• The Board

  • The Board

Board of Directors

Gary Ricker


US Army, Vietnam Combat
Designs by Ricker

Gary received his Associate of Arts degree from Northeastern Junior College and received his BA degree in Business Marketing from Colorado State University in 1969.  He has an extensive work background in art production beginning with the design and silk screen of sportswear at the age of 13.  Since then, he has owned and operated various businesses in the silk-screening industry, acquiring numerous patents for his designs.  His current business is Designs by Ricker, located in Loveland, Colorado (with former offices in San Diego and Long Beach, California), which employs 15 people.  Gary is also a veteran as he was a Sergeant in the US Army and received an Honorable Discharge after combat experience in Vietnam and service in Germany.

Dennis Grunstad

Vice President

US Air Force – Colonel, Middle East Combat
Commander, Air Force National Guard (Retired)
American Airlines Pilot (Retired)

Col. Dennis D. Grunstad was Commander, 153rd Airlift Wing, Cheyenne Airport, Wyoming. The 153rd Airlift Wing supports the State of Wyoming, the Air National Guard and the United States Air Force with peacetime and combat airlift missions throughout the world.

Dennis earned his Air Force commission in 1981 with a bachelor's degree in mathematics from the United States Air Force Academy.  He has held numerous operational positions within the 153rd Airlift Wing to include Operations Group Commander, Operations Support Flight Commander, Chief Pilot, Flight Commander, and Evaluator Pilot. He was the Wing’s deployed commander at Masirah Island, Oman during initial activation for Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, achieving an amazing 100 percent mission capable rate during a 72-day period.  Additional contributions to the Overseas Contingency Operation include U.S. Central Command service as the Combined Forces Air Component Commanders' deputy director of Mobility Forces.  

Dennis began his military career by attending undergraduate pilot training in 1981. He was assigned to the 54th Flying Training Squadron as a T-38 instructor and then evaluator pilot. 

Dennis joined the Wyoming Air National Guard in 1991 as a line pilot having completed Air War College, Air Command and Staff College, and Squadron Officers School. He possesses a Command Pilot rating with over 4,100 hours in various aircraft and is fully qualified in the unit’s C-130H3 combat flying mission and as a MAFFS Aircraft Commander.  As a civilian, Dennis was employed with American Airlines for more than 30 years as a first officer on the Boeing 787 aircraft and joined the Veterans Plaza Board in 2022.

Louise Creager

Vice President

USMC Military Spouse
RE/Max Alliance

Louise Creager also serves on the Board of the Rist Canyon Volunteer Fire Department. In 2015, she received the President’s Award for her community involvement with Veterans Plaza. Louise is one of the founding members of Colorado Women of Influence, a group of successful women helping each other to move to their next level of business. A business owner, her present position is as a realtor in northern Colorado. In 2010, she received the Fort Collins Board of Realtors “Rookie of the Year” award.

John Reardon

Secretary & Vet-2-Vet Fund Chair

US Navy ET- Warfare (Retired), Vietnam Combat
DoD Higher Education Research Mentor

Military service: US Navy 1963 – 1969 Electronic Warfare Petty Officer 3rd Class - Combat service Medals and Ribbons: Navy Unit Commendation Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, National Defense Service Medal and Good Conduct service ribbon.  

John has spent 40 years as CEO, COO, Agency head and academic faculty member. John’s career has been in community and economic development, managing Chambers of Commerce, and State, regional and local programs including holding two State cabinet secretary positions in Wyoming and Nevada for statewide community and economic development and three regional positions including CEO for S.E. Denver (DTC), Boulder Valley and Washington D.C. regional programs.  Within his career field, John was recruited as COO for the largest professional worldwide practitioner association for the discipline overseeing, operations, field research, education and strategic professional development for 8.000 programs globally. John has an extensive 20-year academic faculty and research career in global economic and business trends as capstone classes in masters programs and additional work in defense industry, higher education leading edge research engagements. Within his career field, John served as modernization Director for CSU Executive MBA, and as adjunct faculty for business schools at John Hopkins, Georgetown, Colorado State and University of Colorado Boulder masters programs. John served for 10 years on JHU MBA Advisory board.

Susan Pawlak


Business Advisor
Budweiser Management (Retired)

Sue has a long and prominent history of leadership in the Fort Collins community.  Her background is focused on management and mentoring.  Currently, she is the Director of Career Services at Ecotech Institute and Adjunct Instructor at Front Range Community College.  Susan has served on numerous boards and was one of the founding members of the Veterans Plaza. 

Bob Loner

Central Committee Chair

US Air Force, Vietnam Combat
The Group Real Estate

Bob Loner was commissioned in December of 1969 and attended the Intelligence School at Lowry, AFB in Colorado.  Upon completion, he was the Photo Intelligence Officer for the 12th Tactical Recon Squadron "Unarmed and Unafraid," which flew F-4 Phantoms doing photo reconnaissance missions in Vietnam.  After completing his one-year tour, he was assigned to Offutt, AFB in NE where he was a briefing officer for the commanding SAC staff.  His area of responsibility was the Middle East.  Once he left the service in 1972, he established a successful 40+ year real estate career both in Minneapolis, MN and then (1980 to present) in Fort Collins, CO.  He has been volunteering for the Veterans Plaza since 2015.

Solomon Martinez

US Marine Corp Gunny (Retired)
MCL League #1250

Bernie Lodge

US Navy/US Coast Guard
Team Rubicon Officer
Disaster Response County Team

Ross Atkinson

US Army, Middle East Conflicts
CSU Ph D Student

Ross Atkinson is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Education and Human Resource Studies through Colorado State University's School of Education in the College of Health and Human Sciences. Ross also teaches an undergraduate education course for preservice teachers through CSU's Center for Educator Preparation. Prior to beginning his academic career, Ross served four years in the US Army as a Multichannel Transmissions Systems Operator (25Q) and deployed to Afghanistan in 2010-2011 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. It was Ross' military service that led him into academia and continues to drive his research into veteran reintegration, student-veteran education, and critical youth and veteran empowerment. Additionally, Ross helped construct and currently facilitates Colorado State University's community-based veterans writing workshop, which published its flagship journal, Charlie Mike in May of 2020.

Nicholas Dunagan

US Army, Middle East Conflicts
Health 4 Heroes

Nick was born in San Diego, CA in 1988 and spent his youth like most other Southern California kids: playing sports, hanging at the beach, riding bikes and motorcycles and having rock wars with the neighborhood kids. At age 15, life suddenly changed for Nick and his family with the tragic, and unexpected loss of his mother Janet. Soon after, he dropped out of high school and began working in the construction labor field.

In 2009, Nick joined the US Army in search of a better future. He received his G.E.D through the Army Prepatory School and attended basic training at the school of hard Knox, Fort Knox, KY. He graduated 9-11-09, exactly 8 years after watching the planes hit the towers as a child. Private Dunagan was assigned to the 3rd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, Big Red One where he spent 12 months in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. Upon return from deployment, Specialist Dunagan went on to attend Airborne school in Fort Benning GA and was then assigned to 1st Brigade 82nd Airborne Div, Fort Bragg, NC. Nick left the Army in 2014 and moved across the country to Colorado Springs, CO to start what he did not know would be his long road to recovery from service.

After a couple years of unhealthy behaviors and mismanagement of symptoms, Nick found healing through engagement with veterans’ organizations, adopting a regular exercise routine, improving his diet, and finding purpose through volunteering and serving his fellow service members through health promotion. He attended Colorado State University’s Health & Exercise Science program working towards a Bachelor’s in Health Promotion. Today, Nick is the Co-founder and CEO of Health4Heroes, a Northern Colorado based nonprofit that empowers Veterans and First Responders to take command of their health, reduce the impact of service, and increase longevity through community, connection, and education.

Board of Director Advisors

Bob “Diggs” Brown

Honorary Chairman 2011 – Present

US Army Special Forces
Veterans Plaza Founder

Diggs is the Founder of Veterans Plaza of Northern Colorado and continues to be the guiding light of the organization, providing direction and vision for its activities.  He holds an MBA from Colorado State University and his Bachelors in Hotel and Restaurant Administration from Oklahoma State University.  Now retired, he is the former owner of a financial advisory firm in Fort Collins, CO, and has extensive experience in the banking industry.  Additionally, he has been active in community service, serving on the Fort Collins City Council and other civic activities.  Mr. Brown is a retired Major in the U.S. Army’s Special Forces and a combat veteran, having served in Afghanistan and Africa as well as many other deployment areas.  He is a noted keynote speaker and the author of the acclaimed book, Your Neighbor Went to War: Reality and the War on Terror.

Dr. Billy Thornton

Past President

US Army, Vietnam Combat

Dr. Thornton is Emeritus Professor of Management, College of Business, Colorado State University and retired from CSU in May 2013.  Including CSU, he taught at the junior, senior and graduate level for 36 years and added 6 years to his university service as an IT consultant to the College of Business.  He is an accomplished actor and served on the boards of two theatrical companies in Fort Collins.  Billy is a Vietnam combat veteran (CPT, US Army, Artillery).

James Hagerman

Past President

US Marine Corps

James is well known in the Fort Collins community.  He is a member of the Marine Corps League and very active within that organization.  In the civilian world, he is one of the top producers for C3 Real Estate Solutions and a graduate of Bellevue University where he received a BS in Business Information Systems.

Contact the board

Visit Veterans Plaza

© Veterans Plaza of Northern Colorado
2626 West Horsetooth Road
Fort Collins, CO 80526

Website design and development Full Circle Creative