Meet the members of the NEOVETS Board, and learn why they are involved and dedicated to this very worthy cause.

These are the current board members for NEOVETS. As you will see, each has experience in serving military families. Two of our board members served on active duty in the armed forces, and have since retired; one an officer the other a senior staff noncommissioned officer, Two of our board members are not only women business owners, but they are both military spouses.

Bryan A. McGown “Gunny” — NEOVETS Chairman of the Board of Directors and Owner, GunnyRet Consulting, LLC.”

Bryan “Gunny” is a retired Marine with 20 years of active duty service as a Human Resource Manager, and Recruiter. Bryan owns GunnyRet Consulting, LLC. and is personally committed to attracting Veterans to Northeast Ohio by helping Veterans achieve their goals through mentorship, referrals to appropriate supportive services, employment assistance, and contract or direct placement. Gunny McGown has been a successful job search coach to veterans and military spouses in northeast Ohio for more than 4 years, and brings his passion of helping veterans and companies join forces to succeed in business. He has more than 31 years of combined experience in military, state and county government, and non-profit work in various leadership roles. Bryan is a founding board member, and the Chairman of the Board of Directors for NEOVETS, Inc., and conceived the concept of certifying employers wanting to hire Veterans under their “Certified Military Talent Employer (CMTE)™ program, and the  idea of providing a similar certification for HR professionals; the “Certified Military Talent Professional (CMTP)™. 

Military Awards

  • Joint Service Commendation Medal
  • Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal
  • Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal
  • Meritorious Unit Commendation (x 2)
  • Good Conduct Medal (x 5)
  • National Defense Service Medal
  • Armed Forces Service Medal
  • Sea Service Deployment Ribbon (x 2)
  • Marine Corps Recruiting Ribbon
  • NATO Medal
  • Meritorious Mast (x 2)
  • Certificate of Commendation
  • Letters of Appreciation (x 13)
  • Army Teamwork Award
  • Congressional Certificate of Appreciation
  • Rifle Expert
  • Pistol Sharpshooter

Memberships and Military Non-profit Affiliations

  • Chairman of the Board of Directors, NEOVETS, Inc.
  • Life Member | First Vice Commander, AMVETS Post 176, Richfield, Ohio
  • Member | Web and Social Media Manager, Wendell L. Willkie, American Legion Post 19, Akron, Ohio
  • Board member | Webmaster, Cleveland American Veterans Association
  • Web and Social Media Manager, Summit County Stand Down
  • Member, National Marine Corps Business Network – CLE
  • AMVETS Commissioner, Summit County Veterans Service Commission
  • Member, Marine Corps League, Chesty Puller Detachment 269
  • Member, Reserve Officers Association
  • AMVETS Department Service Officer
  • Member, Ohio Association of Veteran Service Commissioners

picture of: Richard DeChant, Executive Director - Veteran Services Programs at Cuyahoga Community College & NEOVETS Founding Board Member
Richard DeChant
NEOVETS Founding Board Member; Founder and Owner – DeChant Strategic Connections (DSC)

Rick DeChant, the founder and owner of DeChant Strategic Connections (DSC), brings to his firm over 40 years of experience in crisis management, public affairs, military affairs, government affairs, strategic planning, and donor development for organizations such as The

Northeast Ohio Foundation for Patriotism (NEOPAT), The Cleveland Police Foundation, the

Ohio Department of Higher Education, the U. S. Veterans Administration, The Greater Cleveland Fisher Houses, NEOVETS (veteran and military employment and training), and Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C).

For twelve years Rick served as the Executive Director of the Tri-C Veterans Initiative where he provided overall leadership, direction and coordination for all Veterans Services initiatives within Cuyahoga Community College. Under his leadership the College was awarded the ranking of a “Military Friendly Institution for 2020/2120” in a national survey conducted by GI Jobs Magazine and Ernst & Young.  Only 15 percent of colleges and universities across the country earned this recognition.  This was the eleventh year in a row that Tri-C has earned this honor.  Under his direction the Veterans Initiative generated $25 million in GI Bill and other military tuition revenue for the College.

Rick also served as the Chair the White House Commission initiative in Northeast Ohio known as Strong Cities/Strong Communities.  This initiative, run by the U. S. Department of Labor, looked for best practices in developing a seamless transition for veterans looking for employment, and employers looking for veterans to hire.  He was the only representative from Northeast Ohio higher education asked to serve on this Commission.  Rick currently serves in a

similar role on the Board of NEOVETS. He also co-chaired the Ohio Department of Higher Education – Military Strategic Implementation Team which is focused on Ohio colleges awarding college credit and professional licenses for military experience.

Prior to Tri-C Rick served with Department of Homeland Security as its Assistant Federal Security Director for TSA Operations in Northeast Ohio.  During his tenure with TSA he was awarded both the Department Homeland Security Heroism Award and The Cleveland Police Department 2006 Citizen Heroism Award for helping to subdue an armed gunman at Cleveland Hopkins Airport who had shot and wounded a Cleveland Police officer. 

Rick is active in numerous veteran organizations including the Greater Cleveland Fisher House where he co-chaired the capital campaign, raising $3.5 million to build the two houses which opened in June 2019.  

He is retired Commander with 21 years of service in the Coast Guard Reserve, including combat tours in the Middle East for Gulf War I, in Haiti in 1994, and again when he served in Iraq and Kuwait for Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003/2004.

In recognition of his military service, his work in homeland security, and his efforts in veteran education issues, Rick was inducted into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame on November 9, 2017, and was awarded The America Nationalities Movement Freedom Award in 2019. 

Rick holds a BA in Communications from John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio. He and his wife of 40 years, Sharon, reside in Fairview Park, Ohio and are the parents of two grown children.  

Professional associations include:

  • Board Member – The Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame
  • Board Member – The Cleveland Police Foundation
  • Advisory Board Member – Greater Cleveland Fisher House
  • Board Member – NEOVETS
  • Board Member – Louis Stokes VAMC Education & Research Foundation
  • Past Co-Chair – Ohio Department of Higher Education/Military Implementation Team
  • Voting Rights Institute of Ohio – Veterans Advisory Committee
  • Past President, Board of Directors – USO of Northern Ohio
  • Life Member, Veterans of Foreign Wars (Post 9693);
  • Life Member Reserve Officers Association;
  • Life Member, Coast Guard Combat Veterans Association;
  • Member, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America;
  • Member United States Navy League;
  • The Press Club of Cleveland;
  • Leukemia & Lymphoma Society – Northern Ohio Chapter (1998 – 2001)
  • Ohio PTA (awarded honorary life membership in 1997)

Awards/Military Decorations:

  • Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame – 2017 inductee
  • American Nationalities Movement – Freedom Award 2019
  • Department of Homeland Security – Secretary’s Award for Heroism (airport police officer shooting incident);
  • Cleveland Police Department Citizens Award for Heroism (airport police officer shooting incident);
  • Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medal (Iraqi Freedom service)
  • Coast Guard Commendation Medal (4)
  • Coast Guard Achievement Medal (4)
  • Coast Guard Commandant’s Letter of Commendation (3)
  • Department of Transportation 9-11 Medal (reported the day of the attacks)
  • US Global War on Terrorism Medal (Operation Noble Eagle)
  • International Global War on Terrorism Medal (Operation Iraqi Freedom)
  • National Defense Medal (2)
  • Liberation of Kuwait Medal
  • Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (Operation Uphold Democracy – Haiti)
  • Humanitarian Service Medal
  • Presidential Citation Medal (USCG Hurricane Katrina Operations)
  • Coast Special Operations Ribbon (Exxon Valdez spill)
  • USCG Reserve Officer of the Year/Great Lakes Region (1995)
  • Coast Guard Alex Haley Award Recipient – 1990 (outstanding service in USCG Public Affairs)

Tom Ludwick; NEOVETS Board Member; Regional Human Resources Manager for Tetra Tech

Tom Ludwick, SHRM-CP, PHR | Regional Manager, Human Resources | Solid Waste East

Tom Ludwick, husband and proud father to two children, brings over 15 years’ experience in Human Resources to various organizations across Northeast Ohio. Currently, Tom is a Regional Human Resources Manager for Tetra Tech a leading provider of consulting and engineering services worldwide. For the last 4.5 years at Tetra Tech he managers strategic human resources initiatives for over 400 team members within the Tetra Tech Solid Waste Solutions Group.

Tom obtained his MBA with a concentration in human resources from Kent State University in 2010. He is a member of Cleveland Society for Human Resource Management (CSHRM) and recently involved in the CSHRM Mentorship program helping other human resource professionals with growth and development. He is an avid golfer (12 HC) and enjoys hiking in the Cuyahoga Valley National Parks.

Professional associations include:

  1. National Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)
  2. Cleveland Society for Human Resource Management (CSHRM)

Professional certifications:      

                          -Professional Human Resource certification     (PHR)

  1. Society for Human Resource Management SHRM-CP credentialed 
  2. OSHA 30 Hour Industrial Certification 


Donna Rae Smith
Founder, Chairman, CEO – Bright Side, Inc.
NEOVETS Founding Board Member

Donna Rae Smith has forged a career and an enterprise by applying the practice of teaching leaders to master change. A barrier-shattering change-leader herself, Ms. Smith has pioneered a highly sought after approach for preparing leaders, teams and entire organizations to thrive in an ever-evolving business world. For Ms. Smith, it is never enough to react to change; today’s leaders must embody the habits necessary to embrace and lead change.

Ms. Smith is the Founder and CEO of Bright Side, Inc., a globally recognized, groundbreaking behavioral strategy consulting company. Led by a celebrated team of behavior and culture change experts, Bright Side customizes personal, team and organizational leader development workshops, coaching and transformational processes designed to rapidly accelerate the execution of change. All of Bright Side’s portable tools are grounded in a disciplined methodology for continuous personal learning: including new ways of acting, responding and behaving in the face of change. These are, according to Ms. Smith, “…the foundational tools for surviving and thriving in a new era.”

Bright Side’s track record of measurable results has been nothing shy of extraordinary. Today, this highly specialized, woman-owned company is playing a pivotal role in the strategic development of some of the most influential corporations in the world. Among organizations of all sizes, the roster includes Procter and Gamble, Gillette, Rockwell Automation, BASF, Coty, Inc., The Dow Chemical Company, Jamba Juice, Pringles, IBM and many other dynamic businesses. Bright Side has prepared these companies and many others to solve unprecedented tasks and challenges relative to a new way of doing business. Bright Side’s clients are better prepared for changes as they are more nimble and agile in the economic landscape as well as more dimensionally competitive as an outcome of its approach.

Stephen Covey, acclaimed author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, coined Donna Rae Smith “a truly ‘I’ve been there’ woman.” Her experiences range from serving as a manufacturing executive to pioneering new ground as a broadcast journalist. She is at once an entrepreneur’s entrepreneur, a riveting speaker and a provocative writer. As the esteemed author of Building Your Bright Side and The Power of Building Your Bright Side, Ms. Smith shares with us the rejuvenating behavioral concepts that have transformed some of the world’s most powerful and forward-thinking business leaders of our time.

Ms. Smith is a graduate of the University of Michigan and has guest lectured at the University of Richmond, Jepson Leadership School; Duke University; Miami University; Case Western Reserve University, Weatherhead School of Management; West Point Academy; Baldwin-Wallace University; and Ursuline College. She currently serves on the boards of the Mid-Michigan Innovation Center, Verb Ballets and the American Red Cross of Greater Cleveland.  She has served on the boards of NorTech, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and the Council of Pastoral Leadership. Also, she is a member of In Counsel with Women (ICWW), The Network of Executive Women, the American Heart Association Go Red for Women and the Tiffany Circle of The American Red Cross.  In 2013, Ms. Smith chaired the Circle of Red/Go Red for Women Campaign and co-hosted a PBS special, “Taking Control of your Heart”.  She currently participates in the design and architecture of the American Red Cross “Returning Veterans” strategy and writes a column and blogs for Smart Business regionally and nationally on Bright Side’s core focus of behavioral strategies.

Ms. Smith’s world-renowned methods are a result from her deep personal commitment to challenge the best and brightest not to fear change, but to step up to it and own it like nobody’s business.