Veterans Advisory Board

Veterans Advisory Board

Attendees at a veteran advisory board meeting

The NYC Veterans Advisory Board (VAB) functions through the contributions of 13 veterans who have been appointed to three-year terms by either the Mayor or the Speaker of the New York City Council. The members represent the five Boroughs of New York City.
The VAB's main activities include:

  • Advise the New York City Department of Veterans' Services on all matters concerning veterans
  • Meet at least quarterly
  • Keep records of all deliberations
  • Determine its own rules of procedure
  • Submit annual reports for the Mayor and the Speaker of the New York City Council
  • One of the VAB's signature initiatives was its successful advocacy resulting in the "2008 Veteran Liaison Requirement." This initiative requires all New York City agencies to identify a senior member responsible for coordination with DVS. Having these coordinators helps facilitate accurate information-sharing and timely problem-solving on behalf of New York City Veterans and employees.

Through regular meetings, this diverse group of New York City veterans ensures the lines of communication are maintained and cultivates an active community.

2024 Veteran Advisory Board Public Sessions

Wednesday, February 28th (Manhattan)

Wednesday, April 17th (Queens)

Wednesday, June 12th (Staten Island)

Wednesday, September 12th (Bronx)

Wednesday, October 30th (Brooklyn)

All Sessions begin at 6pm sharp and are hybrid. For those interested in attending in-person, respective locations will be shared closer to the session date. For those choosing to attend via zoom, follow the link below.
Link to Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 861 1325 9398
Passcode: 355418
Dial in: (646) 558-8656

All Veterans, their family members and caregivers are encouraged to attend!

If you are an organization that provides services that can assist NYC Veterans and their families, please contact the VAB to publicly share information about your organization. If you have a question that you want answered at the public session, please use this Email:

Additional information about the NYC Veterans Advisory Board:

Click a topic, or press the enter key on a topic, to reveal its answer.



Mayor's Appointments

  • Mercedes Elias: Mercedes is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, having served for over nine years on active duty. She completed tours in Quantico, Virginia, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Okinawa, Japan, Camp Pendleton, California, and Garden City, New York. She is a combat veteran and served in Afghanistan from 2011 to 2012. After leaving the military, Mercedes attended Columbia University where she obtained her Advanced Business Certification. Mercedes currently serves as the Head of Veteran Engagement at AmeriVet Securities, a veteran-owned boutique investment bank. She is actively involved with numerous veterans' organizations throughout New York City and its surrounding areas. Mercedes represents Queens.

  • Paul Dietrich: Colonel Paul H. Dietrich (retired) served as an officer and enlisted member of the United States Army Reserve for over 34 years, retiring from active service in July of 2009. He commanded at both the company and the brigade level. He served overseas tours of active duty in Belgium, Germany, Japan, South Korea, as well as two consecutive tours of combat duty in Iraq. He served on the staff of George W. Casey Jr. and General David Petraeus where his duties included the protection and rehabilitation of the oil and electric infrastructure in Iraq. Paul's awards include the Bronze Star, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, two Meritorious unit awards, six Meritorious Service Medals, the Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Medal, and the Defense of Korea Medal. Paul lives on Staten Island with his wife of more than forty years and has two children and two grandchildren. Paul represents Staten Island.

  • Andrew D. Walcott: Andrew D. Walcott, ESQ, CPA is the owner and operator of Fusion East Restaurant located in the East New York section of Brooklyn. Fusion East restaurant is a full-service upscale Caribbean and Soul Food restaurant with an Afro-Fusion menu that has been featured on Good Day New York, News 12 Brooklyn, Caribbean and Life, and the Amsterdam News. The restaurant opened for business in 2015 and was awarded its first New York State contract in 2017. Andrew is a product of East New York, Brooklyn, and the local public schools. He is a licensed attorney, Certified Public Accountant, and Air Force veteran. In addition, he has served on his local Community Board for 20 years and formerly taught at his alma mater Brooklyn College for 10 years. Andrew began his career as a staff accountant at a local accounting firm and moved up the ranks continuously in his career. At various times in his career, he has served as Chief Financial Officer and General Counsel for a national recruiting company and Chief Auditor for the USA operations of a foreign investment bank. Andrew also had a private law and CPA practice for many years whereby he provided legal and accounting services throughout the Brooklyn community. Andrew holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from Brooklyn College, a Master of Business Administration degree from Pace University and Fordham University School of Law.

  • Linda Ollis: Linda Ollis was born in Manhattan and raised in Brooklyn. In 1971, she and her husband Bob, a Vietnam Veteran, moved to Staten Island and started a family. They are parents to Kimberly, Kelly, and Michael. Linda is a Gold Star Mother to Michael Ollis, whom New York City's newest Staten Island Ferry is named after. After the death of Michael while serving during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, Bob and Linda founded the Staff Sergeant Michael Ollis Freedom Foundation. Its mission is to honor their son's memory and legacy and to assist Veterans in need. Linda is the Secretary-Treasurer of the Foundation. She is also an active member with the VFW Auxiliary. Linda is a graduate of Hunter College/Bellevue School of Nursing. After a 43-year career as a nurse, she retired seven years ago. Linda enjoys volunteering at Staten Island University Hospital/Northwell, traveling, and spending time with her five grandchildren.

  • Marisa Estrella: Marisa is a Jersey City native with Dominican roots, who transitioned from humble beginnings to a distinguished military career as a chaplain assistant in the U.S. Army. It was during her time in the service that she honed her resilience, kindness and compassion. Following her service, she thrived in diverse roles including entrepreneur and legal assistant, ultimately founding Worldwide Veterans and Family Services, Inc. in 2015. Despite personal and professional challenges, Marisa's unwavering dedication to supporting homeless veterans and their families, both in the U.S. and the Dominican Republic, stands as a testament to her strength and empathy.

  • Joshua Sooklal Joshua Sooklal is a United States Navy Veteran, who served five years active duty as a Hospital Corpsman. Born in Trinidad and Tobago, he immigrated to Queens, NY where he joined the Navy. Serving from 2011-2016 on active duty, Joshua took a liking to the Hospital Corpsman role and earned the title of “doc” to the United States Marine Corps. After serving and deploying to the Middle East in 2015, "Doc Sook"- as he was called, returned to NYC and has been a drilling reservist. He has also been involved in the Veteran space as a student, advocate, and a Military and Veterans Program Manager for Hope For The Warriors – a national non-profit devoted to providing and instilling HOPE within the Warrior community. As a recent appointee, Joshua seeks to embrace his Hospital Corpsman Creed with a line he held of high regard when performing his duties while serving, “I dedicate my heart, mind, and strength to the work before me.”

  • Diego Rubio Diego Rubio is a Combat Veteran and served as an officer in the US Army. He started his career enlisting at an early age later earning his commission as a US Army Officer from the Early Commissioning Program–an accelerated and selective program, making him one of the youngest Army Officers in the US Army at the time. After his active-duty career he continued his military service in the National Guard, until 2019. While in the National Guard, he began his civilian career at EY, where he quickly rose through the ranks and became a pivotal person in the development and enhancement of the EY Veterans Network. Diego took the organization’s Veterans network to new heights. By increasing focus on recruiting, retention, and Veteran community engagement, his efforts have contributed to EY being regarded as one of the top military employers in recent years. After his career at EY, he was a Senior Vice President at Wells Fargo, where he co-chaired the Veterans Enterprise Resource Group and continued to support Veteran initiatives internally as well in the community. Currently, Diego is an executive at Morgan Stanley and helps lead and support various Veteran initiatives within the bank. He has received accolades and recognition for his efforts within the Veteran community, including being named Crains Magazine’s 40 under 40 most influential Veteran executives, and the first ever Hearts of Oak Award.

Speaker's Appointments

  • Wendy McClinton: Wendy Charece McClinton serves as Chair of the Veterans Advisory Boardand and represents Brooklyn. She served in the United States Army for a decade. This decorated Veteran served during the Desert Storm Persian Gulf Era. Wendy is an administrator with Black Veterans for Social Justice, Inc, and the National Association for Black Veterans. McClinton is the New York State Commander of the National Association of Black Veterans (NABVETS). While in the United States Army, McClinton was assigned to the United States Army Information Systems Command, Pentagon, Washington DC, the 118th Detachment Postal Unit, Pusan, Korea, and the 25th Infantry Division Light Mechanized, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. McClinton is a graduate of the United States Army Logistical Management College, and she holds a BA in Theology from the Andersonville Baptist Seminary, and a Masters of Arts in Theology from the Rehoboth Theological Institute in Brooklyn, NY.

  • John Rowan: John Rowan represents Queens on the Veterans Advisory Board. Rowan served in the United States Air Force, where he was a linguist in the Air Force's 6990 Security Squadron in Vietnam and at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa. Rowan has served as the National President of Vietnam Veterans of America since 2005 and has been active with VVA since the organization's inception in 1978. A founding member and the first president of VVA Chapter 32 in Queens, New York, he has served as the chairman of VVA's Conference of State Council Presidents, for three terms on the organization's Board of Directors, and as president of VVA's New York State Council. Prior to his election as National President, Rowan served as a VVA veterans' service representative in New York City. Rowan retired from city service as an investigator with the City of New York's Comptroller's Office. He holds a B.A. in political science from Queens College and a Master's Degree in Urban Affairs from Hunter College.

  • Patricia LaBorda Patricia LaBorda was born in the Bronx, and raised in Northern Virginia. In 2004 she joined the Army Reserve, while an undergraduate student at Virginia Commonwealth University. She deployed to Iraq in 2007, after graduating took an assignment at the Pentagon, supporting Army G-3,5,7. After her assignment at the Pentagon, she moved back to New York City and attended Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs. While at Columbia Patricia had the opportunity to take courses under professor John Liu, New York State Senator and the late Mayor David Dinkins, who both served as inspiring mentors. After graduate school Patricia worked in finance at Barclays in New York and London, during this time she became active in the Veteran community in finance, and helped co-found women veterans on Wall Street. Outside of work Patricia enjoys spending time with family throughout the east coast, in Tampa, Northern Virginia and New York.

  • Brendan Gibbons Brendan Gibbons is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served for over four years, attaining the rank of Sergeant. During his time in service, he was involved in multiple deployments and operations, such as Operation Joint Guard in Bosnia and Operation Joint Guardian in Kosovo. He has received numerous military commendations for his service, including Two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, Combat Action Ribbon, Navy Unit Commendation, Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation, Kosovo Campaign Medal, and Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal. Brendan has been an active member of the VFW for over twenty years and currently holds the position of Junior Vice Commander for District One, which covers Brooklyn and Queens. Additionally, he serves as the Commander of Haspel-Staab VFW Post 551 in Middle Village, Queens. Brendan is also a member of American Legion Post 0460, Catholic War Veterans Post 870, PLAV Frank Kowalinski Post 4, and The United Veterans & Fraternal Organizations of Maspeth. In 2002, Brendan joined the NYPD and retired as a detective in 2020. Brendan represents Queens.

  • Ryan Graham Ryan Graham is an Air Force and Iraq War Veteran from Queens, New York. Enlisting after the 9/11 terror attacks, Ryan’s military service spanned six years from the 52nd Fighter Wing in Germany, working within the A4 directorate of the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) headquarters at Hurlburt Field, Florida, the Logistics Support Center under Air Combat Command (ACC) headquarters at Langley AFB, Virginia, as well as deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom to Camp Sather, Baghdad International Airport. Since coming home, Ryan's broad experience includes working within the Fortune 500 and Aerospace industries as a Supply Chain Management professional, and has been active in the Veteran community and the VFW. Among his various roles, Ryan served as the Queens County Council VFW Commander from 2014 to 2018, representing 2,000 members throughout 20 Posts, and currently serves through policy initiatives as the Chairman of the Legislative Committee for District 1, as well as the Vice Chairman for Legislative Affairs for the Department of New York VFW. Locally, Ryan is the Commander of the Flanders Field VFW Post 150 in Corona, serves on the Veterans Advisory Council for Queens DA Melinda Katz, and served on Queens Community Board 10. Ryan holds a Bachelor of Science degree from St. John's University, and an MBA from Syracuse University.

VAB Member Borough Representation & Contact Info

  • Todd Haskins (Manhattan)

  • John Rowan (Queens)

  • Wendy McClinton (Brooklyn)

  • Jennifer Kamrowski

  • Patricia LaBorda

  • Linda Ollis

  • Mercedes Elias

  • Ryan Graham

  • Brendan Gibbons

  • Paul Dietrich

Minutes and Videos

Reports and Publications