Our Mission & Vision
To honor, support and promote healing of the mind and spirit by providing a relaxed setting, special programs and to be a resource for any Military Service Member, Veteran, Fire Fighter, Law Enforcement Officer (active or retired), Blue Star, Silver Star or Gold Star Family Member whose life has been touched and forever changed due to a tragic event and/or the death of a Fallen Warrior while in service to our country.
To provide a safe refuge and bring about healing and hope to all Veterans and Military Service Members who have returned from the battlefield.
To be the most desired refuge for all Veterans, Military Service Members, Law Enforcement Officers, Fire Fighters, Blue Star, Silver Star & Gold Star Families. Additionally, in the future, to have other “My Warrior’s Place” facilities and programs throughout the United States wherever there is a Military Base and a large population of Veterans.
Board of Directors
Kelly Kowall - President & Founder
Kelly is the Gold Star Mother of SPC. Corey Kowall. Her experiences as a Certified Life Coach, 10+ years as Business Owner and over 30 years in Sales & Marketing have proven to be very beneficial to this non-profit organizations and the programs it provides. In 2012 she completed her training and became certified as a Grief Support Provider from the AGA. Her creativity and drive is priceless. She is also an active member of the American Gold Star Mothers Association, VFW Ladies Aux and the American Legion Ladies Aux.
Phillip Mockler - Vice President
Phillip was a Sgt in the US Marine Corps. He is a deputy with the Sarasota County Sheriffs Office. After returning from Afghanistan in 2006 he found it very hard to navigate his way through the VA system so in 2007 he founded Everyday Heroes USA. His experience in leadership while serving in the military and currently in law enforcement is a huge asset to our board. Additionally, his first hand experience in founding a not-for-profit organization that supports our Veterans and First Responders is invaluable.
Coralease "Cora" Ruff - Secretary
Cora DNSc, RN, FNP, is a bereaved parent and an Associate Professor, Division of Nursing, at Howard University. Cora is the principal investigator and author of “Primary Family Nurse Practitioner program at Howard University”, “Psychosocial Stress, Coping and Help Seeking Behavior for Urinary Incontinence”, as well as, several other books. She has served on the board of several other non-profit organizations including Compassionate Friends.
Pam Aswell - Treasurer
Graduated from Hillsborough County School of Practical Nursing 1976 and the University of Phoenix in 2012 with a BS in Health Care Administration with a concentration in Information technology. She has been a nurse for 40+ years and
currently works for Aetna Insurance as a Medical Review Coordinator.
Pam understands first hand what it is like to live as a military family. Her father was a Navy Veteran who served in Vietnam. She spent many years traveling with her ex-husband as he was transferred to multiple duty stations while serving in the Navy and additionally, her son served 7 years in the Navy.
Ilyas Sayeg, Esq. - Chairperson
Ilyas is an attorney at Maglio Christopher & Toale, PA. He graduated with honors from the University of Miami School of Law. While there, Ilyas was invited to be part of a groundbreaking clinical partnership between the Law and Medical Schools at the University of Miami. Furthermore, Ilyas was selected by his peers to be a member of the John M. Scheb Inns of Court where he has won the President’s Outstanding Service Award. He is also a board member of the ACE Mentoring Program, an engineering-focused high school mentorship program in Sarasota County. Ilyas experience and expertise is a very valuable asset to My Warrior’s Place.
Mike O'Dell - Chairperson
Is a Vietnam Veteran and past President of the Hillsborough County Veterans Council. He is an active member of VietnamVeterans Association, AmVets, the American Legion Riders and many other veterans organizations. He is a business owner and has many years involved with non-profits supporting veterans causes, including his own non-profit organization called Veterans Helping Veterans. Because of his vast experience Mike an outstanding asset to My Warrior's Place. Also, Mike's knowledge of the VA system and his contacts makes him the go to person for resources and networking to help our veterans with issues when they have a problem.
John T Connelly - Chairperson
Besides currently being a brilliant professor at Lenoir Rhyne University, John was Program Director/Assistant Professor OTD Program with Gannon University. John was responsible for the start up operations of the entry level Occupational Therapy Doctorate program and teaching On line Course work for Gannon University OT Masters Program. His current experience as well as his past experience as a consultant to Bayer Material Science and Administrative Director at Heritage Valley Health System is invaluable to My Warrior’s Place.
Michelle Self - Chairperson
Michelle is the Director for the Heroes and Angels USA program. She is a member of the Georgia Air National Guard. She currently serves the 116th ACW as a Chaplain's Assistant. Michelle understands the importance of serving with compassion
while honoring our Heroes who have served and sacrificed for our freedom. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Liberal Studies with concentrations in Organizational Leadership, Psychology, and Human Services. Michelle is currently
working on a Life Coaching Certification to better serve her community as a relationship coach.
Shawn Pratt - Chairperson
Shawn is a licensed charter boat captain and a well-respected member of the Tampa Bay fishing community with over 40 years of experience fishing Tampa Bay and the surrounding waters. He is one of those “go to guys”
who effectively solicits needed resources, organizes people and coordinates logistics to make fishing events happen. Capt. Shawn doesn't just take people fishing, he instructs them in the abc's of fishing to make anyone
who goes fishing with him a better fisherman or fisherwoman.
Capt. Shawn is also our Program Director for the FAVE Boating Expeditions Program.
George "Nordie" Norwood (Major General, US Air Force Retired)
Nordie is a USCG licensed Near Coastal Captain and American Sailing Association (ASA) Certified sailing instructor. He has offshore experience in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico. Through his sailing and charter business (Flagship Sailing), Nordie teaches sailing from beginning to advanced levels. He is a strong and proud supporter of our veterans and their family members. In addition to his military and corporate positions and accomplishments, he was recognized in 2017 with the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award.
Louise Sutherland-Hoyt, LMHC, CCMHC, MAC
Louise is our Project Corregidor Program Director and facilitates our Forever A Warrior seminar. A United States Army Veteran, Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Life Coach, Louise Sutherland-Hoyt provides powerful and insightful coaching strategies, workshops, and seminars for individuals and groups, Gold Star Families, Veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress, and Survivors of Military Suicide. Louise is well-known for the passion and enthusiasm she brings to all endeavors. She also is a polished public speaker.
Tom Campbell is our Volunteer Coordinator. Tom is a 28 year veteran of The US Navy Seabees and Army Corp. of Engineers. Tom’s experience as both a military recruiter and instructor lends itself to the vital role of finding the volunteers we need to make our programs work. Tom is also a kayak fishing guide and business owner of Can Do Kayak Adventures.
Tom graciously donates his time and talent as a guide to any of the MWP guests that requests his services. Tom also serves as first-mate for our boating trips in the FAVE Boating program.
Tyson became a SCUBA instructor in college, enhanced with an EMT certification before a 30 year career in business consulting that includes clients such as Dollar General, HCA, Cracker Barrel, AIG, FMCC, Sony BMG and many others bringing vast experience from the business world. Although his current career with Heartland Payment Systems keeps him extremely busy, he still finds time to strategize with MWP on day to day operations and promote MWP with his business connections while also serving as a first-mate for our FAVE boating program.
Rolando Santiago, Esq.
Rolando brings his vast experience as a Florida Supreme Court certified mediator and arbitrator, author and attorney. Having been born in Puerto Rico and raised in Honduras, Rolando is technically and proficiently fluent in Spanish. Notably, Rolando began his career with distinction in the United States Marine Corps, where he served in Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Rolando’s RJS Law Firm is located in Apollo Beach, FL.
Gary is a singer/songwriter/musician/ author/cartoonist/aviator and US Army veteran, who attended his first flight school at the 62nd Warrant Officer Co., Ft. Rucker, Alabama. He has owned two recording studios. His work as a singer, songwriter, musician and producer along with his extensive contacts through Sanning Promotions, Nashville/Atlanta/Tampa make him a perfect fit for the Heroes & Angels USA Program and My Warrior’s Place.
Mike is a Veteran who served in the Marine Corps. He has a lot of practical experience in carpentry, plumbing and electrical work so he is invaluable as our Property Maintenance Supervisor. Mike also coordinates and handles picking up the furniture and other items which have been donated and listing them for sale if we are not able to use them on the property or donate them to veterans or other American Heroes in need. Mike also helps to supervise volunteers.
Kristen is the big sister of SPC Corey Kowall and she assists with some of our marketing and events. She has worked promotional events, seminars and trade shows all over Central Florida. She has also lead, managed and created many promotional events for big name brands such as Nascar, MLB Network, Crown Royal, BOA, Cracker Barrel, Heinz, Kellogg's, Sierra Mist, and Disney. Her knowledge and experience is a great asset to My Warrior’s Place.
Laurie is a native Western New Yorker. She recently retired after 27 plus years in the field of Social Services assisting thousands of people in need with both financial and emotional support as she guided them back on track to self-sufficiency with a sense of self-respect. Laurie continues her calling of serving and helping others by volunteering her time and talent in many different aspects of MWP, where all her efforts benefit our American Heroes.
As a retired Naval Officer with 28 years active duty, Gina brings passion and love for the active and Veteran military service members and their families. She is the program director of RIDERS4FALLEN program. and always working to bringing awareness to the My Warrior's Place mission throughout the Tampa Bay area. Gina is actively pursuing a PhD in Research Psychology with a dissertation focus on Mindfulness Techniques in Treating PTSD.
Katie is one of the News Anchors of 10News Nightside. She is a Cum Laude graduate of Vanderbilt University, majoring in both English & Spanish. She studied Spanish in Madrid as well, and completed a fellowship at Loyola Law School, in Los Angeles, called “Law School for Journalist.” as she is fascinated by the law. In her free time, she is very involved in several local charities and we are excited to have her on our Advisory Board.
Courtney anchors 10News This Evening. She was born and raised on Fort Bragg, NC. Her father served as a member of our elite Special Operations Command for the Army. He died in 1994 while serving in South Korea. Courtney is a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill. She uses her voice and knowledge of social media to bring awareness to My Warrior’s Place and the needs facing our active duty military, veterans and their families.
Capt. Chris Prevatt
Captain Monty “Chris” Prevatt is a Veteran and owner of Crackerjack Inshore Charters. He has been fishing the local waters for the past couple of decades, and he’ll get you on the fish. With him you can look forward to hooking anything from Cobia, Redfish, to Speckled Trout and more.
Capt. John Baty Jr.
Captain John grew up in Plant City, FL. After serving in the US ARMY during Vietnam, he became a police officer. After a life altering motorcycle accident he became one of the first amputee USCG licensed Charter Captains and is the owner of Forever Hooked Charters.
Capt. John Coufal
Captain John is a Coast Guard Licensed Master Captain and has his Masters in Social Work. He is employed at James A Haley Veterans hospital and is also a Registered Clinical Social Work Intern with the State of FL. John & his wife Molly run fishing & scalloping charters in their spare time.
Capt. Nick Sivilich
Capt. Nick became a Licensed Captain in 2016, but he has been fishing the southern Tampa Bay area since 2009. He served 4 years in the Air Force and now he is serving in the Air Force Reserve. He is also currently going to school full time and running a small inshore charter business.
Dustin served 12 years in the Navy. He is a commercial diver and the owner operator of Dukers Hull Solutions. Dustin volunteers his time to clean the hulls of our boats and serves as first mate to the boat captains on our boating trips either fishing or pleasure. He also helps out when needed.
Molly is a 22 yr retired Veteran of the US Army. She has her Bachelor's in Business Administration and is currently working on her Masters in Education. Molly is employed at HCC - Plant City Campus and we are thrilled to have her as a volunteer helping us with our book-keeping.
Sherrol is married to a Marine Vet and is a GoldStar Sister as her brother was killed in the La Drang Valley in 1965 during the Vietnam War. With over 30 yrs experience in accounts payables/receivables we are excited to have her as a volunteer to help us with our book-keeping.
Whitney provides the trivia questions on our Facebook Page. She is a Marine Corps veteran’s wife & sister to a veteran lost to suicide. She works as a research scientist at the VA studying traumatic brain injury, Gulf War Illness, and other neurodegenerative diseases that impact veterans.
Connie is in charge of our Tampa-Yankees Spring Training Parking fundraiser. Her experience working in the food and hall rental industry gives her the skills necessary to manage and schedule the people that are required for each home game. AND she is always looking for volunteers!
Sue does our gardening. She found My Warrior's Place when she was looking for a volunteer opportunity. It was the perfect fit for her as she saw it as a way to honor her Korean War veteran Dad who also loved gardening. She spends some time one day a week in MWP's serene setting.
Philip served 24 years in the Army as an IT Specialist. He is now retired and living the retired life. In his free time, he is does volunteer work particularly for any organization that supports Active Duty Service members and Veterans. He is responsible for the volunteer database and helps out with other projects when needed.
Honoring our Program Founders
Darcie Sims, Ph.D., CHT, CT, GMS
Darcie was a grief management specialist, a nationally certified thanatologist, a certified pastoral bereavement specialist, and a licensed psychotherapist and hypnotherapist. She was an author and an internationally recognized speaker. Darcie received The Compassionate Friends Professional Award in 1999. She co-chaired the 1991, 1996 and 2005 World Gathering on Bereavement, and delivered the keynote address at all 4 World Gatherings. Darcie was instrumental in creating our Project Corregidor Grief & Peer Mentoring Program prior to her death in February 2014.
Tony Sims, Ph.D.
Robert A. (Tony) Sims, served honorable in three branches of the US Military (Army, Navy & Air Force) for over 30 years in both combat and peacetime operations. Tony served in a variety of leadership roles for both public and private corporations, including VA hospitals. As a co-founder of Big A and Company Publishing, Tony helped produce books, tapes and other grief programs to help the corporate world accommodate the needs of grieving employees. He also helped to create our Project Corregidor Grief Program prior to his death in 2017.
Known as Marty to her family and friends she is also the Grandmother of SPC. Corey Kowall. Marty was instrumental in the founding and start up phases of both FAVE Boating Expeditions and Project Corregidor Grief & Peer Mentoring Program. Her experiences as a Stephens Minister Leader, 10+ years as Business Owner and 33+ years teaching in the Education Field were a huge asset to the organization when we were first getting started. Her education includes a BA in English and a MA in Physical Education from IU. She still volunteers when she can.
SPC. Corey Kowall and SPC. Damon Winkleman (a US Army Medic) were killed on September 20, 2009 in the Zabul province of Afghanistan. The incident occurred while they were driving to assist a convoy that encountered an improvised explosive device (IED) not too far from their Forward Operating Base (FOB).
Corey was only 20 years old when he died, but he made a lasting impression on all those who knew him. As a child Corey always wanted to be an Army Paratrooper. Corey was a World War II and Vietnam history buff so his grandfather nicknamed him “Corregidor”. Corey was always bringing home war memorabilia to showcase in his room. When asked where he got the items, he would usually say, “I found it”. When he started bring home large items such as a helicopter door we often joked that we wouldn’t be surprised to one day find a whole tank or plane parked in the yard with Corey giving us his pat answer of, “I found it”.
Corey always felt that he was suppose to serve his country; it was what he was born to do, and he lived his dream from an early age. Corey joined the TN Wing of the Civil Air Patrol when he was 10 years of age and rose quickly through the ranks to Cadet Commander during his 7 years in CAPS. He was also in JROTC and active in the Raiders Program in High School. Corey was so committed to enlisting in the military that he went to summer school so he could graduate a year early. His father and I had to sign his enlistment papers because Corey was only 17 when he joined the Army.
Corey served with the Alpha Company, Second Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment in the 4th Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division of the US Army, based at Fort Bragg, NC. His awards and decorations include the
Corey carried himself with a deep love for God, country and family, as well as, a sense of honor and humor. Corey understood what being an American was truly all about. Corey’s Commanding Officer, Captain Paul W. Pena, stated “Specialist Kowall was an extremely competent soldier and an extraordinary individual. His death leaves a tear in our formation and in our hearts. Though sorely missed, Corey will continue to be a source of inspiration and strength throughout Alpha Company.” (Captain Pena was KIA in 2010.)
So, to honor my son and the Army values that he stood for, Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity and Personal Courage, I was compelled to find a way to assist those who were mentally and emotionally affected by some of the complex grief issues that arise when the one who died served in the military. Thus My Warrior’s Place, Inc. (a 501 (c) (3)) was founded in his memory.
Although Corey is no longer here on earth, he continues to be a source of inspiration and strength to many more than just those who served with him in Alpha Company.
Written by: Kelly Kowall (Proud Gold Star Mother of Spc. Corey Kowall)
President and Founder of My Warrior’s Place