OUR LEADERSHIP TEAMPost Date: January 18, 2017
Since our founding, the Paralyzed Veterans of America Leadership Team has worked tirelessly to improve the quality of life for veterans and all people living with spinal cord injury and disease.
Every person on our Executive Committee is a member of Paralyzed Veterans of America and was elected by our membership community. Learn more about our dedicated leadership team:
David Zurfluh was re-elected national president of Paralyzed Veterans of America (Paralyzed Veterans) during its 72nd Annual Convention in May 2018, and took office on July 1, 2018.
Prior to becoming president in 2017, Zurfluh had served as national senior vice president since May 2015. A member of the Air Force from 1987 to 1995, Zurfluh served as a jet engine mechanic and a crew chief in Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. He was injured in 1995 in a motor vehicle accident while on active duty in Hachinohe, Japan, suffering a shattered left arm, broken left wrist and a broken neck. He was diagnosed with incomplete quadriplegia spending one year as an inpatient, and two years as an outpatient in Seattle VA spinal cord injury unit.
Zurfluh joined Paralyzed Veterans in 1995. He has been active since 2003, with the Northwest Chapter. He has held chapter-level positions as legislative director, vice president, president, and member of the sports committee. Zurfluh currently serves on the National Board of Advisors of the Museum of Aviation Foundation. A native of Washington, he served on the Veterans Legislative Coalition in Olympia, WA, and served as co-chair of the West Slope Neighborhood Coalition in Tacoma, WA.
In addition to his work on behalf of Paralyzed Veterans, Zurfluh is a lector at Holy Rosary Church and volunteers at local food banks. His hobbies include handcycling, shooting sports (trap, handgun, and archery), golf and snow sports. President Zurfluh divides his time between Tacoma, Washington and Washington, DC.
Carl Blake was raised in Woodford, Virginia. He graduated the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York in 1998, with a Bachelor of Science Degree.
Upon graduation from West Point, Blake was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Infantry in the United States Army. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment (1st Brigade) of the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He graduated from Infantry Officer Basic Course, U.S. Army Ranger School, U.S. Army Airborne School, and Air Assault School. His awards include the Army Commendation Medal, Expert Infantryman’s Badge, and German Parachutist Badge. Carl retired from the military in October 2000 due to injuries suffered during a parachute training exercise.
Blake is a member of the Paralyzed Veterans Mid-Atlantic Chapter in Virginia. He lives in Fredericksburg, Virginia with his wife Venus, son Jonathan and daughter Brooke.
DEPUTY EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Medically-retired Army Sergeant Shaun Castle is an accomplished college and professional wheelchair basketball player, and outspoken advocate for Paralyzed Veterans of America. Born in Elmira, N.Y. Castle enlisted in the Army in 2000. A military police officer with the U.S. Army stationed in Heidelberg, Germany, Castle served deployments to Kosovo, Macedonia and missions in support of the Global War on Terrorism. In 2002, he served as a protective services guard to two four-star Generals—Gen. Burwell B. Bell III and Gen. Montgomery Cunningham Meigs.
In 2003, Castle was injured during a training exercise in Heidelberg in which he suffered three herniated discs and two cracked vertebrae. While a lengthy prosthetics surgery enabled him to walk again and return to private sector police work, the weight of his duty belt over time caused further damage to his spinal cord. Not only was a second surgery unsuccessful, Castle learned while undergoing treatment at the VA medical center in Birmingham, Alabama, that he had a life-threatening allergy to all pain medications and muscle relaxers, a complication that nearly took his life and forced him to resort to natural methods of pain management.
In 2012, Castle embraced the healing power of adaptive sports. He began training six days per week became a team member for the University of Alabama’s men’s wheelchair basketball team. Castle went on to play professional wheelchair basketball in Lyon, France.
Castle also pursued a degree in Communications with an emphasis in Organizational Leadership, graduating summa cum laude from the University of Alabama in 2017. He intends to next pursue a master’s degree in Global Business Management.
In 2016, Castle pioneered the construction of an arena dedicated solely to wheelchair basketball at the University of Alabama. He was later honored by the college for an award recognizing his contributions to veterans, adapted athletes and the disabled student body on campus.
In 2018 Castle was appointed to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs Committee on Prosthetics and Special Disabilities.
JAMES THOMAS (TOM) WHEATON, JR.
James Thomas (Tom) Wheaton, Jr., was re-elected national treasurer of Paralyzed Veterans of America (Paralyzed Veterans) during its 72nd Annual Convention in May 2018, and took office on July 1, 2018.
Wheaton enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1986 and is a plank owner (original crew member) of the USS Fort McHenry. He sustained a spinal cord injury while serving in Perth, Australia, in 1988. After recovering from his injuries and undergoing expanded rehabilitation, he was part of a group of veterans who ultimately organized into what became the Minnesota Chapter of Paralyzed Veterans of America in 1993. He was the chapter’s first director of sports and recreation and also served as chapter treasurer.
After moving to Golden, CO, in 1996, Wheaton served on a regional basis as sports director, treasurer, hospital liaison, and executive director of the Mountain States Chapter of Paralyzed Veterans. He also served as first vice president of the United Veterans Committee of Colorado.
For the last 20 years, Wheaton served on the Paralyzed Veterans’ National Executive Committee in various capacities, including as the organization’s parliamentarian.
In addition to his numerous Paralyzed Veterans responsibilities, Wheaton has served on various national veterans and disability advisory committees, including the National Spinal Cord Injury Association. Within his community, he is an elder of Hillside Community Church and co-leads its children’s ministries with his wife, Angela. The Wheaton’s have been married for 17 years and are proud parents of two school-age children. They reside in Golden, CO.
Larry Dodson was re-elected national secretary of Paralyzed Veterans of America (Paralyzed Veterans) during its 72nd Annual Convention in May 2018, and took office on July 1, 2018.
Dodson joined the Air Force in 1966 and served until 1970. During that time he worked in a command center in Southeast Asia. On July 4, 1974, Dodson incurred a C-4 spinal cord injury and for more than 20 years he did not know that he was entitled to benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
After his military service, Dodson worked for the Photo Corporation of America from 1973–1984. During that time he attended Fresno State University before transferring to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte where he graduated with a degree in accounting in 1981. After college he owned and operated his own accounting business until 1999.
During his first visit to the spinal cord injury center in Augusta, GA, in 1994, Dodson joined the Southeastern Chapter of Paralyzed Veterans. A Paralyzed Veterans national service officer candidate from 1999–2000, Dodson became a member of the Southeastern Chapter board of directors in 2004. His service with the chapter includes assistant chair for the hospital committee, vice president, and national director.
A native of Oklahoma, Dodson currently resides in North Augusta, SC, with his wife, Debra. He has two adult daughters.
NATIONAL SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT
Charles Brown was re-elected national vice president of Paralyzed Veterans of America (Paralyzed Veterans) during its 72nd Annual Convention in May 2018, and took office on July 1, 2018.
Brown joined the Marines in 1985 and was trained in aviation ordnance. In 1986, he sustained a spinal cord injury as a result of a diving accident while serving in Cherry Point, NC.
During his initial rehabilitation at the Department of Veterans Affairs spinal cord injury center in Augusta, GA, Brown became a member of the Southeastern Chapter of Paralyzed Veterans. In 1987, he moved back to his native Missouri where he served on the Gateway Chapter board in a multitude of capacities, including Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator, advocacy director, treasurer, and vice president.
While in St. Louis, Brown helped establish the Rolling Rams quad rugby team. Seeking a more wheelchair-friendly climate, Brown relocated and joined the Florida Chapter in 1999. In Florida he served in a number of positions, including hospital committee chair, secretary, hospital liaison, national director, and president. Brown has also served on numerous national committees, including strategic planning, planned giving, and resolution.
Currently on the USA Boccia team, he was selected team captain for the Parapan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. Ranked 63rd in the world after one international tournament, Brown fully believes that an active life has kept him healthy. Brown currently resides in Loxahatchee, FL.
NATIONAL VICE PRESIDENT
Hack Albertson was re-elected national vice president of Paralyzed Veterans of America (Paralyzed Veterans) during its 72nd Annual Convention in May 2018, and took office on July 1, 2018.
Albertson served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1981 to 1985 as a weather observer and assistant forecaster attached to Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 31 in Beaufort, SC. He sustained a T-7 complete spinal cord injury in 1994. Albertson has served several years on the Kentucky-Indiana (KIPVA) Paralyzed Veterans Chapter Board of Directors. He has also served as chapter vice president, chapter treasurer, hospital liaison officer and national director.
Albertson is on the board of the National Wild Turkey Federation and Lifewaters.org, where he currently holds the position of office treasurer. He is also a member of the Paralyzed and Disabled Scuba Diving Organization. He is very active in outdoor sports, including handcycling, hunting, scuba diving, fishing, shooting, archery and softball. He has received 22 medals from the National Veterans Wheelchair Games (#NVWG) over the five years he has participated.
Albertson and his wife, Jill, currently reside in Campbellsburg, IN, where he is a member of the local First Baptist Church. They have four children, with one daughter currently serving on active duty as a LTJG U.S. Navy nurse.
NATIONAL VICE PRESIDENT
Robert L. Thomas, Jr. was re-elected national vice president of Paralyzed Veterans of America (Paralyzed Veterans) during its 72nd Annual Convention in May 2018, and took office on July 1, 2018.
Thomas enlisted in the U.S. Army shortly after graduating high school in 1987. He served as a Power Generation Equipment specialist at Fort Sill Oklahoma, Camp Humphreys Korea and Fort Bragg NC, until a diving accident crushed his fifth and sixth vertebrae in 1991. He was introduced to Paralyzed Veterans through the Cleveland VA, and began volunteering with its Buckeye Chapter (OH) in 1996. He took a few years off to earn his associate's degree in Information Technology, and returned to the Buckeye Chapter board in 2010. He has served as the Chapter's Vice President since 2012, and as the chapter's representatives on the national Field Advisory Committee and the Resolution Committee.
In addition to his role as national vice president, Thomas currently serves as the chair of the caregivers committee, the awards program committee and is the national parliamentarian.
He and his wife, LaShon, live in Macedonia, Ohio.
NATIONAL VICE PRESIDENT
Tammy Jones was elected to national vice president of Paralyzed Veterans of America (Paralyzed Veterans) during its 72nd Annual Convention in May 2018, and took office on July 1, 2018.
While serving in the United States Air Force, stationed in England as a maintenance scheduler for F-111 aircraft, Jones had a motor vehicle accident that resulted in a complete spinal cord injury leaving her a quadriplegic, at the age of 19. In 1986, during her initial rehabilitation at Stoke Mandeville Spinal Injury Center, a social worker told her and her family to look into Paralyzed Veterans when they returned to the US. A few months later, after arriving at James Haley VAMC in Tampa, FL, Jones met a gentleman from Paralyzed Veterans and he said he was there to help her through this “change of plans”. For Jones, that was the beginning of a wonderful and valuable relationship with Paralyzed Veterans.
Since joining Paralyzed Veterans in 1987, Jones has been involved with multiple chapters of the organization. She has been a board member, sports and recreation director, secretary and most recently, vice president of the Texas Chapter. Her work on National Paralyzed Veterans Committees include the Field Advisory Committee, Planned Giving Committee, and Women Veterans Healthcare Committee. Jones proudly represents Paralyzed Veterans on the VA Prosthetics Women Veterans Emphasis Work Group to ensure VA Prosthetics is aware of the needs and concerns of women with spinal cord injury/disease.
Jones believes that through Paralyzed Veterans, there exists unique opportunities to meet newly injured service members and to relate to him or her that this “change of plans” can result in a happy and purposeful life, and the outcome is in his or her hands.
Married since 1999, Jones and her husband, Dale, enjoy getting the most out of each day. Whether it’s on their motorcycle, on a boat or in a backyard with friends/family, they like living in the moment. Hobbies include NASCAR or any form of racing, hockey, hunting, music and adaptive sports.
ROBERT G. SATTERWHITE
NATIONAL VICE PRESIDENT
Robert G. Satterwhite was named national vice president of Paralyzed Veterans of America in July 2018.
Robert entered the Army July 1975 and completed basic training at Fort Jackson, SC. His tours include Fort Hood, TX (3 tours), Korea, Fort Jackson, SC, Fort Stewart, GA, Germany, Operation Desert Storm, and Fort Knox, KY.
During his time in the Army, he served as a 13B Field Artillery Cannon Crewman, Section Chief, Drill Sergeant, PLDC Instructor, Gunnery Sergeant, Platoon Sergeant, Operation Sergeant, First Sergeant and Readiness Group Knox, and adviser to the National Guard for the state of KY, IN and GA.
Robert joined the Paralyzed Veterans of America in April 2007 and has served as the President of Paralyzed Veterans of America Mid-Atlantic Chapter. Prior to joining the executive committee, he served on many PVA National committees, including the Chapter Sports and Recreation Chapter (CSRAC), Planned Giving and Ad Hoc for Evaluation of Chapter Model committee.
Robert’s awards and decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Ribbon, NCO Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Southwest Asia Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Army Overseas Service Ribbon, Drill Sergeant Badge and the Distinguished Order of Saint Barbara Award.
Robert currently resides in Stem, North Carolina. He has three adult sons, Leo, Robert and Anthony.
AL KOVACH, JR.
IMMEDIATE PAST PRESIDENT
Al Kovach, Jr., of Coronado, CA, served as national president of Paralyzed Veterans of America (Paralyzed Veterans) from July 2014 until June 2017.
A member of the elite U.S. Navy SEALs, Kovach was paralyzed in a parachuting accident during a combat training exercise in 1991. Kovach has served at the highest levels of leadership within Paralyzed Veterans since 2007. He began service to the organization in 1991, at the chapter level as government relations director for the Cal-Diego Chapter in San Diego, and has since served on its board of directors.
In his role as national president, Kovach has delivered testimony before the U.S. House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees, is published monthly in Paraplegia News, and has appeared regularly on local (CA) and national media to discuss key veterans issues.
A lifelong athlete and a proponent of adaptive sports, Kovach is a two-time winner of the LA Marathon, a participant of the Paralympic Games, and has completed a 3,700-mile transcontinental triathlon.
As a recognized leader in veterans advocacy, Kovach is a sought-after advisor for civic, community and corporate partners who share his commitment to improving the quality of life for veterans and all people living with spinal cord injury or disease.
A native of Philadelphia, Kovach attended Indiana University (1983-1987), and was a member of their legendary swim team before joining the Navy in 1988. He and his wife, Magaly, reside in Coronado, CA.