center.
William Searles is a Minnesota native, currently living in Onalaska, WI. William has been a paramedic since 1998 and has been with the Tri-State Ambulance in La Crosse, WI, since 2002. Throughout his career, William has trained in multiple facets of emergency medicine; including confined space rescue, tactical EMS, critical care paramedicine and EMS information technology. William has supported Carry the Load since 2012 as a medic on both the East and West Coast National Relay and at the Dallas Memorial March. Smitty is carrying Minnesota State Trooper Ted Foss who was struck and killed during a routine traffic stop near Winona, Minnesota, on August 31st 2000.
Aaron White knew he wanted to be a Marine when he was just 11 years old and enlisted before graduating from high school. He served for five years as a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN) Defense Specialist in the 2nd Tank Battalion and was the recipient of two Naval Achievement Medals. Aaron is now a multi-unit owner of Mooyah Burgers and a director at HEB. In 2012, he was a member of the Collin County 40 Under 40 class for young entrepreneurs. Aaron was part Carry The Load’s first Dallas Memorial March and has been an active member of the all-volunteer committee since. More recently, Aaron has been an integral part of the planning and presentation of the Vietnam Veterans’ pinning ceremony at the Dallas Memorial March.