Operation Welcome Home

our board

Board of Directors

Nicole K. Gerard is an Army Reserve Veteran from Chester, WV. She spent 10 years in the reserves and did multiple deployments including Iraq and Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, despite being the rank of only SGT, she was Brigade Internment/Resettlement Operations Non-Commissioned Officer in charge. She completed multiple instructors and leadership courses and spent most of her career teaching when she wasn’t deployed to a combat zone. In her spare time, she mentored young female soldiers and taught self-defense classes to help females feel safer on base and more aware of their surroundings. She taught classes on the military biometrics system, non-lethal, lethal weapons, IED Defeat, leadership, and more.

When not on military orders, Nicole worked in federal law enforcement. She started her career in the Federal Prison System and eventually became a Federal Police Officer.

She previously volunteered at the Disability Action Center in Fairmont, WV, with young adults with disabilities. She helped teach various classes that would better prepare them for a more independent life.

Currently, Nicole is a full-time Horticulture student at West Virginia University. She volunteers with the non-profit Old Hemlock Foundation helping with a continent-wide collaborative program on monitoring avian productivity and survivorship. This program analyzes demographic data provided by the banding of birds to provide critical information on the ecology, conservation, and management of North American land birds and the factors responsible for changes in their populations.  She also volunteers with the non-profit Avian Conservation Center of Appalachia whose mission is to conserve the region’s wild birds through research, education, and rehabilitation. She is also a member of the Cheat Lake Rotary Club and the American Legion.

In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her husband, going scuba diving, kayaking, hiking with their dogs, bird watching, or anything else that gets them outside in nature.

Bob Pirner, a Navy veteran, has spent 32 years in West Virginia working to help people with disabilities find independence.  First, he was the Development Officer at SteppingStones and led the organization from a rented room in Westover to a $1M facility in Mylan Park.    In June, 2009 after recovering from cancer, he joined PACE Enterprises as Director of Development and was a part of nearly doubling the size of the organization.

He is a co-founder of Operation Welcome Home and Miracle League Baseball.  Under his leadership, Morgantown built the second Miracle Field in the nation.  He served as the Executive Director of the West Virginia Association for Disability Employment from 2014 to 2022.  Bob has been a volunteer in several capacities for the Mylan Park Foundation. He is a leader in the Mountaineer Chapter of Business Networks International (BNI) and was part of the group’s recognition as one of the top 5% of 10,000 international affiliates.

Originally from the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota, Bob is one of 5,000 living fluent speakers of the Lakota Sioux language. Growing up in an isolated community that held on to traditional values, Bob learned a way of life that honors generosity and courage.  He shares that gift by teaching in the Native American Studies Department of WVU.  He is a frequent visitor to area schools to share Lakota culture with youth.

With a colleague, Bob has written two books about non-profit leadership, “Walking in Balance” and “Leading with Balance.”  Using the lessons from that book, he has been a presenter at state and national conferences sharing his expertise with other nonprofit leaders. He has been a mentor to several emerging leaders and his advice is frequently sought.

His Lakota mentors taught him to see the good in everyone; even when it’s hard to see. That has led him to work hard on disability issues, youth development, Native American causes, economic development, and community organizing.

Randy Williams has been in the banking industry since 1996. He has been a part of the United Bank franchise for more than 20 years and has been the Market President of the Morgantown market for the past 7 years. He and his wife Megan are long-time residents of Morgantown with their four children, Brody, Ireland, Kiley, and Connor.

Randy received both a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Business Administration from WVU. He is a member of the Board of Directors for both WVU Hospitals and West Virginia University Health System, a member of The Leadership Council for WVU Medicine Childrens, a member of The Morgantown Area Partnership Board, Treasurer of the Board for Mon County Youth Service Center, Vice President of the Board and Finance Committee Chair for Operation Welcome Home and Vice President of the Board for WV Sober Living. Randy and Megan share a strong Christian faith and believe in community fellowship.

Bill currently serves as the Vice President of Operations for the Appalachian Life enrichment Counseling Center in Fairmont WV, where he oversees the daily operations and financial aspects of a growing mental health practice owned and operated by his wife Dr. Judith Black.

Previously Bill served as the Assistant Vice President for the WVU Critical Care and Trauma Institute; Safety and Emergency Management at WVU Medicine in Morgantown. In addition to his experience as a healthcare executive and leader, Bill is a retired US Army, Military Police Officer (Colonel) who served for over 30 years and has a wealth of operational, leadership and organizational development experience.

Bill served in countless leadership roles in the US Army including Battalion Commander, Chief of Operations for the Office of the Provost Marshal General and as the Senior Military Liaison for the Drug Enforcement Administration. Bill participated in numerous operational deployments including 3 combat tours, 2 of those in Afghanistan, serving as the US Forces Provost Marshal and later as the Senior Advisor to the Afghan Minister of Interior. Bill’s recent volunteer activities include the WVU Medicine Vet to Vet program as well as serving with the No One Dies Alone (NODA) program as a vigil member and as a coordinator. Bill currently serves as a board member and treasurer for the Appalachian Trauma and Resiliency Center ATRC, which provides counseling support and training to First Responders and Veterans in need.

Bill’s education includes a BS in Criminal Justice from Fairmont State University and a master’s
degree in National Security and Strategic Studies from the US Naval War College. Bill currently lives in Fairmont, WV and is married to Dr. Jude Black and they have 3 adult children.

Serving as the Director of the Center for Veteran, Military and Family Programs at West Virginia University, retired US Army Lieutenant Colonel Jerry Wood provides the strategic vision and leadership for the University’s Veteran and Military programs with an emphasis on developing veteran/military specific education programs and research.

A 1993 distinguished military graduate of the WVU Army ROTC Battalion, Jerry served more than 30 years of active duty in the United States Army, enlisting in 1984 as a musician and retiring in 2017 as a human resources officer. Over the course of his career, he served at every level of the Department of Defense including Department of the Army Staff and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Jerry deployed to South Korea, Croatia/Bosnia, and Iraq, held three commands and served over seven years in multiservice/NATO assignments. He is a graduate of the Army Command and General Staff College, holds a Master Certificate in Organizational Leadership from Villanova University, a Bachelor of Science in Management from Salem International University, and is Lean Six Sigma Green Belt certified.

Jerry concluded his career representing the Department of the Army as the Southeast Regional Director for the Army’s Soldier for Life program developing corporate, government, higher education, not-for-profit, and community action Veteran initiatives throughout the southeastern United States. In this role, he specialized in fostering collaborative efforts at the local, state, regional and national levels leading to improved delivery, efficiency, and effectiveness of services for our transitioning Soldiers, Veterans and their families.
A Parkersburg native, Jerry and his wife Leslie retired to Morgantown, West Virginia to pursue their two passions: serving Veterans and their families and working in whatever capacity to better their beloved home state. To that end, Jerry serves as a member of the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center Advisory Council; Operation Welcome Home of West Virginia Board of Directors; Human Animal Bond/Hearts of Gold Service Dogs Advisory Council; West Virginia Department of Agriculture Veteran Advisory Board; Co-Chair of the West Virginia Retired Military Council; and as a member of the Chief of Staff of the Army’s Retired Soldier Council. He is a life member of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Military Officers Association of America, and volunteers annually as a Veteran cottage counselor with the American Legion Mountaineer Boys State program which promotes civic involvement, leadership, and Americanism.

Carl Cannon is a retired Army Officer who has lived in Morgantown since September 2001. Since arriving in Morgantown he has been extremely active in our community. His contributions to the community resulted in him being selected by the Dominion Post Newspaper as one of the Community’s 100 Most Influential People in 2010. Also in 2010 he was honored as the State of West Virginia Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Volunteer of the year.

In 2015 he was the recipient of the Jefferson Award and represented the State in Washington DC for the national competition. He is a Past President of the Northeast West Virginia Chapter of American Red Cross. Additionally, he serves on the Board of Directors of Operation Welcome Home and the Monongalia County Youth Service Center. He is a 2011 graduate of The Leadership Monongalia Program and a 2014 graduate of Leadership West Virginia. Carl has been married for more than 54 years to Dr. Mary L. Cannon, a Retired Physician from West Virginia University Hospital.

Lee Ann Haley is a U.S. Army Combat Veteran from Keyser, WV.  She held numerous leadership positions worldwide as an Army Aviation Officer piloting the UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopter.  She was a Paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division’s Combat Aviation Brigade where she deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.  She also supported rescue efforts after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, LA.  Lee Ann’s highest military awards and decorations include the Air Medal and the Combat Action Badge. 

Lee Ann has continued her federal service with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), as a Congressional Liaison on Capitol Hill, a Branch Chief at the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA) in Washington, DC, and Administrative Officer with the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) in Clarksburg, West Virginia. She is currently a Senior Advisor at the Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), in Morgantown, WV.

Some of Lee Ann’s public accolades include being an alumna of the Leadership West Virginia Class of 2021 and receiving induction into West Virginia Executive (WVE) magazine’s “Young Guns” Class of 2021.  She was honored as one of West Virginia’s “Wonder Women” in the September/October 2015 issue of West Virginia Focus Magazine. Lee Ann delivered remarks at the West Virginia University (WVU) Distinguished Alumni Career Reception and the WVU Presidential Inauguration Ceremony. She was an honored speaker in Washington, DC, as a representative of the 82nd Airborne Division for Veteran’s Day during the “Women of the Airborne” wreath laying ceremony.  Her speech is permanently quoted on display at the national Women in Military Service for America Memorial. 

Lee Ann is an active supporter of initiatives for Veterans in West Virginia.  She is a Board of Directives member for Operation Welcome Home, dedicated to helping veterans and their families overcome barriers to employment and providing them with the knowledge and resources needed to secure a fulfilling position in the civilian workforce. She also serves as Vice-President of the Board of Directors for the newly formed Friends of WVU Army ROTC (FOAR) association, devoted to supporting future Army leaders and engaging with former graduates and supporters of WVU’s veteran and military community.

Lee Ann resides in Morgantown, WV, with her husband and fellow veteran, Jeremy Haley, and her daughters, Lyla (11) and Lydia (5). She also enjoys running and spending time outdoors with her family, especially kayaking on the Greenbrier River in southern West Virginia.

Larry A. Reseter is a native of Morgantown.  He graduated from West Virginia Wesleyan College in 1971 and retired from the US Air Force as a Colonel in 2001, after a 30-year career in Fighter Operations.  He later held contracting positions in Hawaii and Washington DC as a senior analyst for developing joint plans and operations. He is a Rotarian and board member of Operation Welcome Home and the Pines Country Club. Larry is married to Beth Callahan from Point Marion, Pa. and has a daughter Megan, Interior Designer in Portland, Or. and son Tyler, an attorney in Morgantown.

Kent Leonhardt began his service to the State of West Virginia in 2014when he was elected to the West Virginia State Senate to serve the people of the 2nd Senatorial District. The district, at the time, was one of the largest and most rural in West Virginia. It contained parts of or all of the following counties: Marshall, Wetzel, Gilmer, Marion, Monongalia, Tyler, Doddridge, Calhoun, and Ritchie. In 2016, he was elected as the West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture and is currently in his second term.

Kent Leonhardt is a longtime farmer who began his passion for the industry at a very young age while still serving in the United States Marine Corps. In the middle of his military career, he bought a farm near Blacksville, WV that had sat abandoned for almost 30 years. The farm, where he still lives today, was purchased in 1982, and started cultivating crops and raising livestock in 1997. For twenty years, Kent, with the help of his wife Shirley, raised sheep, cattle and goats and sold hay when there was a surplus available.

Kent received his formal education at the University of Missouri, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Wildlife Management. While earning his degree, he took a variety of courses covering issues pertinent to agriculture as well as natural resources and environmental protection. Kent furthered his education by earning a Master’s in Business Management from Central Michigan University.

Besides earning post-secondary degrees, Kent served in the United States Marine Corps for 20 years and retired at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 1996. During that time, he served on multiple joint service assignments leading men and women in war and peace. Throughout his service, Kent received a variety of decorations including: Legion of Merit, Combat Action Ribbon and 8 other personal decorations.

Together, Kent and Shirley have three sons and six grandchildren. Kent is a member of the Monongalia County Farm Bureau, past president of the Southern Association of State Departments of Agriculture, President of the Agriculture and Forestry Hall of Fame, and on the board of Directors for Operation Welcome Home.  He is a life member of both the Marine Corps League and The American Legion.



Brandon served as a Signal Corps soldier in the US Army – MOS 25R. He graduated from the Defense Information School at Fort Meade, MD, and deployed with his Reserve unit to Iraq where he served as a broadcast communications technician for the Multi-National Force-Iraq Headquarters and the US Embassy in Baghdad. Upon redeployment, Brandon served as a non-commissioned officer in charge of his unit’s broadcast engineering section where he led a team of soldiers supporting exercises at the US Army War College, the National Scout Jamboree, the Joint Service Open House, and others. Among Brandon’s military decorations are the Joint Service Achievement Medal and the Iraq Campaign Medal. Sergeant Gregory medically retired after 10 years of service. 

Brandon went on to earn his BA from West Virginia University and began working for the US Department of Veterans Affairs as a public affairs professional shortly thereafter. He formed numerous community relationships throughout the tri-state area, leading to thousands of veterans receiving the medical and welfare assistance they needed. Brandon’s outreach efforts focused on the mental health of service members, veterans, and their families (SMVF).

Brandon joined the Operation Welcome Home board of directors in January 2020 and helps direct the organization’s mission, vision, and values as a member of the board’s programming committee. Brandon continues to connect veterans and organizations serving the SMVF population through his work with the Governor’s Challenge – a nationwide suicide prevention initiative. He advocates for members of the SMVF population as a member of the WV Traumatic Brain Injury Advisory Board, as a Warrior Leader with the Wounded Warrior Project, and as a volunteer at WVU Medicine’s Vet to Vet program visiting veterans who are admitted at Ruby Memorial Hospital. 

Brandon now works as a veterans’ initiatives consultant for GovCIO, a consulting firm based in Fairfax, VA. He is also pursuing a Masters in Health Administration from the WVU School of Public Health. Brandon calls Morgantown his home where he lives with his partner Arty and their dog Renegade.

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Sarah M. Smith is a native of Kingwood, WV, in Preston County. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from the University of Kentucky and a Master’s in Arts in Communication Studies from West Virginia University. 

Sarah is a registered dietitian, and for the first seven years of her career at West Virginia University Hospital (WVUH)-Ruby Memorial, she worked at the bedside as a clinical dietitian.

Since 2016, she has been working as a Clinical Practice Model Coordinator, training multiple clinicians on the use of evidence based, individualized patient care plans.  She provides training throughout the WVU Medicine Health System, the state’s largest health system and largest private employer, comprised of 17 hospitals.

In 2022, Sarah was voted Interprofessional Colleague of the Year by WVUH nursing leadership. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she was re-assigned multiple times to work in various roles. At Ruby Memorial, she worked with hospital leadership to streamline access points and determine a process for visitor check-in.  During different COVID surges, she was re-assigned into a nursing assistant role in the Medical Intensive Care Unit, and later as a COVID test site supervisor.

Sarah says that through the re-assignments, she drew on the experience of adaptation and resiliency that she learned in the United States Air Force Reserves where she served as a medic from 2001-2007 with the 445th Aeromedical Staging Squadron at Wright Patterson Air Force Base.

In her free time, she enjoys spending time with family and friends on Cheat Lake and the Rail Trails, and working with her husband re-storing their old, 1993 Toyota Winnebago Warrior. She also visits veteran patients at Ruby through the Veteran-to-Veteran volunteer program and continues to partner and seek support from veteran groups in the community.

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