President Barack Obama and Abbe Raven, President and CEO, A&E Television Networks (the parent company of History); today kicked off the Take a Veteran to School Day initiative at The White House. Veterans representing military service spanning from WWII to Afghanistan were honored at the Veterans Day Breakfast in the East Room of the White House today. Following the breakfast, six of the veterans and executives from History Channel departed the White House for a special assembly at the Walt Whitman Middle School in Alexandria, VA where they are sharing their stories of service with students.
The six veterans include: LCDR Michael Conrad “Connie” Agresti (Gulf War), SGT Renaee J. Allen (Gulf War), COL Dennis M. Duggan (Korea / Vietnam), SFC Henry Kwiatkowski (WWII / Korea), CPT Koby J. Langley (Kosovo / Operation Iraqi Freedom) and SFC Joe Sharpe (Bosnia / Iraq / Afghanistan).
More than 2,000 schools in all 50 states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico are participating in Take a Veteran to School Day activities and events this year.
“On behalf of everyone at A&E Television Networks and History, we are extremely proud to kick off this year’s Take a Veteran to School Day at The White House with President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama,” said Abbe Raven. “Over the last three years, our mission at History has been to pay tribute and honor our nation’s veterans by introducing their stories to students across America so they can appreciate and value the heroic men and women who have honorably served our country. We are privileged today to have six outstanding veterans join us in our nationwide kickoff at the White House, representing thousands of veterans around the country.”
Now in its third year, the Take a Veteran to School Day national initiative connects veterans of all ages with young people, educators and local elected officials in communities nationwide. History Channel provides Take a Veteran to School resources to 200,000+ K-12 educators including lesson plans, how-to guides and streaming video via a dedicated website, www.veterans.com.
From the greatest generation to the latest generation, veterans have shared their stories and received the appreciation of both students and community members. Working with the Library of Congress Veterans History Project, students nationwide have preserved hundreds of oral histories of local veterans in their communities for future generations to learn from.
Following are bios for the six veterans who have been honored by President Obama and are participating in the Veterans Day visit to Walt Whitman Middle School:
LCDR Michael Conrad “Connie” Agresti III (Gulf War)
LCDR Michael Conrad “Connie” Agresti III grew up in Copiague, Long Island, NY, the son of M. Conrad and Angeline Agresti, Jr., both first generation offsprings of Italian immigrants. His father was an accountant and his mother, a schoolteacher, principal and administrator. He received a Bachelor’s of Business Administration degree from Loyola University of Los Angeles in May 1975, and a commission from Navy Officer Candidate School six months later.
As a naval officer, Agresti made a name for himself as a meticulous and innovative leader within the Navy logistics community. His assignments were primarily to surface combatants and his initial deployment in USS Connole (FF 1056) included two non-combatant evacuations of Beirut, Lebanon. Then-Lieutenant Agresti earned the full line Surface Warfare Officer designation while onboard USS Peterson (DD 969).
Following shore duty in Washington, DC, during which he earned a Master’s of Business Administration from George Mason University, then-Lieutenant Commander Agresti transferred to USS Vincennes (CG 49) to serve as Supply Officer. During the first deployment of an AEGIS-equipped ship to the Pacific and Indian Oceans, he helped define and establish logistics support parameters for the state of the art AEGIS weapons system. The following summer, he deployed with Vincennes on 24-hour notice, and was on the bridge when she engaged multiple Iranian air and surface craft that were harassing neutral shipping in the Straits of Hormuz. During that battle, which saw five surface craft sunk and three F-4 Phantom fighters defeated, USS Vincennes shot down an unidentified aircraft that turned out to be Iran Air 655, a commercial airliner.
Returning to Washington, DC in 1989, Agresti led the Supply/Administrative/Deck Ratings Assignment Branch of the Bureau of Naval Personnel before being sent on a six-month deployment (his ninth) to Operation DESERT STORM as Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff (Logistics), U. S. Naval Central Command.
Agresti retired from the Navy in 1995, spent five years supporting the AEGIS shipbuilding program as a defense contractor and began a federal civilian career as an auditor for the Naval Audit Service. He served an additional Inspector General tour with another defense agency before leaving federal service in 2006. Agresti currently works for Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc as an associate supporting the Chief Financial Officer of a classified government client.
He is a Certified Government Financial Manager, Certified Fraud Examiner, Certified Internal Controls Auditor, and is pursuing a Certified Internal Auditor designation. Agresti holds numerous military, public sector, and private sector awards for exceptional service. He currently resides in Alexandria, Virginia where he performs community work as a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, Military Officers Association of America and American Legion.
SGT Renaee J. Allen (Gulf War)
SGT Renaee J. Allen joined the Center for Minority Veterans as a Program Analyst on November 2003. She serves as the Program Manager for the Minority Veterans Program Coordinators (MVPC) and the Center’s Liaison for the African American veteran’s community. As Program Manager, Allen manages approximately 300 MVPCs. The MVPCs are appointed by the Directors of their respective facility in each Administration (VHA, VBA, and NCA). Allen ensures that information is disseminated to the MVPCs regarding issues effecting the minority veteran population, apprises them of the Center’s mission, and assists in resolving issues affecting our minority veterans through adoption and implementation of policies and programs.
As Liaison for the African American veteran’s community, she is constantly engaged in different events that promote cultural diversity. She also identifies issues that effect African American veterans. From March 2002-September 2003, she served as a member of the Secretary’s of Veterans Affairs Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans. The Committee conducted several town hall meetings throughout the United States to identify issues that affect the minority veteran community and submitted annual reports to Congress via the Secretary of Veterans Affairs with recommendations for resolutions of these issues.
Prior to her employment with the VA, Allen worked as a National Service Officer and Field Representative with the Veterans of Foreign Wars. As National Service Officer, she interfaced with the veteran’s community in preparing and submitting claims for veteran’s benefits to the Department of Veterans Affairs. As Field Representative, she personally conducted tours of VA medical facilities and interviewed veterans and staff to identify and resolve issues of concern to veterans. Allen proudly served her country as a Non-Commissioned Officer in the United States Army from 1988-1993 and earned her wings as a Paratrooper. She is also a veteran of the first Gulf War, in which she served our country from September 1990-March 1991 with the 528th
Allen has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Health Care Management from Southern Illinois University.
COL Dennis M. Duggan (Korea / Vietnam)
In August 2008, COL Dennis M. Duggan was appointed a Regional Resource Coordinator (RRC) for the Maryland Commitment to Veterans. The three-year state-funded project was created to assist Maryland veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom and their families to access needed services, primarily, in mental health and substance abuse and other services. This project acts as a clearinghouse for information, resources and referrals and is designed to facilitate rapid access to Department of Veterans Affairs and Community Resources in Maryland, and to identify gaps in needed services.
Prior to joining the Maryland Commitment to Veterans, Duggan, a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY, had served a 25-year Army Infantry career which spanned combat tours in the Republic of Vietnam and Republic of El Salvador as well as serving as a Regular Army Advisor to the Maryland Army National Guard (58th Separate Infantry Brigade).His educational degrees include a Master of Arts from the University of Maryland and completion of the Army War College. His military awards include the Distinguished Flying Cross, three Bronze Stars, Soldier’s Medal, Purple Heart, Combat Infantryman’s Badge and Master Parachutist Badge.
Upon retirement from the Army, Duggan served for over 20 years as a Deputy Director for National Security and Veterans Affairs for The American Legion in which he “pushed” for military and veterans benefits for the Active forces and National Guard and Reserves as well as for Military Retirees.
SFC Henry Kwiatkowski (WWII / Korea)
SFC Henry Kwiatkowski served in the Polish Navy until Poland was occupied by the Germans. Then he served with the British Army for the remainder of WWII. Kwiatkowski then joined the US Army via Lodge Act (one of the first Lodge Act Soldier). He was offered to join the US Army, became an American Citizen and served with the Army for over 23 years. Kwiatkowski retired as a SFC in 1973. He was one of the original members of Special Forces (77 Group), then served with the 82nd Airborne. Kwiatkowski served with the Polish Navy and British Army during WWII and with the US Army during Korea.
CPT Koby J. Langley (Kosovo / Operation Iraqi Freedom)
During his 4 1/2 year tour with the 82nd Airborne Division, CPT Koby J. Langley served at Battalion, Brigade, and Division levels as a Prosecutor, Operational Law Advisor and was task organized as a Public Affairs Officer for Operation Joint Guardian. Langley served in combat zones as the Command Judge Advocate for Task Force Red Falcon (Kosovo, Operation Joint Guardian), and the Second Brigade Combat Team (Iraq, Operation Iraqi Freedom) respectively, providing training and monitoring the International Law, Treaties and obligations under the Laws of Armed Conflict. During his tour in Kosovo, Langley served as the Public Affairs Officer, and also worked with the International Prosecutor. He served on the staff of the University of Maryland University College as an interim professor teaching Graduate Criminal Law courses, sponsoring a scholarship for deployed soldiers in need.
Langley has contributed to several scholarly publications, including: The Army Lawyer, the XVIII ABN Corps Field Guide to leaders for Crisis Communication, and the Center for Army Lessons Learned training publications on Coalition of Forces Matrices/Collateral Damage Assessment Tools. The Collateral Damage Tools were published at the 2002 Operational Law Conference in Fort Bragg, NC and were adopted by the XVIII Airborne Corps for use in their Standing Combat Operations Orders and were subsequently used to minimize civilian casualties during high intensity conflict operations in Iraq in 2003. Langley also developed and published the first Foreign Claims Act Standard Operating Procedure in Iraq — paying the first property damage claims in that Country during combat operations. He commanded bi-weekly claim and EPW missions/convoys through Iraq. During his second assignment with Headquarters, Department of the Army, Langley served as a senior Tort Litigation Counsel for the Army and a public spokesperson and recruiter.
After leaving active duty in 2006, Langley served as a volunteer to the Congressional campaign of Congressman Patrick J. Murphy (D-PA) for counter-messaging, Veteran organizing, and speech writing. After a successful first time bid at Congress, Congressman Murphy took a seat as the first Iraq War Veteran elected to Congress. In 2008, Langley subsequently volunteered as the National Outreach and Communications coordinator for Veterans for Obama in the Presidential election campaign of then Senator Barack Obama, an official surrogate speaker on Iraq War issues, and a policy advisor to then Senator Obama. In 2008, Langley served on the Presidential Transition Team as a member of the Agency Review Team for the Department of Veterans Affairs, and now currently serves as a Special Assistant to Secretary Eric K. Shinseki for Strategic Communications and Outreach at the Department of Veterans Affairs, in Washington, DC.
His awards include: Bronze Star Medal (2003); Meritorious Service Medal (2003, 2006); United States Army Commendation Medal (2002); Kosovo Campaign Medal w/ Bronze Star Device (2001); NATO Ribbon (2001); Global War on Terrorism Medal (2004); Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal (2004); Presidential Unit Citation (2005); and numerous public speaking awards.
SFC Joseph C. Sharpe Jr. (Operation Iraqi Freedom / Operation Enduring Freedom)
SFC Joseph C. Sharpe Jr. is currently serving as a Reservist and previously worked in Civil Affairs in Iraq. He was responsible for starting up the banking system in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein
Sharpe was appointed to the position of Director of the Economics Division in April 2009. Prior to serving as Director, he served as Deputy Director of the Economics Division, Health Care Field Representative and Assistant Director of the Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Commission.
He is a graduate of The Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, DC, where he earned a Master’s in International Relations and Economics. Sharpe has achieved two Graduate Certificates in International Business and Trade and Health Care Management from Georgetown University and has also earned his Bachelor’s in Sociology from the University of Maryland, College Park, MD.
In 1982, Sharpe entered the United States Army. After completing initial training at Ft. Sill, OK, and Ft. Sam Houston, TX, he served as a Drug and Alcohol Counselor with the 2nd Infantry Division in South Korea. He also served as a Mental Health Counselor in Ft. Benning, GA, worked as a Behavioral Science Research Specialist at the Walter Reed Institute of Research, Heidelberg, Germany, and was appointed as the Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge of Inpatient Social Work and Psychiatry Service, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, in Washington, DC. In addition to his active duty service, Sharpe is currently serving with the 354th Civil Affairs Brigade, U.S. Army Reserve, Riverdale, MD, as the Non Commissioned Officer in Charge of the Brigades Economics and Commerce Team.
During his military service with the Army Reserve Sergeant First Class, Sharpe was deployed twice overseas, in Operation Joint Forge, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and recently for the Global War on Terrorism, in which he received the Bronze Star Medal for work completed in the restoration and improvement of public and private financial institutions and banking services in Iraq.
Originally from Chicago, Illinois, he and his family currently reside in Bristow, Virginia.
Photo: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama pose in the Blue Room Nov. 11, 2009, with veterans taking part in the History Channel’s “Take a Veteran to School Day.” From left: First Lady Michelle Obama, Buzz Aldrin, Abbe Raven, Joe Sharpe, Koby J. Langley , Renaee J. Allen, Dennis M. Duggan and President Obama. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza). (PRNewsFoto/THE HISTORY CHANNEL, Pete Souza)