I would like to take a minute to introduce myself; My name is Anthony Powell; I am a Vietnam Veteran and a Paralyzed Vet. I am honored to be appointed interim President for the Vaughan Chapter. My main job will be leading the Board of Directors and working closely with the membership and being a voice for our members, especially at Hines VA Hospital. I will do my best to advocate for you and to learn everything that I need to become more knowledgeable and perform my duties in the best possible way. Hope to meet you in person at our upcoming events.
Vice-President, Ladies of Vaughan Chair
With a career Army father, the United States Army was a natural choice for Cheryl Gerdes. Of her decision to join the military, Gerdes says, “I was steered, pretty much, by my dad; he had done 30 years in the Army. Three wars. He was an Army guy. But, it was also coupled with the opportunity to find money for college.”
Gerdes served in the United States Army from 1989 to 1996 and is a veteran of the Persian Gulf War. As a young lieutenant, Gerdes received vaccinations as a standard part of her deployment but was also one of the almost 150,000 US troops to receive immunization against Anthrax, rumored to be weaponized by Iraq’s Saddam Hussein.
Gerdes recounts, “They believed Saddam Hussein would possibly employ a nerve agent, so they decided to immunize us against nerve agent. And in so doing, I ingested a nerve agent. That and I was exposed to some things, I believe, when I was there. And from that, years later, things began to happen, and I was ultimately diagnosed with MS.”
Read More about Cheryl's Journey here
I was injured in 1964 paralyze from the neck down injury levels C5, C6, and C7. Fast forward, to the 1980s was the first time I was treated in a VA hospital. On my hospital's first visit, I met a Paralyzed Veterans of American Service Officer. That day my whole life changed; I already with an undergrad degree, in business administration majoring in accounting, and working on an MBA degree in finance and computer resource management. I was introduced to the Paralyzed Veterans of America and began volunteering my service as a member along with participating in various activities provided to members.
In attendance, at my very first veterans wheelchair games, I was an eyewitness as a quadriplegic father and son had a bonding experience. The veteran participating in the wheelchair swallow came in dead last however his son ran and hugged him as if he had finished first.
I began to cry because I realize at that moment what PVA is doing for the emotional and spiritual well-being of its membership. Sports and recreation are just one area orchestrated by PVA facilitating a full range of life experiences for spinal cord-injured veterans. The greatest of which is the opportunity to serve and to meet your heroes, to volunteer and work as part of the solution. Finally meeting your peers facilitates self-identity and promotes self-esteem.
My name is Dennis Scanlan, and I am a Marine Corp Veteran, and Vietnam served. I am honored to be appointed Secretary for the Vaughan Chapter. My main job will be assisting the officers and board of directors on my tasks and taking minutes at our monthly board of directors' meetings. I will do my best to meet the expectations of the board. I will do my best to perform my duties in the best possible way. I encourage all of you to attend our upcoming events thought-out the year and take the opportunity this great organization offers.
PVA National Vice President
“The wonderful programs PVA made available enabled me to gain physical independence.”
Josue Cordova is a motivator, leader, and proud U.S. Air Force Veteran. He enlisted at age 17, inspired by family members who served before him, especially his grandfather, a U.S. Army Veteran who served during WWII in the Pacific.
Cordova completed basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. He stayed there for tech school training and became certified as a 2T131 Vehicle/Operator Dispatcher Apprentice. He drove and qualified on everything from vehicle sedans to 20-ton wreckers and semi-tractor-trailers.
He was introduced to PVA shortly after a car accident that left him a T10-T12 complete paraplegic. A PVA national service officer rolled into his room and told him about all the incredible benefits and opportunities available to him and his family, despite the terrible accident. Cordova became a Vaughan Chapter member and is grateful that the organization is there for him when he was the sole caretaker of his daughter and autistic son.
“PVA was an incredible support to me, making sure my rights and benefits were taken care of even when I was a scared 24-year-old, divorced single dad raising a daughter and a severely autistic son,” Cordova says.
When the timing was right, Cordova began eagerly serving PVA first as a member of the Board of Directors, then subsequently as Vaughan Chapter President and National Director. He has participated in advocacy and legislation on behalf of the chapter, saying, “Lobbying for not only paralyzed Veterans but for the disabled community has become a passion for me. We need to continue to have a voice on Capitol Hill.”
Cordova has served on the Field Advisory Committee, Ad Hoc Committee, Investigative Committee, and Finance Committee.
He has also been very active in wheelchair sports and other activities. He has attended many different National Veterans Wheelchair Games, has gone downhill skiing, and enjoys traveling softball, trapshooting, sporting clays, and Battle Buddy 3-gun shots. He is also a passionate compound bow and shotgun hunter. His favorite newfound sporting outlet is wheelchair curling.
Cordova was re-elected national vice president of PVA in May 2022 during the organization’s 76th Annual Convention, to begin a new, one-year term on July 1, 2022. He is passionate about PVA’s mission and believes every member’s voice should be heard through active, thriving chapters.
“I intend to lead with service, with a nod and respect to our PVA forefathers who paved the way – but with our eyes on the future,” says Cordova.
Josue and his wife Veronica have been married since 2011, and together they have four adult children, three daughters, a son, and four grandchildren. They enjoy fishing, riding their Harley motorcycle, traveling, and spoiling their grandkids.
Board of Directors
I'm proud to say that I am a United States Navy Veteran of the Vietnam era. After an honorable discharge, I was fortunate in my employment within a property management and development firm. I started as an hourly employee, and my final position was as a director at the corporate level. After some time, a condition identified my health issues directly related to the spinal cord disease of Multiple Sclerosis. This diagnosis led me back to the VA healthcare system. Paralyzed Veterans of America introduced themselves to me and how they could contribute to my future. My eyes opened to the fact that I was not alone in my challenge of being recognized and active. Through simple networking, I found the support to be able to participate in national wheelchair games, invitational bowling tournaments, poker tournaments, and general PVA group outings. These interactions triggered something in me, and I became a resource as a VPVA board member to support the Vaughan Chapter's direction, development, and growth.
MS Committee Chair
I served in the Army a lifetime ago, and gratefully attribute my career success to that humbling start as an E1. I earned an AA at Midland Technical College in Columbia, SC, when I got out and a BS in an accelerated program years later at John Brown University while working full-time. I have had a broad career that spans from administration to supply chain.
I am most proud of raising my awesome kids, who convinced me to move near them here in Chicagoland when I retired from my last position as a buyer in Orlando. My Veteran colleagues in Florida urged me to pursue benefits at the VA. I met a service officer who explained that a Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis makes me eligible for membership in Paralyzed Veterans of America. He then encouraged me to attend a golf tournament, where I met several volunteers and members of the Central FL PVA. Once I relocated to Chicagoland and transferred my membership, our former chapter President Josue Cordova reached out to introduce himself and to see how Vaughan could help me. This social network has shown me how much we all have in common and are not alone. Pure and blessed, my friends. Please do not hesitate to ask for help.
Advocacy and Legislation
Director of Sports & Recreation
"Shared experiences are the undeniable threads
that forge Veterans with disabilities together."
Keith Cooper has a graduate degree in physical education with an emphasis on adaptive physical education from Northern Illinois University. He has been a PVA member since 1995, is a 2-time National Intercollegiate wheelchair basketball champion, and is a former senior subject matter expert for the DOD Military Adaptive Sports Program (MASP). Keith is managing the grant lifecycle of the VA Grant for Adaptive Sports Programs for Disabled Veterans and Disabled Members of the Armed Forces for the Vaughan chapter, along with event planning and fundraising. Keith believes and is proof positive that adaptive sports can increase the quality of life and lower risk.
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