We have been very fortunate to have incredible speakers and entertainment for the Tennessee Women Veterans Summits dating back to 2012. The informational, educational and networking opportunities have been extremely memorable for attendees and organizers who have watched the network of women Veterans gain strength as bonds were formed across the st ate. This year, we continue the tradition of great speakers, break-out presenters and entertainment.
Sal Gonzalez was born in Los Angeles and grew up in the gang-infested streets of East L.A. His life and perspective were forever changed as he watched the Twin Towers fall on September 11, 2001. It was on that day Sal decided to enlist in the United States Marine Corps.
On October 31, 2004, while on a mission on the streets of Ar Ramadi, Iraq, his vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device (IED). The blast would end the life of a fellow Marine and severely wound Sal resulting in his left leg being amputated below the knee. He had to learn how to walk, run and do all the things able-bodied people could do. It was during this painful time that Sal reconnected with his love for songwriting and country music.
Wounded Warrior Project Spokesperson Sal Gonzalez has shared his story and music on military bases and college campuses to inspire others to overcome adversity and has been a shining example for other service members who are struggling with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Elisa Basnight was appointed Director of the Department of Veterans Affairs Center for Women Veterans in October 2013. In this role, she is the primary advisor to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs on programs and issues related to women Veterans. Basnight graduated from the U.S. Military Academy-West Point in 1991, making her the first African-American woman graduate from the state of Wisconsin. As a newly commissioned military intelligence officer, she completed Airborne School and received a Joint Chiefs of Staff appointment. She served in the United States Army and Army Reserves. Ms. Basnight is also a graduate of Boston-University-Brussels, Rutgers Law School-Newark and Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, earning a Master's Degree in Public Administration.
Dr. Betty Moseley-Brown assumed the position of Associate Director of the Center for Women Veterans in November, 2004. Dr. Moseley-Brown has shared the progress regarding women Veteran issues during the Women Veterans Summit in 2012 and 2013. This April, the dynamic Marine Veteran will share details of her military career and how it has shaped her civilian success.
Barbara Ward was appointed as the Director for the Center for Minority Veterans in August 2012. Prior to this appointment, the Governor of California appointed Ms. Ward to the position of Deputy Secretary of Women and Minority Veterans from 2007 through 2011 and as the Bureau Chief of Post-Secondary and Vocational Education from 2005 through 2007. Ward is a Vietnam Era Veteran who served in the United States Air Force Nurse Corp at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. As a native of Florida, she attended the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, School of Nursing where she obtained her Bachelor of Science Degree. In 1986, she obtained her Master's Degree in Public Administration, Health and Services Management from Golden Gate University in San Francisco, California.
Lynne Hutton-Smith is a British transplant to the Volunteer State with a compelling story that will forever link her life and the life of her daughter to the American heroes who saved them from execution. In 1990, Lynne and her daughter were alone in Kuwait when Iraqi soldiers invaded. Invading Iraqi troops held Lynne and her 2-year old daughter hostage for three and a half weeks in a military camp. Lynne will share the unforgettable story on how American troops saved she and her daughter from the fate of a firing squad.
State Representative Courtney Rogers grew up the daughter of a United States Marine Aviator who was killed during his third tour of duty in a helicopter crash outside of Da Nang in Vietnam. Representative Rogers followed her father's footsteps into military service which included 28 years in the United States Air Force and the Tennessee Air National Guard. The wife, mother and public servant will share more about her military career and journey to Tennessee.