Board of Directors
Our Board of Directors consists of community leaders, chosen through a competitive process. Our board meets monthly and contributes time, energy and expertise throughout the year. Many of our board members bring personal military experience to bear, with a unique understanding of the military to veteran transition.
Dennis Merrill, President
Brigadier General Dennis Merrill, USA (Ret) has over 35 years of public and military service. He served over 32 years with the Oregon Army National Guard, retiring in 2004. He is a veteran of Operation Joint Guard (1997), in Bosnia-Herzegovina where he served as a brigade task force commander.
Additionally, he served as the United States Marshal for the District of Oregon from 2002 to 2010. Prior to his appointment as the United States Marshal, He served for 27 years with the Portland Police Bureau, retiring as a Captain in 2002.
BG Merrill’s volunteer and community service endeavors include: past co-coordinator and driver for DAV transportation program in Bend; past area coordinator for the Employer Support of Guard and Reserve; current Advisory Board member of the National Guard Youth Challenge Program; President of the Oregon State Council of Chapters of the Military Officers Association of America; and Communications Chair/Board member of the Central Oregon Military Officers Association of America. His professional associations include Life member of the MOAA, VFW and Oregon Peace Officers Association.
He is a native Oregonian. He graduated from Tigard High School and Portland State University. He currently resides with his wife Carol in Powell Butte.
Mike Brock, Vice President
Mike graduated from Lakeview High School, Lakeview, OR in 1962, and from Southern Oregon College in 1967. He joined the Marine Corps, and served as an infantry Platoon Commander in Vietnam in 1968 and 1969. He served as a Company Commander in 3 different commands. From Infantry, he transitioned to intelligence where he finished out his service as a Colonel in 1994.
Mike then went on to become an instructor for Naval Junior ROTC at Mountain View High School, Bend, OR, retiring in 2005. He has also been a volunteer for Caring for Troops, Honor Flight, COVO, NJROTC, Toys for Tots, and other community groups. He married Dianne Fieguth 48 years ago.
They have two children. Daughter Lindsey works for Consumer Cellar. Son Casey is a Major in the Marine Corps.
Len DeGroot, Secretary
Len was born and raised near Green Bay, Wisconsin and developed a lifelong love of the Packers.
He spent 11 years in the U.S. Navy, educated in electronics, and served as a Sonar Technician. He then added to this education with an Associate’s Degree in Psychology, a Bachelor’s Degree in Business and a Master’s in Finance.
He had a varied career, which included Gremlin Industries, General Dynamics, Convair, and IVAC Corporation. Len settled into his last 22 years before retirement with Hughes Network Systems as Manager of Installations for the Western US and Canada.
He connected with COVO at the 2011 Stand-down, and has continued his interest in helping Vets through the Outreach program since then. Len also volunteers with Mosaic Medical and the ELKS. In his spare time, he enjoys fishing (sometimes catching), hiking with his wife and dog (Annie), and RV-ing, enjoying life in Oregon
Fred Coelyn, Director
Fred moved to Bend Oregon in March 2014 when he retired from the Veterans Administration after eighteen years of employment. He moved to Bend with his wife Joanne and dog Jazzy to be with family and enjoy the quality life style in the high desert.
Fred worked for the Veterans Administration for nineteen years, both in Los Angeles, California and Portland Oregon. He was Assistant Vocational and Rehabilitation Officer. He managed 34 professional employees who acquired services for Veterans with physical and psychological disabilities. The task was to get Veterans training or independent living services so these Veterans could enjoy a better quality of life.
Prior to his service with the Veterans Administration, he worked in sales management positions for major corporations in sales and marketing for twenty-five years. Companies like Panasonic, Epson, Thermador Waste King, Polaroid and Talley Industries. Fred has a BS degree in Business Management from New Hampshire College and a MS degree in Counseling from California State University.
Fred served four years in the United States Air Force that included a tour in Vietnam. He is a disabled Vietnam Veteran and understands the needs of other fellow Veterans.
Originally from Boston, he is a major fan of the Red Sox’s and New England Patriots.
Casey Baxter, Director
Casey was born and raised in Oregon, attending high school in Bend, Oregon, where he served as the first rifle team commander for Mt. View High School’s NJROTC. After high school, Casey enlisted in the United States Marine Corps as a Helicopter Crew Chief.
After the Marines, Casey attended the University of Houston where he graduated summa cum laude with a degree in Business Management. While in college, he served as the President of the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society.
After graduating, he attended the University Of Denver Sturm College Of Law. He was a member of the national moot court trial team and worked for a clinic where he represented low-income clients.
Since law school, Casey obtained his real estate and financial advising licenses, and worked as a Morgan Stanley Smith Barney financial advisor. Soon thereafter, Casey worked for over three years as a Deputy District Attorney in Deschutes County. There, he served as both President and Treasurer of the Deschutes County District Attorney’s Association where he helped to lead efforts to obtain the Veteran’s Treatment Court and develop the Veteran’s Intervention Strategy to appropriately address the combat related conditions of veterans in Central Oregon. Casey also took numerous misdemeanor and felony cases to trial, including successfully co-chairing a murder trial in 2013.
Casey then founded a law firm in the Old Mill District where he is now working as a criminal defense, family law and estate planning attorney. He enjoys the many outdoor activities that Central Oregon has to offer, including snowboarding, mountain biking, hiking and boating.
Jim Cunningham, Director
Jim has over 37 years of public and military service with the U.S. Air Force and Oregon Air National Guard, retiring in 2006. He is a veteran of Vietnam as well as Desert Shield/Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom. Prior to commanding the Oregon Air National Guard, General Cunningham was the Oregon Air National Guard Director of Operations. In this capacity he oversaw state operations and training for seven Air Guard units, coordinated Air Guard involvement in state emergency operations, and managed military air space management issues. General Cunningham is a retired Captain with United Airlines. Jim serves on the Advisory Board of Oregon Youth Challenge and Board of Directors of the Rosenbaum Foundation. Past board experience includes, Sisters Habitat for Humanity, Sisters Folk Festival, Deschutes County Search and Rescue Aviation Advisor, and Aviation Advisor for Economic Development for Central Oregon.
The General is a graduate of the University of California at Los Angeles (BA) and Webster University (MA). He resides with his wife Dana in Sisters Oregon.
Peter Gallagher, Director
Pete arrived in Bend permanently in 2016. Prior to that, he lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for more than 40 years. From 1975 to the present, Pete has pursued a career as a financial advisor to individual investors.
Pete was born and raised in Malden, MA. He attended the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, graduating in 1968 with a BA in History. Following graduation, he was commissioned a second lieutenant of infantry in the U.S. Army. He served almost seven years, resigning as a captain in 1975. Pete is a veteran of Vietnam, where he commanded two infantry companies in combat. He is a proud member of the Tropic Lightning Association (25th Infantry Division), the Americal Division Veterans’ Association, and the U.S. Army Ranger Association.
As a true son of New England, he is a devoted follower of the World Champion Boston Red Sox, as well as the New England Patriots. His hockey allegiance has shifted to the San Jose Sharks after more than 20 years as a season ticket holder.
Pete was drawn to COVO’s mission by the large number of veterans he encountered in Central Oregon and stories he heard about those in less fortunate circumstances. He previously served on the board of two non-profit organizations in California for more than 20 years. During his spare time, Pete enjoys discovering the natural beauty of his new home state aboard his Harley-Davidson motorcycle and riding with the Central Oregon Harley Owners Group.
He has been married to the former Kathy McRobbie for 50 years. They have two married children and a granddaughter living in California.
JW was born and raised in Ashtabula, Ohio He joined the U.S. Navy in 1963 and served for over 30 years. He retired as a Chief of Naval Operations appointed Command Master Chief.
After retiring from the navy, he was on the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department, and Office Manager for Maricopa County Home Health Care Department.
In 2000 he started teaching as an instructor for the Navy’s NJROTC program in LaVerne, California and came to Bend as an instructor at Mountain View High School in 2001.
He is currently the State and Bend Chapter President of the Band of Brother’s, Commander of Post 4 American Legion, Life Member of Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 820. He enjoys family time, golf and his 3 grandchildren, three great grandsons.