Veterans Florida is a non-profit corporation created by the State of Florida to help veterans transition to civilian life. Veterans Florida provides tools for veterans to take advantage of the benefits of living and working in the Sunshine State.
We provide a gateway to veteran-friendly educational institutions and programs that can maximize veteran employment opportunities. Through our Career Services Program, we are able to connect veterans with employers who are eager to hire veterans for jobs that put their particular military skills to use. We can also assist veterans in creating a winning resume and preparing for job interviews. Employers can also apply to receive grant funds to hire and train veterans.
For those veterans who want to start their own business, we created the Veterans Florida Entrepreneurship Program. The Entrepreneurship Program provides all the knowledge needed to successfully launch and operate a company. As soon as their business is up and running, we also help them get certified for free with the Office of Supplier Diversity. We’re committed to providing one-on-one support and guidance at all stages of transition.
Joe Marino has been active in Florida Legislative policy
regarding military, Veteran and defense economic development issues
since 2002. He founded a trade association in 2010 for Florida
defense businesses working to improve their business climate in
Florida and to connect defense businesses for opportunities all across
the state. Joe is a West Point graduate and former US Army officer.
During his time in the Army, he was a commissioned Air Defense
Artillery Officer. Following his military service, Joe spent eight
years working for the State of Florida in various capacities. From
2008 to 2010, he was the Governor’s Office liaison to the
state’s military installations and communities. From 2006 to 2008, he
was Deputy Legislative Affairs Director for the Florida Department of
Veterans Affairs, advocating for Veterans issues and the departmental
budget. From 2002 to 2006, he also worked as legislative analyst on
the Florida House of Representative’s Military and Veterans Affairs
Prior to his time with the State of Florida, Joe was a recruiter
assisting separating military officers find employment with Fortune
Governance: Board of Directors
Appointed by Governor
After serving 23 year at Cox Target Media, including roles
as President of Valpak and Executive Vice President at Cox Target
Media, Jim Sampey founded CIHU (Can I Help You?), LLC, in
retirement, helping friends and business associates to take their
businesses to the next level. Jim is engaged as Founder, Advisor
and/or Investor to several organizations including Live Water
Sports, Sky Data Ventures, Sterling Payment Technologies, Valpak,
and Shinn and Company, savvycard.com, Prime Medical Apparel,
and Performance Health Applied Technologies. He also serves
on various Boards, including the Tampa Bay Partnership, University
of Dayton, SunTrust Bank, Now Up Foundation, Vision Integrated
Graphics and the Tampa Bay Defense Alliance.
Governor Rick Scott appointed Jim to the Board of Directors and his
peers selected him as the Board’s first Vice-Chair.
Warren R. “Rocky” McPherson
Rocky McPherson is recently retired from serving for 10 years as the Vice President, Military and Defense programs, Enterprise Florida, Inc.—a public/private agency responsible for economic development initiatives in Florida. He had previously served five years as the Executive Director, Florida Department of Veterans Affairs. He served on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Advisory Committee on Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom (OIF/OEF) Veterans and families.
Rocky is a Vietnam veteran who served in combat, both as an Infantry Officer and as a carrier based Naval Aviator flying the A6E. During his Marine career he held key leadership roles as the Deputy Director, Marine Personnel Management Division; Chief of Staff, III Marine Expeditionary Force, and as a Group Commander, Marine Aviation Training Group, NAS Whidbey Island.
He is a 1966 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, and holds a Master of Political Science degree from Auburn University. He is also a graduate of the National War College in Washington, DC. Rocky and his wife Connie reside in Yulee, Florida.
Mark Harden served in the U.S. Navy for thirty years and retired as
a Chief of Naval Operations Directed Master Chief. He currently
works as Director of the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society in
Pensacola, FL. His passion is working on programs that support
Veterans and Active Duty military personnel.
Mark is actively engaged in his community in a variety of ways. He
is the current Area President Gulf Coast for the Navy League of the
United States and is a National Director for that organization. He
co-founded the Pensacola Veteran Support Organization Network
(PVSON) which is a clearing house of over 40 veteran support
organizations that work together to solve local veteran/ military
needs and he is a board member of the Community Veterans Engagement
Board for NW Florida.
In other community activities he is a graduate and an active member
of the Leadership Pensacola Alumni Association where he previously
chaired the leadership program for Pensacola and has served as
President of the Alumni Assn and currently serves on the board.
Appointed by Senate
Tom Rice is the owner and chef of The Magnolia Grill of Ft. Walton
Beach, which he and his wife, Peggy, opened in 1996.In 2004, the
Magnolia Grill received Florida’s Good Neighbor Award from the
National Restaurant Association and was the Greater Ft. Walton
Beach Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business of the Year. In July
2007, Congressman Jeff Miller recognized Tom and Peggy for
humanitarian work in the Congressional Record of the 110th
Tom serves on numerous Boards, including the Emerald Coast Bridge
Authority, Emerald Coast Honor Flight, Northwest Florida Chapter
of the American Red Cross, Community Advisor for Covenant Hospice,
and he has served on the Fisher House of the Emerald Coast Board
for the past two years. He is a Life Member of the Veterans of
Foreign Wars and DAV 72.
Tom is a Veteran and retired as First Sgt. from the US Army. Tom
was appointed to the Board of Directors by former Senate President
Angela Drzewiecki is a consultant at Peebles, Smith & Matthews, a well-regarded government affairs firm in Tallahassee, Florida. Prior to joining Peebles, Smith & Matthews, she worked as a legislative consultant at Southern Strategy Group, where she cultivated a deep understanding of clients’ interests in active legislation and reinforced their positions on issues.
Lynda L. Weatherman, the first of two newly appointed board members, currently serves as the President and CEO of the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast. She is responsible for attracting new businesses and the retention of existing industry throughout the Space Coast. Previously, Weatherman has held leadership posts with the Florida Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, Gainesville Chamber of Commerce, and Marion County Economic Development Agency. In 2010, she was also selected to be a member of the Air Force Chief of Staff Civic Leader Program, serving as an advisor, key communicator, and advocate for the Air Force and providing ideas and feedback to the Secretary of the Air Force and Air Force Chief of Staff.
Appointed by House of Representatives
Robert M. Kirila
Robert Kirila is presently serving as the Executive Director for Your Grateful Nation and is focused on providing Special Operators the support needed to find their next great career in the private sector. Previously Robert was the Chief Operating Officer for DEFENSEWERX and guided the growth of disruptive innovation practices for the United States Air Force Research Laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base, the United States Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force and the Air Warfare Center at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. Rob also served as the Director of Military Affairs for Congressman Matt Gaetz, 1st Congressional District of Florida.
Serving as a Senior Leader in the last seven years of his 26 year career in the United States Army, Rob developed a unique portfolio of experience. In just the last decade, he led multi- national Special Operators in Afghanistan and Iraq, coordinated the largest special operations base realignment in the history of the Special Forces Regiment, acted as a principal strategy advisor to the Commanding General in the fight against ISIS, lectured at the Colombian Defense University on the ethics of Just War, and served in the United States State Department in Washington D.C. as a War College intern in the Western Hemisphere Bureau. After graduating from the University of Richmond, Robert was commissioned as an officer in the Infantry. After serving in the 7th Infantry Division Robert pursued more demanding and elite communities, starting first in the United Nations Command – Joint Security Area (PanMunJom, Korea) then the Rangers and finally in the Special Forces. For the last 7 years Robert was a Commander and senior Leader in the 7th Special Forces Group. Robert has served around the globe leading organizations varying in size from 12 to over 8,000 personnel. Over half of his 25 years in uniform have been spent directly leading operations. Most notably, three times in the last 20 years he led organizations in significant high-risk confidence building efforts between ethnic and religious antagonists in Afghanistan and throughout the Arabian Peninsula.
Robert holds a bachelor degree from the University of Richmond and masters degrees from Central Michigan University and the United States War College. Among his awards are the Legion of Merit, Distinguished Service Medals, the Bronze Star, and the Green Beret authorized by President John F. Kennedy. Robert and Chrissie, his wife of 20 years, have two children.
Jerry L. Neff
Brigadier General (Retired) Jerry L. Neff enlisted in the Illinois Army National Guard as a Private in May 1960. His initial assignment was that of a light weapons infantryman. He transferred to the Florida Army National Guard in September 1962. He graduated from the Florida National Guard Officer Candidate School in June 1964 and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant into the Field Artillery branch. He graduated from Excelsior College with a Bachelor of Science degree in liberal arts.
His military education includes the Field Artillery Officer Basic and Advanced Courses, the Army Command and General Staff College and the U. S. Army War College.
At the time of his retirement in June 1999, General Neff was the Deputy Commanding General, 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command, Orlando, Florida. His previous assignments included:
Commander, 164th Air Defense Artillery Brigade; Post Commander, Camp Blanding, Florida; Commander, 227th Field Artillery Brigade; Executive Officer, 53rd Infantry Brigade; Commander, 1st Battalion 116th Field Artillery; Commander, 2nd Battalion 116th Field Artillery.
He also held numerous staff positions including S-3 and Executive Officer while assigned to the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, Battalions of the 116th Field Artillery. Early in his officer career, he commanded Battery C, 1st Battalion 116th Field Artillery in Palmetto, Florida. General Neff’s decorations and awards include the Legion of Merit, The Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal (with oak leave cluster), Army Achievement Medal (with oak leave cluster), Humanitarian Service Medal (with Star), Florida Cross (with oak leaf cluster), Florida Distinguished Service Medal, Florida Commendation Medal (with oak leaf cluster). General Neff also has been awarded the Field Artillery Order of Saint Barbara and the Air Defense Artillery Ancient Order of Saint Barbara. He is a member of the Florida National Guard Officer Candidate School Hall of Fame.
General Neff is married to the former Judy Evans and they reside in Bradenton, Florida. They have one daughter, Teresa Neff Jackson, who resides in Fayetteville, Georgia, with her husband, Steve and their three children.
General Neff was a banker for 47 years and at the time of his retirement in 2009, he was the President of M&I Bank, Florida Region. He then served for two years as the Chairman of M & I Bank Advisory Board, Florida Region. He was named the Florida Bankers Association Banker of the Year in 2004 and was awarded the Excelsior College Alumni Achievement Award in 2008. He received the Outstanding Alumnus Award from the U.S. Army War College in 2009. In 2013, he received the Southwest Florida Council Boy Scouts of America “Good Scout” Distinguished Citizen Award. In 2014, he was named the Manatee County Veteran of the year. He is a Past Chairman of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, and serves as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Excelsior College. He also is a Past- President of the MOAA-Bradenton Chapter, and serves on the Kiwanis Club of Bradenton Foundation Board and Investment Committee.
Martin R. Steele
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and raised in Fayetteville, Arkansas, Lieutenant General Martin R. Steele enlisted in the Marine Corps in January 1965. He rose from private to three-star general, culminating his military career as the Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans, Policies, and Operations at Headquarters, US Marine Corps, in Washington. DC in August of 1999. A decorated combat veteran with 34-1/2 years of service, he is a recognized expert in the integration of all elements of national power (diplomatic, economic, informational, and military) with strategic military war plans and has served as an executive strategic planner/policy director in multiple theaters across Asia. His extraordinary career was chronicled as one of three principles in the award winning military biography Boys of ’67 by Charles Jones.
Upon his retirement from active duty in 1999, he served as President & CEO of the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum in New York City. Under his leadership, they adopted the mission statement of “Honor our heroes, educate the public, and inspire our youth about the price of freedom”. This creative branding strategy resonated with all audiences and was the early catalyst for the transformation of the Intrepid from just another New York City destination location to the near icon status it enjoys today among educators, historians, international visitors, and military veterans. Shortly after the attacks on September 11, 2001, General Steele invited the FBI to use the Intrepid to conduct their investigations. Within 48 hours, Intrepid was once again in service as the temporary headquarters for over 750 FBI agents.
General Steele also served as the Associate Vice President for Veterans Partnerships, the Executive Director of Military Partnerships, and Co-Chair of the Veterans Reintegration Steering Committee at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida. Additionally, General Steele was the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Steele Partners, Inc., a strategic advisory and leadership consulting company. He has led a philanthropic transition program assisting exiting Marines into private sector jobs throughout the country, at no cost to the Marine participants, the Marine Corps or to the companies that provide employment opportunities. In 2014, he was appointed to the Board of Directors of Florida is for Veterans, Inc., a not for profit, state legislated organization
designed to assist both Veterans and businesses throughout Florida in not only hiring Veterans but also developing entrepreneurship programs designed for veterans.
In 2015, he was appointed to the Congressionally mandated Commission on Care to undertake a comprehensive evaluation and assessment of access of veterans to health care from the Department of Veteran Affairs and strategically examine how best to organize the Veterans Health Administration, locate health care resources, and deliver healthcare to veterans during the next 20 years. The Commission was made up of 15 voting members selected by Congress and the President.
General Steele is a graduate of the University of Arkansas where he obtained a BA degree in History (’74) and was recognized as a Distinguished Graduate of the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences. He is a recipient of the 2013 Arkansas Alumni Award Citation of Distinguished Alumni which recognizes exceptional professional and personal achievement and extraordinary distinction in a chosen field. He also holds three Masters Degrees from Central Michigan University, Salve Regina College, and the Naval War College.
Married to the former Cynthia Bayliss of Little Rock, Arkansas, they are the parents of three adult children, and have three grandchildren. Their son, David, is a Colonel in the US Marine Corps and currently serves in the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force after three tours of combat in Afghanistan. General Steele serves proudly on several boards across the country to include: Fisher House Foundation, the Advisory Committee for the Call of Duty Endowment, Advisory Board for Veterans Advantage, and the University of Arkansas Veterans Resource and Information Center Board. He is also a Chairman Emeritus of the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation and a member of the Board of Advisors. He and Cindy reside in Tampa, Florida.
Read about the Florida laws relating to the creation of Veterans Florida, its operations, mission and programs.