Orange Alert


Syracuse Veterans' Writing Group

Member Bios

Dawson J.W. Brown, a 1973 graduate of Elmira Free Academy, served in the United States Navy from 1973-1977.  Following Boot Camp in Orlando, Florida, Dawson trained at Treasure Island, California as an Electronic Warfare Technician, and served aboard the U.S.S. Sacramento (AOE I). He completed two WESTPAC tours, visiting Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, the Philippines, Iran, and Pakistan. Navy service was Dawson’s vehicle to "see the world" and “become a man.” It left him with both treasured and disturbing memories. After his Navy service, Dawson earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Education from Elmira College in 1982, and his Master's Degree in Elementary Education, from S.U.N.Y. Potsdam – both with honors.  He served for 28 ½ years with the New York State Department of Correctional Services, ending his career as Superintendent (warden) at Sing-Sing and Groveland Correctional Facilities. He resides in Syracuse with his wife Pat, and sons, Alexander and Cameron.

Dr. Bill Cross, PhD, is a practicing psychotherapist in Syracuse who has worked with military veterans and their families for over 35 years. He has been trained in the Trauma Resiliency Method, a very effective method of teaching trauma survivors and their family and friends skills to manage the effects of trauma. He spent 10 years in the Army, including combat duty in Vietnam after which he was a professor of psychology and leadership at West Point. In addition to his counseling work, Dr. Cross is an Emeritus Professor of Psychology at Onondaga Community College and teaches meditation and stress reduction at the Zen Center of Syracuse. He has been active in Trauma Resource Institute, Veterans for Peace, and is a cofounder of the Support Troops Network.

Doug D'Elia, BA, LMT, was born in Holyoke, MA. He served as a medic in the Air Force from 1965-1969 with stations in Grand Forks and Guam. He is a graduate of the University of Central Florida with a degree in Comparative Religion. Doug has written five books, two of which are in the military genre: "A Thousand Peaceful Buddhas," and "75 Klicks Above the Do Lung Bridge." His work appears in the Evergreen Review, Stone Canoe, O-Dark-Thirty, Line of Advance, and several anthologies. A complete list of his work and projects can be found at   

Len Fallis was born and raised in Lowell, Massachusetts. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1989 with the intent of serving only four years, but instead made it a 21-year career. As an infantryman, he served in several combat and peace-keeping operations to include Iraq, Bosnia, Kosovo and Egypt among others. His current interests include reading, writing and family time.

Heather Faulkner enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserves in 2006. She is currently a Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class (E-6), serving at Navy Operational Support Center Syracuse, NY. She deployed to Afghanistan from 2010-2011 as a member of the military police with Task Group Trident. Heather returned home and found a new interest in writing. She is currently a student at the University of Southern California pursuing a Master’s degree in Social Work with a Military sub-concentration. Some of her other interests include reading, camping, and watching her son play basketball.  

Ginger Star Peterman (Gunnip) served as a Private First Class/Specialist in the US Army as a motor transport operator for nearly 3 years.  While stationed at Fort Drum, Ginger deployed with 1st Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, 1-87th Infantry to FOB McHenry, Iraq for fifteen months from August 2007 through October 2008.  After earning an honorable discharge for her service, Ginger used her GI Bill to obtain a B.S. in Bioengineering with a minor in Writing and Rhetoric from Syracuse University.  Now, she is working on earning a M.S. in Engineering Management, also from Syracuse University.  Besides writing, Ginger also enjoys crocheting, cooking, hiking, gardening, exercise, and encouraging success in her young son’s endeavors.  Ginger named her son Charles Michael, which means “continue movement” in military jargon.

Elizabeth M. Hall was born and raised in Syracuse, New York. She joined the Army Civil Affairs Battalion in 2002 and was deployed as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom during 2004-2005. She served as a Signal Support Communication Specialist for her unit and assisted with humanitarian aid in Iraq during her tour of duty. Some of these duties included helping rebuild the Iraq government, delivering aid to orphanages, and connecting with Iraqi families. Upon returning from Iraq she completed her BS degree at Keuka College. Elizabeth is currently working for the Veterans Administration Hospital and is very involved with the VFW. She is an advocate for veterans with PTSD and MST. She enjoys connecting with fellow veterans of all ages and is most proud to be a veteran. Some of her other interests include motorcycles, military interests, hiking, writing, SU basketball, reading and spending time with her family.

Tim Hansen is a retired Army lieutenant colonel now living with his wife and children in Rochester, New York. He spent the last twelve years of his career in Army Public Affairs and completed three tours in Afghanistan and one in Kuwait.  Tim has held command and staff positions in both the Active and Reserve components that include 2d Infantry Division, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Cavalry Division, the Pentagon, Joint Special Operations Command, the 1st Theater Sustainment Command and the 98th Division. He is a member of the Syracuse Veterans’ Writing Group and has started a similar writing group in Rochester as a means to promote literacy, healing and awareness among vets. Tim now does freelance work as a technical writer and journalist. Most recently, he wrote on veteran resources in Rochester for (585) Magazine. His interests are Shakespeare, military history, leadership, photography and long distance running.

Frank Hobitz enlisted in the U.S. Navy at age 17 upon graduation from high school. He received Navy training in aviation electronics maintenance. Frank was also starting pitcher for Navy Station baseball teams and competed against college, military, and minor league baseball teams. He volunteered for duty during the Korean War with the VF-23 fighter squadron aboard the USS Essex, supervising the maintenance of combat jet He received a B.A. in Economics from the University of New Hampshire, and an M.B.A. from Northeastern University. He studied labor relations at Holy Cross College as well as pursuing studies at Syracuse University with the CBIT School, earning certificates in Project Management, Database Management, SQL, and PowerBuilder. Frank had a long career in corporate, non-profit and governmental organizations, holding positions as CFO/Controller, Project Manager, IT Manager, Cost Accounting Manager, and as a consultant. He also served as an Executive/Career Coach, with Certification as a Career Development Consultant (NACDC), Director Consulting Services, Jameson Associates; Senior Consultant, Career Advancement Group; President Innovative Career Strategies, Inc. /The Career.

Jennifer A. Jeffery served in the U.S. Coast Guard from 1990-1998. She was a Machinery Technician Third Class (E4) at search and rescue small boat stations in Michigan, Maryland, Virginia and Florida. Her primary work involved search and rescue and law enforcement. Jennifer works as an academic advisor for an on-line career transition and information technology education program for veterans through the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University. She recently graduated with her B.A. in Geography from Syracuse University and will pursue a graduate degree in Library and Information Science in the fall of 2015.  She has been fascinated with stories and writing since grade school. Some of her other interests include hiking, dogs, painting, hockey, fishing, gardening, and social justice.

Steven “Stacey” Kever was born in Beloit, Wisconsin, and served with the U.S. Army from 1956 to 1958. His basic training was at Fort Riley, Kansas, followed by Armor at Fort Knox, Kentucky. His first regular deployment was Headquarters Company, Fort Stewart, Georgia, where he was assigned as an officers’ jeep driver. Next was the 40th Tank Battalion, Camp Beaver, South Korea, where he drove an M-46 Sherman Tank. Upon discharge at the rank of Specialist 4, he went to Florida where he worked in construction building houses and condos.  He attended Broward Community College on a scholarship. This is where his lifelong efforts at writing flourished.  He won awards and several of his poems were published in the college Arts Magazine. He went on to Florida Atlantic University and received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Administrative Management.  His main interest is assisting veterans and the homeless through volunteerism.

Robert Marcuson was drafted just in time for the Tet Offensive. He arrived February 1968 and slogged the Mekong Delta with the 3/60th Infantry Battalion, 9th Division, part of the Mobile Riverine Force. In Bob’s 47 days between joining Bravo Company and his wounding by friendly fire, Bravo suffered 14 known KIA, 11 in a single engagement. Such facts highly color his views on things military. He left the Army after the minimum 2 years, plus an extra day held back for processing (and it must be said that February 1968 was a leap year). Later, he received his Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from Colorado College 1975 and even later studied Russian Language, including a Middlebury College 1982 winter semester at Moscow's Pushkin Foreign Language Institute. Bob spends far too much time reading, and at this moment is near the wood stove with wife Deale and two cats.

Peter K. McShane served as a U.S. Army Special Forces medic during the Vietnam conflict, 1967-1968. A graduate of Syracuse University with an M.B.A, he had a career in banking and finance, much of it as a consultant to small businesses, saving them from their creditors and themselves. He wanted to learn how to tell their stores, and his own. Since 2006, he has taken craft classes and workshops in fiction and creative non-fiction at the Syracuse YMCA’s Downtown Writers Center. Now he writes. Pete has completed a collection of short stories, a novella, a number of personal essays, and recently finished a memoir. His work has been published in Syracuse University's Intertext Magazine, Ginger Piglet, New York Times Warrior Voices, O-Dark-Thirty, Fear of Monkeys, Shooter, and can be found on the Syracuse Veterans' Writing Group website. His other interests include family, reading, music, woodworking, and metalworking.

Andrew Hansen Miller was in the U.S. Army from 2006 to 2012, Afghanistan, twice, and he picked up the pen again in Syracuse, New York after inspiration from beloved mentors and veterans in the Syracuse Veterans’ Writing Group and Syracuse University. He writes because nothing lasts forever, but writing comes close. He claims close friends & family from Barrington, Illinois; Charlotte, North Carolina; Syracuse, New York; the 101st Airborne Division; the 10th Mountain Division; and Illinois Wesleyan University. He loves the beach, singing, painting, Plutobear the cat, skiing, the smell of pine trees, and, most of all, Delmore Schwartz’s poem Calmly We Walk through This April’s Day. He misses his father.

Marissa Joy Mims grew up on Army bases for most of her childhood as the daughter of an enlisted serviceman. She spent the latter part of her childhood adjusting to life off base. Marissa is gathering the memories of her youth into an autobiography, “Dependents.” A graduate of Syracuse University, where she majored in Political Science, Marissa spends her free time digging up her family roots in Georgia and South Carolina, raising teenage twins and taking pictures. She works in nonprofit management and is school board member.

Terry John Mitchell is originally from Penn Yan, NY, in the Finger Lakes Region.  He enlisted in the Army in 1969 and served in Vietnam as a counterintelligence agent/Vietnamese linguist.  In 1978 he received a direct commission in the Army Reserve. Terry served as a civil-military affairs officer in Somalia, Bosnia, and Iraq, and retired as a colonel in 2006.  He also retired from the U.S. District Courts in 2008.  He has a bachelor’s degree from Bowling Green State University and a master’s degree in public administration from Marist College.  Terry enjoys music, sports, running, and hiking.  He is an accomplished pianist and has won national awards for solos entered in the Creative Arts Festival sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs.  For several years he volunteered and entertained patients at the Syracuse VA Medical Center.  Terry and his wife Nancy live in Crossville, Tennessee.

Jordan Robinson served in the Marine Corps from 2008-2014. She was a Marine Security Guard Staff Sergeant (E6) serving at American embassies in Mozambique, Austria, and Cuba. Her primary work involved the protection of classified material vital to national security.  Jordan is currently a student at Syracuse University pursing her undergraduate degree in Television, Radio, and Film. Her dream is to become a Public Diplomacy Officer in the Department of State.  Some of her hobbies include writing poetry, rollerblading, discovering new music, and singing karaoke.

Benita Rogers was born in Kansas City, Missouri. Her stepfather was a bombardier in WW II; a son served in the U.S. Navy. She studied as a dancer at NYC Ballet’s School of American Ballet. Acting scholarships led to NYC’s American Theatre Wing and American Shakespeare Academy. She acted with the American Shakespeare Festival Theater in Stratford, Connecticut and toured with the company’s production of “Much Ado About Nothing” with Katherine Hepburn and Alfred Drake. After marriage and three sons, she lived in the country, ran a ballet studio, choreographed briefly for the Syracuse Opera Theatre, raised sheep and spun their wool, and was a painter and a stone sculptor. Always a writer, Benita is especially devoted to poetry and is a longtime member of the Syracuse Downtown Writers Center. She is a nature-lover and ardent environmentalist. Benita and her husband, artist and sculptor Angelo Puccia, live in Manlius, NY.

Lee B. Savidge, retired third generation soldier, has a BS degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and MBA from Syracuse University. Lee lived in or traveled through every US State and Canadian Province in continental North America. Lee’s 27 years of military service include US Air Force (1967-1971) Base Operations at Suffolk County AFB, New York, during the Viet Nam era, then New York State Air National Guard (1982-2005) Bio-Environmental Engineering at 174th Fighter Wing Clinic, Aerospace Warning and Control at 113th Tactical Control Squadron and Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), then Intelligence Applications at NEADS and Rome Research Laboratory during the cold war, the September 11th attacks and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Lee experienced several deployments in support of drug interdiction, NATO and NORAD operations. Lee’s other interests include writing memoirs and poetry, golf, home improvement, and collecting GI Joe and sci-fi show memorabilia.

David Vercelloni was commissioned in the United States Air Force upon graduation from Syracuse University. He was assigned to pilot training at Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma. David served in combat in Vietnam and finished his active duty at Headquarters, 8th Air Force, Strategic Air Command at Westover Air Force Base in Massachusetts. In the Air Force Reserves, Major Vercelloni was the Liaison Officer for the United States Air Force Academy in Central New York. For the next 25 years he participated in the Air Force Health Study at the Scripps Clinic. This landmark medical study proved the link between exposure to the toxic defoliant know as Agent Orange and created a formal list of diseases now recognized by the United States Veterans Administration in determining disability compensation for veterans and their children.

Donald Western enlisted in the Marine Corps in April 1969.   He served a year in Vietnam as an infantry rifleman and in the battalion G-3 section.  He was honorably discharged in October of 1970 with the rank of corporal.  He graduated from Syracuse University in 1972 and returned to receive a Master’s Degree in Regional Planning in 1976.  He has worked for most of his professional career in economic development, including serving as Director of Economic Development for Onondaga County for 16 years.  He currently works for Syracuse University.  Don has been married to Marybeth for 34 years and they live in Fayetteville, New York.  They have two daughters and two grandchildren.  His interests include biking, boating, travel, reading, the cultural structures of veterans and society, and the nature of social and scientific change.

Ralph Willsey enlisted in the U.S. Army infantry on 9/14/2004 and left the service on 9/21/2010 as a Specialist/E-4. He participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom during the years 2006-2007. He also served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn from 2009 to 2010. His hobbies include reading, table-top games, running and lifting.

* Not all group members have provided biographies.

Group Leaders

Eileen E. Schell, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Writing and Rhetoric at Syracuse University where she teaches undergraduate and graduate writing classes. She did her graduate work at University of Washington and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She is the author of five academic books/edited collections, and she teaches courses in writing, rhetoric, and creative nonfiction. She has worked with veterans off and on since 1986 when as a college student she helped a WWII bomber pilot edit his memoirs. For the past decade, Eileen has run a nonfiction writing group at the Nottingham Senior Living Community in Jamesville, NY where she has worked with a number of veterans from WWII. She co-founded the Syracuse Veterans' Writing Group in March 2010 with colleague Ivy Kleinbart. The group is founded in honor of Eileen's uncle Brady L. Smith who served in Vietnam for 26 months as a helicopter pilot. In addition to writing and reading, Eileen’s interests are running, hiking, backpacking (especially in her home state of Washington), and vegetable gardening. 

Ivy Kleinbart teaches academic writing and creative nonfiction at Syracuse University. She received an MA in English in 2009 and an MFA in creative writing in 2007. Her work has appeared in Bateau and NoTell Motel.