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Veterans Plaza 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

On military service 1964 – 1969 with Vietnam combat 65/66. Electronic War Fare (ET)..served as Petty Officer 3rd Class and was offered an officer’s commission in 1969, to train Naval airman as pilots  in Pensacola Florida at the Navy station at age 24. I declined the commission having a new family and new son, and transitioned into a civilian work career. The rest is history but the Navy gave me my start.

My two brothers followed me in Vietnam one on a guided missile destroyer and the second as an Army Combat Vet in Country. We were back to back… all came home. My Dad was Navy, one uncle was E8 Army special forces, another Army Air B17 Pilot. So a lot of military history in the family.

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.

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.

Robert Larson

Robert (Bob) Larson received his Associate Degree in Electronics Engineering in Albuquerque, a Bachelor degree in Marketing from National University in San Diego, and an Executive MBA degree from Pepperdine University in Los Angeles. He also received certification as an instructor and negotiator from Motorola University in Schaumburg, IL.

Bob worked for Motorola Inc. for 28 years as a systems engineer, sales engineer, sales management, marketing management, and business development. He traveled the world promoting Motorola products for five years. He took early retirement in 2001 after company cutbacks. He started his own manufacturing company in various consumer products for five years.

He volunteers for the 190 member Larimer County Genealogical Society in Fort Collins as their Education, Video, & Web Committees Chair, an instructor, past president, and library volunteer. He was past president and volunteers as the Webinar Chair for the Colorado Council of Genealogical Societies in Denver. He is a member of the Fort Collins Chamber of Commerce on behalf of 50 Plus Marketplace News, where he is currently their Marketing Director.

Bob served in the Montana and New Mexico Army National Guard in the mid to late 1960s as a PFC and radio technician during the Vietnam era. As a veteran, he has collaborated with Veterans Plaza as a photographer and on several of their committees. Bob joined the Board in January 2024.

Mike Pickett

Rod "Roady" Whiteley

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

Dr. Billy Thornton is Professor Emeritus of Management, College of Business, Colorado State
University (CSU), retiring from CSU in May 2013. Including CSU, Florida Atlantic University and
Oklahoma State University, he taught at the upper division and graduate level for a total of 41
years. An accomplished actor, he has served on the board of directors of two theatrical
companies. Billy is a Vietnam combat veteran, serving as Executive Officer of a 105mm Firing
Battery, 11/1966-11/67. He received a Direct Regular Army promotion to 2nd Lieutenant,
11/1965. After Artillery Officers training, he completed parachute training, receiving his
Airborne Wings. After Vietnam, he was promoted to Captain, serving two years in Intelligence
at the Pentagon. He returned to civilian life to acquire his doctorate in Industrial Engineering
from Texas A&M University and begin his teaching career. He began volunteering with
Veterans Plaza in 2010, an extremely rewarding experience.

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.

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