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Board of Directors
Gary B. Lawson, Chairman of the Board
Gary Lawson received a J.D. from St. John's University School of Law in 1970 and an LL.M in Tax from New York University Law School in 1974 He is the father of two boys, ages 29 and 17.
Selected as a Texas Super Lawyer by Texas Monthly and Law & Politics magazines in 2007, Gary is the author of numerous legal articles and is a frequent speaker before such groups as the National League of Cities, Guns & Hoses and the State Bar of Texas. He has also served as an expert witness before the U.S. Congress on pension and health matters.
Gary's affiliations include Founding Board Member of Medisend International 1989 and today is a member of its Advisory Board, Going Home With America’s Huey 091- Board Member 2003-2005 and America's Huey 091 Foundation – Board Member 2007- present.
"There is no more important job any of us undertake than becoming a parent.
The men and women of our Armed Forces who defend our nation, risk their lives in service to our country and our country's allies, and those who are parents, knowingly and bravely place in jeopardy not only their own lives, but risk not being there to help their children grow, mature and enjoy that process.
Now I have been given the opportunity to serve on the Snowball Express board and to help it to provide a measure of love and appreciation, to help create new memories of honor and joy for the children of our fallen heroes, children who otherwise are too quickly forgotten. Please join us in providing all Americans a way to say ‘thanks’ to these children."
Francis X.(Buck) Kern, Executive Director & Secretary
Prior to joining Snowball Express full time as Executive Director, Francis X. Kern “Buck” was Director of Operations for Neiman Marcus in Dallas, Texas and was responsible for leading the support operations for the company’s Flagship store, Corporate Executive offices, and the Company’s Buying and Planning Organization. He also serves as Vice President, Board of Directors for the Neiman Marcus Employee's Federal Credit Union.
Buck has more than 30 years of executive management experience with extensive experience in retail operations, Corporate Loss Prevention/Security, and remodel operations. He has worked for Neiman Marcus for the past 17 years. Prior to working for Neiman Marcus, Buck was employed by Bullock’s Department stores and Macy’s in Los Angeles, where he held store and corporate management positions in both Operations and Loss Prevention.
Career highlights include: In 2007, Buck was selected to receive Neiman Marcus’ most prestigious award, the “NM BEST” award. This honor is awarded to a very select few individuals nationwide who exemplify high standards and professional excellence.
While working for Bullock’s Department stores in Los Angeles, Buck was selected to manage the most aggressive and complex store remodel ever undertaken by the company. He completed the project in record time and was honored with the CEO’s “Profiles in Excellence” award for his achievement.
Current and past community affiliations include:
Buck is the son of Commander Francis X. Kern III (USN ret., served from 1942 to 1970). Cdr. Kern served as a Naval Intelligence officer for more that 25 years. Buck was privileged to witness the example of his father’s service to this great country, and to learn from the example he set.
Buck resides in Richardson, Texas with his wife Nina.
"Growing up as the son of a U.S. Naval officer, I went without seeing my father for periods of six months to a year at a time. Being without a father present on a daily basis is difficult, but I was one of the lucky children whose dad always returned home. I can only imagine the devastation of being a child and losing your dad for the rest of your life. Snowball Express does extraordinary work that truly helps these children cope with their life altering loss. It is a privilege for me to serve these children who have given so much."
Gary Sinise, National Spokesman, Strategic Planning
Gary Sinise began acting at the age of 16 during his sophomore year in high school but it was his portrayal of Lt. Dan in the Oscar winning film Forrest Gump that brought him mainstream attention and earned him nominations for an Academy Award, Golden Globe and the Screen Actors Guild Award. He received the Best Supporting Actor Award from the National Board of Review, and the Commander’s Award from the Disabled American Veterans for the role as well. He then went on to take starring roles in the acclaimed Apollo 13 opposite Tom Hanks and Kevin Bacon; the thriller Ransom with Mel Gibson and Rene Russo; and Brian DePalma’s psychological thriller Snake Eyes.
Gary’s Humanitarian Work:
In addition to his acting, and supporting Snowball Express, Gary devotes a tremendous amount of time to other humanitarian efforts that support our nation’s defenders and their families.
Neil A. Raaz, Vice Chairman
Neil became a second generation Army Aviator when he graduated pilot training as the Distinguished Honor Graduate in 1991. He has previously served on active duty as an Army helicopter and fixed-wing pilot, as well as currently serving as a Reserve Naval Aviator with VR-59, “The Lonestar Express”. In 1999 he began his career as a pilot with American Airlines where he has flown the MD-80 and the 737 while serving his fellow pilots in numerous leadership positions with the Allied Pilots Association.
Neil has been a volunteer charter pilot for Snowball Express since 2007, the Airlift Coordinator from 2008-2011, and was nominated to the Board of Directors in 2010 where he currently serves as the Vice-Chairman. He holds a B.S. in Professional Aeronautics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, an Airline Transport Pilot rating, and both Senior Army Aviator and Naval Aviator designations. He is the fourth of five generations that have continuously served our Nation's armed forces since 1932. He and Shannon, his wife of over twenty years, call Ft. Worth, Texas home.
"I have volunteered for many organizations throughout my life, but never as passionately as I do for the Snowball Express Foundation. Having the privilege of seeing first-hand the strength and dignity of the families we serve has made me a tireless advocate for our nation’s fallen heroes. I am eternally grateful to the families I have come to know through Snowball Express for teaching me the true meaning of grace.”
Chris Schwarz, Treasurer
Chris has a broad base of experience in accounting and financial consulting for businesses ranging from local entities to Inc 500 enterprises. After graduating from St. Edward’s University in 2000, He started his career with a Dallas CPA firm, quickly rising through the ranks to become an officer of the firm, managing the Audit practice. Later Chris became a Partner in a top 10 National accounting firm where he continued to serve his clients with the highest professional and ethical standards. Realizing he wanted to work more closely with his clients, Chris began his own CPA practice in 2012. Chris’ experience and expertise in mergers and acquisitions, taxation, financial standards and budgetary consulting have made him an asset to many of his clients, as a contract CFO and Board consultant.
Chris is active in the community, he Joined Snowball Express in May of 2012 as the volunteer CFO and Treasurer and became a board member in December of 2012. Chris also chairs a local golf tournament benefiting the Guns and Hoses Foundation of North Texas (honoring those who gave the ultimate sacrifice).
Brenda Collins, Volunteer and Donor Appreciation
Brenda Collins is currently the National Purchasing Director for Thomas Reprographics, a full service specialty document management, document communications and distribution company located in Dallas, Texas. She is a highly creative, self-motivatedprofessional with proven insight for facility operations, problem analysis and resolution, and customer relations. In her current role Brenda provides superior customer service to high profile clients such as Neiman Marcus and Wilson Associates, an Interior Design Firm. She trains purchasing agents nationwide, coordinates new location openings and location moves, negotiates service contracts, vehicle and equipment leases, and selects and establishes nationwide vendor partnerships. Prior to her current position at Thomas Reprographics, Brenda was the City Support Manager responsible for staffing and operations for 10 DFW locations.
Before joining Thomas Reprographics in 2001, Brenda spent 12 years working for Ridgway’s, a multimillion-dollar reprographic service provider to the Design and Construction Industry. During her tenure she held several positions including Customer Service Manager, Facilities Manager, Store Manager and Branch Manager. Her client companies included NASA, Bechtel, Fluor Daniel, 3DI, CRSS, Continental Airlines and Amoco. Brenda trained and empowered employees to be solution providers. In 1992, she was responsible for the installation and implementation of the first Digital Press allowing transition of flight manuals to a digital workflow reducing production time from weeks to days. She managed various projects requiring one million copies in twenty-four hours with overnight distribution. Brenda provided 24-hour support to attorneys and government in confidential classified cases. She was responsible for consolidating operations of the underperforming Denver locations. Her restructure efforts resulted in the Denver operation achieving the number one ranking for the most profitable store. Brenda was responsible for developing budgets and projecting revenues and expense for three profit centers. She identified opportunities and collaborated with the technical team to train managers on accounting processes. She also implemented a digital workflow on-site facility for Amoco.
General Paul William (Bill) Essex, Transportation
Bill Essex and his wife Nancy have lived in Southlake, Texas since 2005, when the US Air Force assigned then Major General Essex to serve as CEO and Commanding General of the Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES). AAFES is a $9 billion dollar multi-channel retail organization headquartered in Dallas, which serves military customers in 30 countries. Bill served 34 years in the USAF in a variety of jobs and locations around the world. An air mobility and logistics expert, Bill commanded large flying organizations, served in NATO, worked in the Pentagon, and was responsible for multi-billion dollar acquisition portfolios.
Bill’s formal education includes an undergraduate degree in zoology and physiology, and two master’s degrees in business management and international security from Central Michigan and the US Naval War College, respectively. He is also a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School,ÂÂ Program for Executives, and from two senior executive programs at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
Bill is president of On-Time Supply and Logistics, Incorporated, a freight forwarding and product distribution company in the DFW area. He is a member of the Ft Worth Airpower Council and a passionate supporter of Snowball Express since 2008.
Tom Lee, Business Development
Thomas Lee is Director Business Development for Monogram Systems, an aerospace company, part of Zodiac Aerospace. Tom develops new technologies for the commercial airline industry including galley equipment and inflight entertainment systems. Tom holds numerous U.S. and international patents and accepted the "President's Award" for the development of the most innovative new equipment for commercial aircraft inflight operations during 1994.
Tom flew on the inaugural flights of the two largest commercial aircraft in history including the Pan Am B747 flight from New York to London in January 1970 and the Singapore Airlines A380 from Singapore to Sydney in October 2007.
Tom is a partner at Morale Entertainment that brings the "Best of America" overseas to build troop morale. During May 2008, five NCAA Head Football Coaches visited five bases in the Middle East. Tom and the coaches were greeted in the Oval Office by President Bush after their return to Andrews Air Force Base on Memorial Day 2008 (see picture). During 2009, Tom will be escorting seven Head Coaches to visit the troops in Afghanistan.
Tom serves on the Board of Alumni Affairs of Tulane University. He is a member of Business Executives for National Security (BENS), the World Airline Entertainment Association and International Flight Catering Association.
"Our country owes these families and amazing children our compassion, love and honor. Snowball Express is uniquely positioned to fulfill this obligation on behalf of our grateful nation. As we prepare to greet our growing Snowball family community in Dallas, we have a unique opportunity to thank them with our famous southern hospitality. It is one of the greatest privileges of my life to serve on the Snowball Express Board."
Captain Jim Palmersheim, Managing Director Veterans Initiatives, American Airlines
Jim earned his bachelors degree and received a Regular Army Commission in 1984 as a Distinguished Military Graduate of the Army ROTC Program at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He was selected for follow-on training as an Aviation Intelligence Officer and subsequently transitioned to the RU-21H and OV-1D Reconnaissance aircraft. Jim left active duty in January 1990 to pursue a career as a pilot with American Airlines. With the exception of a recall to active duty in 1991 in support of Operation Desert Shield/Storm, Jim served in the US Army Reserves until 1995, flying UH-1H Huey Helicopters.
In 2002, Jim and a group of volunteers flew Vietnam-era Huey Helicopter 65-10091 in support of the documentary film, "In the Shadow of the Blade." In 2004, Jim spearheaded the delivery and donation of Huey 091 to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, where it is the largest artifact in a major 30-year exhibit, "The Price of Freedom, Americans at War." Jim serves in an advisory role to the Huey 091 Foundation, whose purpose is to educate future generations about the Price of Freedom and to provide resources, such as the iBOT mobility device, to severely wounded service members.
Jim serves on the board of Snowball Express, a non-profit organization whose mission is to create new memories for the children of fallen service members killed on active duty since September 11, 2001. American Airlines is the official airline of Snowball Express, donating the use of charter aircraft and airfare to transport nearly 1,500 family members to the annual event each December. Jim is an advisor to the Gary Sinise Foundation, established in 2011 to serve military service members and their families
Jim served as Honorary Commander 457th Fighter Squadron, NAS JRB Fort Worth from 2010-2011 and in 2010 was named an Honorary Nightstalker with the Army's 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment based at Fort Campbell Kentucky
In 2007, Jim was named Managing Director - Veterans Initiatives at American Airlines and also flies as a Captain on the McDonnell Douglas MD-80 aircraft. Jim and his wife, Patricia, reside in Grapevine, Texas, with their daughter Lauren. Their son, Josh, is a Captain in the Army; currently deployed to Iraq, he is a Pilot in Command of the Army RC-12 aircraft.
Dan Ronan, Media Relations
Dan Ronan is the Senior Director of Communications for the American Bus Association. He joined the ABA in 2011 after three years with the American Automobile Association of Texas and New Mexico as the Manager of Corporate Communications and Community Affairs in Dallas.
Prior to moving into corporate communications, he was a television correspondent and producer for 20 years with CNN, WFAA in Dallas, WAGA in Atlanta and CBS Newspath. Transportation issues have been Dan's specialty as he has done hundreds of stories for CNN and the other stations about highway construction, safer buses and car and commercial and general aviation. Dan is a licensed commercial pilot and has been trained an advanced airplane crash investigator at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Arizona.
During his career he was awarded a National Emmy for his reporting of the Oklahoma City bombing, seven regional Emmys and two RTNDA Edward R. Murrow Awards, one for his reporting on the explosion of the Space Shuttle Columbia.
Dan is on the Board of Directors of Snowball Express, a 501©3. Snowballexpress.org. Snowball is "The Charity for the Children of Our Fallen Military Heroes." Each December Snowball Express holds an all-expenses paid, five day, four night gala for the surviving spouses and children of the men and women in uniform who died defending our nation since September 11th, 2001.
A native of Chicago, Dan is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he met his wife Lori, a Manager with American Airlines.
Jeffrey Hebig, Board Member
Jeffrey Hebig was appointed to the position of Vice President and General Manager of Yum! Brands Express in January 2001. He leads the Express team in the marketing, licensing and development of all YUM! Brands in non-traditional business venues. Before assuming his current role, Jeff worked for the Pizza Hut brand serving in a number of financial, development, marketing and operational roles. Prior to joining Pizza Hut, Jeff worked on the Strategic Planning team at PepsiCo in Purchase, NY.
Jeff also worked for Bain & Company; a privately held management consulting firm in Boston, MA. Prior to his position at Bain & Company, Jeff was an Officer in the United States Navy.
Jeff graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering. He also received an MBA in Finance and Operations Management from Columbia Business School, Columbia University in New York City, NY.
Jeff is very active in his community and he currently serves on the board of Ursuline Academy in Dallas, TX. Jeff resides in Plano, TX with his wife Lyne and his three children; Christopher, Kaitlyn and Lauren.
Mike Snyder, Strategic Planning & Media Relations
Mike is a skilled storyteller, an award winning television journalist and sought after voice and on-camera talent. He is also a trusted media and business coach, a message management specialist and a thought leader in digital Internet marketing.
After a celebrated 30-year career at NBC-Television, Mike has amassed a unique mix of professional and technical skill sets. Blended with his journalistic acuity to assess public relations and marketing challenges, Mike leverages the credibility of his long- standing broadcast and philanthropic career as a powerhouse in strategic communications problem solving, reputation and crisis management and digital marketing.
Mike is a partner of Ropewalkers, LLC, a strategic communications and digital marketing firm. Mike’s clients depend on him to guide analysis of their message and branding needs, crafting campaigns on multiple platforms to manage the tactics to execute the strategy with precision. Mike is the go-to organizer, creator and manager of large scale corporate and philanthropy events. Mike’s proven large event track record include massive events for American Airlines, the Airpower Foundation, the Mirage and MGM Resorts International, the Muscular Dystrophy Foundation, Junior Achievement, the Tri-Arts Foundation and many others.
Mike consults corporates, non-profit foundations, private individuals and political candidates on broadcast and social media strategies to harness emerging media trends in local/global branding.
Mike is an accomplished philanthropic fundraiser, organizer and manager of large- scale public events. He is Chairman of the Airpower Foundation which partners with American Airlines and other strategic partners to assist the families of our deployed and wounded military.
In addition to Snowball Express, Mike sits the boards of several 501c3 foundations, and is deeply involved with military veterans, the Salvation Army Angel Tree, Muscular Dystrophy Association and Junior Achievement, and Sky Ball to provide financial support to military families.
Among Mike’s numerous professional awards:
Marty Johnson, Board Member
Marty Johnson is the Director of Government Sales for Ernest and Julio Gallo Winery. He oversees all systems related to sales, customer development, and government relations pertaining to the Military Re-sale systems. He is also the Chairman of the American Logistics Association's Exchange Council.
Marty began his career with E&J Gallo in 1994 as he entered the Gallo Management Development Program through Piedmont Wines in Greenville, SC. In 1997 Marty accepted the position of Field Market Manager in Mississippi where he was responsible for both private and controlled markets. In 1999 Marty accepted the position of Louisiana State Manager. During this time Marty successfully organized a new division of the Gallo of Louisiana wine distributor. This division was developed for the Baton Rouge market after the sale of Bologna Brothers Distributing in July of 1999. The model was successful until the sale of the distributor in 2006. In 2000 Marty accepted the position of Area Manager for Gallo of Louisiana. In 2001 Marty went back to Mississippi as an Assistant Division Manager where he was responsible for three divisions; Controlled Retail sales, On-Premise sales, and Private Distributor sales. In 2003 Marty accepted the position of Retail Sales Manager at Capital Wine and Beverage in Columbia SC. Marty was responsible for four divisions of the company; Grocery Division Columbia, Convenience Division Columbia, Liquor Division Columbia and the Retail Division Charleston. After a year as Retail Sales manager he was promoted to General Sales Manager. In 2006 Marty accepted the position that he is currently in as Director of Government Sales for the E&J Gallo Winery.
Before joining the E&J Gallo Winery, Marty earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Catawba College, Salisbury NC in 1994. While at Catawba Marty was the President of Pi Sigma Epsilon Business Fraternity, a four year starter for the Catawba Football Team, a member of "The Order of The Blue and the White" men's honor society, and a Resident Director.
Marty and his wife Bobbi reside in McKinney, TX with their three children, Tyler, Cameron, and Jace. Marty's favorite thing to do is spending time with his family. He coaches his son's football and basketball teams and enjoys working with charity missions.
H. Jason Araghi, "Snowflake" Community Events Coordinator
Jason Araghi is the CEO and Co-Founder of Green Beans Coffee Company. Since 1997, his company has supported deployed American Soldiers by bringing them “15 minutes of home” at coffeehouses positioned in war zones and deployed countries. It all started with a single café for the US Army, crafted from a converted 40ft sea container, and has grown to more than 75 cafes abroad and at home in the US. Green Beans was the first American food company to go to Afghanistan after the events of 9/11 to support the deployed troops.
Green Beans is a classic story of entrepreneurship that started with the vision and passion of two individuals who saw their dream through to reality. Personal and financial risks, sacrifices, and long hours were all overcome with a never-ending belief that “failure is not an option.” The company’s most recent endeavor in support of military personnel is “Cup of Joe for a Joe” (COJ), an initiative that allows anyone, anywhere, to buy a cup of coffee online and have it delivered along with their own personal message of thanks into the hands of a Soldier serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.
“HONOR FIRST, COFFEE SECOND”
Giving back to the communities they serve in is a pillar of the company’s mission. The phrase “Honor First, Coffee Second” speaks to our CSR commitment and has become the brand identifier for Green Beans within the military community. Through its COJ program, the company has raised funds for a number of organizations that support children and families of the fallen, as well as a number of wounded warrior programs. Last year, to kick off its new partnership with Snowball Express, COJ did a Veterans Day fundraising drive and raised over $12,000 in less than 24 hours for Snowball Express.
Green Beans has received consecutive-year recognition on the Inc. 500 and was awarded the Ernst & Young Northern California Entrepreneur of the Year award for Corporate Social Responsibility in acknowledgment of the Company’s long-held commitment of financial support for military families and children of the fallen. It has been a personal honor for Jason to be involved with and support these charitable organizations that support the troops.
Jason resides with his family in Northern California and holds a MBA in Global Business from NYU Stern and London School of Economics
Rich Mentemeyer, Board Member
Maj. Gen. Rich Mentemeyer retired from the US Air Force (USAF) in 2006 after 32 years of distinguished service. He last served as the Deputy Commander, U.S. Southern Command, Miami, Fla. He was second-in-command of one of nine unified commands under the Department of Defense. USOUTHCOM is responsible for all U.S. military activities, including Theater Security Cooperation, on the land mass of Latin America; the waters adjacent to Central and South America; the Caribbean Sea, with its 13 island nations.
His previous military assignments included: Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Air and Space Operations (AXO), Headquarters USAF/Pentagon; Director of Operations and Training, HQ USAF; Chief of Mobility Budget and Programs, HQ USAF; Commander 722nd Air Mobility Wing; Commander 12th Flying Training Wing; Commander 305th Air Mobility Wing; Commander 19th Operations Group; Commander 50th Tactical Airlift Squadron.
During Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan (2001), General Mentemeyer was the initial Director of Mobility Forces. As such, he was responsible for providing all of the theater airlift and refueling capability for the combined joint force deployed to the Middle East. During Operation Provide Relief, the Somalia Humanitarian mission in 1992, the general was the Joint Task Force Director of Operations, in charge of the airlift of relief supplies. He also served as Ambassador Oakley’s military adviser when the U.S. mission moved into Mogadishu, Somalia. General Mentemeyer is a command pilot with more than 4,000 flying hours in airlift, refueling and training aircraft.
Larry Duncan, Board Member
Larry Duncan has combined a successful hi-tech career as a computer consultant with a unique leadership role in public service. A long-time Democratic precinct chair, four-term Dallas City Councilmember, former president of the Dallas Homeowners League, and veteran of numerous boards, commissions, and special committees for the City of Dallas and Dallas County, Duncan has a long history of getting things done in local government.
According to the Dallas Morning News, Larry Duncan is known by colleagues in local government as "extremely consistent," "you can trust him," and "independent." The Dallas Observer raved of his service on the Dallas City Council, "He is ... getting things done. Among many at City Hall, he has earned the reputation as the hardest-working councilmember," choosing Duncan as "Best Councilmember" twice.
While on the Dallas City Council, Larry revived Dallas Veterans Day Celebration after 49 years of neglect, provided for the Joppa overpass saving numerous lives, and led the neighborhoods of his district in 8 years of unprecedented progress. Larry served as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System.
Larry emerged as the leader in flood prevention and control, representing the City on the North Central Texas Council of Governments Trinity River Steering Committee, testifying before U.S. House and Senate to obtain federal flood prevention funds. Duncan was appointed chair of the 400-member Trinity River Corridor Citizens Committee, which, under his leadership reached consensus on a comprehensive plan for the City's greatest potential asset, a plan lauded by the Dallas Morning News, adopted by unanimously by the City Council, and passed in a landslide by Dallas voters.
First elected countywide in 2003 to the Dallas County Schools Board of Trustees, elected President of the Board by his peers, and reelected in a countywide landslide in May of 2009, Larry's leadership turned another dysfunctional government into a model for the entire state. He slashed skyrocketing fuel costs, choking air pollution, and dependence on foreign oil through converting gasoline engine buses to natural gas, and converting the DCS diesel fleet to run on donated waste vegetable oil. Under Larry's guidance, DCS added a variety of services to its offerings, including teacher recertification courses at no cost to teachers in Dallas County ISDs, a worker's comp network, and emergency evacuations from every hurricane affecting Texas and bordering states since Rita. Another of Larry's innovations has been extending DCS' services to other government entities and to ISDs outside Dallas County, thereby reducing Dallas County taxes by sharing development costs, economies of scale, and other efficiencies, while improving services and reducing expenses for the "customer" agencies.
A 38-year resident at his current Dallas County address, he is involved in numerous church, civic and school activities. These include membership in Chapter 137 of Vietnam Veterans of America, work with the homeless, Crime Watch, and affordable housing.
Duncan received his BA from Drake University and his MLA from Southern Methodist University. The US Army awarded him the Bronze Star medal for his service in Vietnam and he is a member of the National Association of Eagle Scouts. Duncan resides in Buckner Terrace with Susan, his wife of 46 years.