Board of Directors

Harry Hope, Chairman Emeritus

Harry Hope is the inspirational leader of Greater Saint Louis Honor Flight.  He guides our way and also maintains more relationships with veterans and veterans organizations than can be imagined.  Aptly named, Harry Hope is why we exist.  Our annual Volunteer of the Year award is named “The Hope Award” in his honor.

Harry joined the Navy on his 16th birthday in 1947. In February of 1948, Harry transferred to the U.S. Marine Corps and was sent to Paris Island, N.C. for his recruit training. While in the Marine Corps, he served in the Mediterranean Sea area visiting Italy, France, Turkey and Greece.

While in France, Harry’s battalion was sent to Korea where he was involved in the Inchon Landing and the retaking of Seoul. In November and December of 1950, Harry’s unit was trapped for three weeks in the “Chosin Reservoir” area of North Korea, 78 miles from the coastal city of Hungnam. After Korea, Harry spent two years in Japan. Having spent ten years in the Marine Corps, Harry was discharged in 1958 due to injuries suffered in Korea.

Harry lives in Creve Coeur with his wife Terry.

 

Chris Connell, Chair

Chris first become involved in the organization in 2015 and has served as Flight Leader numerous times.  His passion and loyalty for the military and veterans have led him to the Greater St. Louis Honor Flight organization.  Chris is a former Air Force officer and graduate of the United States Air Force Academy.  While at the Academy he played football from 1988-1992 and culminated with a visit to the White House receiving the Commander in Chief trophy from President George Bush Sr. in the spring of 1992.  After graduating from the Air Force Academy in 1992 he split his service time in the 58th Fighter Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base, FL and Academy.  After fulfilling his commitment to the Air Force he began working at Merrill Lynch in the Wealth Management Group in 1997.  Chris has been at Merrill Lynch for over 25 years and currently serves as a Senior Vice President helping his clients meet their financial goals.

Chris and his wife, Stephanie, live in St. Louis and have two girls who share the same patriotic spirit.

 

Lisa Holley, Vice-Chair

As the daughter of a WWII Veteran, Lisa was continually awestruck by the many war stories of bravery and perseverance that secured our nation’s freedom.  When the invitation to join the GSLHF board was extended to her in 2015, she was not only inspired to help carry out the incredible mission of the organization, and appreciative of the Veterans she would meet along the way, but humbled by the opportunity it would offer to honor her Dad’s memory and patriotism, as well.

Among her additional volunteer work, Lisa has been fortunate enough to serve on the Friend’s Board of St. Louis Children’s Hospital, and the Kirkwood School District Foundation Board.  She has chaired many fundraising and special events for both organizations.

Lisa and her husband, David, live in Des Peres and have 2 adult children.

 

Evan Gatch, Secretary

Evan proudly served in the U.S. Navy on board the USS McCloy in Norfolk, VA.  As a Veteran, Evan understands the importance of celebrating those who have served our Country and is eager to pass this tradition to his three sons.

Evan has 30 years’ experience as an information technology executive and works for Microsoft managing business relationships in St. Louis. Evan has participated in several community service organizations including Principal for the Day School Program, Independence Center, HIMSS Greater Saint Louis Board, and the St. Louis Rockets Hockey Club Board. He is a rockstar want-to-be and member of a local band that plays for charitable events.

Evan and his wife, Laurie, have three children.

 

Aaron Retherford, Treasurer

Aaron currently works at Kadean Construction as the Vice President of Business Strategy, with 13 years of experience in the construction industry. In 2011 Aaron volunteered as a Guardian and has been moved by the organization ever since. Aaron worked toward pushing past and present company sponsorships for the Campaign of Courage and continues to advocate for volunteer opportunities within the company. Aaron’s grandfather served in the Army and fought in the Korean War.

Aaron also serves on the KIDstruction Committee, an organization supporting Children’s Hospital; the St. Louis Construction Consumers Council Golf Committee; and Flags of Valor volunteer, an event held by America’s Heartland Remembers, to pay tribute to the fallen military heroes who fought for our freedom post 9-11 attack on our country.

Aaron is married to Jaclyn and they have two sons, Ace and Jett.

 

Carson Baur, Director

Carson Baur has been the strength of the GSLHF Board since 2011, chairing it for 3 years during its rapid development into one of the finest hubs in the nation.  Carson has led more than 30 Honor flights.  Carson’s focus is veteran safety, operational excellence and staying true to the mission “to safely transport America’s most senior veterans to Washington DC to experience the memorials built in their honor.”

Carson has been in the commercial real estate business for 16 years and is involved in several small business start-ups. Carson has been an active supporter of City Academy, Ladue Education Foundation, MICDS and St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

Carson and his wife, Martha, have three children.

 

Becky Claas, Director

 

Brig Gen (ret) Darren James, Director

Darren joined the Greater St. Louis Honor Flight in 2021. He recently completed a distinguished 30-year career in the United States Air Force, receiving his commission from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1990. He commanded Air Force units at the Squadron, Wing and Air Expeditionary Wing levels. He served in multiple operational and training assignments and was a command pilot having logged more than 6,000 hours in the C-5, C-17, KC-135, T-1A, T-37, B-1, B-52H, RC-135 and E-8.

He is deeply honored and considers it a great privilege to be a member of the GSLHF Board, having the opportunity to serve our heroic Veterans and the families that also served alongside their loved one. The dedication of the GSLHF organization and the crucial support it provides, as well as the opportunity to engage with the incredible Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines that so proudly served our nation is what led him to serve in this capacity.

Darren and his wife, Melissa, have two children.

 

Amy Komnick, Director

Amy has three uncles who served in the Vietnam War and are her inspiration for getting involved with Greater St. Louis Honor Flight. With each Honor Flight mission, she is moved by the impact on veterans and their families and the outpouring of gratitude and thanks to those who served. She is awed by the volunteers who are active year-round creating connections and awareness. When it is time to fly, the volunteer team is ensuring each veteran and their family is supported and engaged in flight readiness to insure a wonderful day for each veteran.

Since joining the board of directors in 2018, Amy had the opportunity to attend the 2019 Honor Flight Summit of chapters from across the country. She’s even more driven now to give back to our veterans who give so much for our country.

Amy has 30+ years of corporate leadership experience and retired from Bayer Crop Science in 2019.

 

Dr. Lynne Nowak, Director

Dr. Lynne Nowak is an internal medicine physician who spent 15 years in clinical practice in outpatient primary care, inpatient hospital care, and hospice/palliative care. She now leads the Evernorth Clinical Data and Provider Solutions team which uses data, technology, and analytics to improve clinical outcomes and healthcare affordability. Dr. Nowak also leads Evernorth’s teams focused on physician engagement, health information interoperability, utilization management, and transparency in pricing. She is Medical Director of the Evernorth Innovation Lab and serves as co-chair of the Cigna Clinical Leadership Development Program and leads the Express Scripts Medical Advisory Board.

Dr. Nowak received her undergraduate degree at the University of Notre Dame, her M.D. degree at the University of Illinois, Chicago, College of Medicine, and her Internal Medicine training at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.

Dr. Nowak and her husband Ed have twin daughters, Sarah and Emily, who are both students at the University of Notre Dame. She loves to travel, cook, entertain, hike, hunt, boat, and spend time with her Great Dane/Black Lab mix, Walter. Dr. Nowak’s grandfather, uncle, and father-in-law all proudly served in U.S. Navy, and her daughter Sarah is currently in the Navy ROTC program at Notre Dame with hopes of becoming a Navy pilot.

 

Rick Randall, Director

A Patriot of the highest order, Rick is serving the GSLHF board of directors for the second time, having taken a hiatus to organize and lead “Flags of Valor” a magnificent art and patriotic memorial of 7200 American Flags on Art Hill in Saint Louis Missouri, one for each active duty soldier killed since 9/11.  Rick serves as a Flight Leader and all-around steward for the veterans he respects so deeply.

Rick is a senior vice president for Pace Properties, leading some of Saint Louis’ most exciting development projects.

Rick and his wife Susie enjoy children and grandchildren as much as possible.

 

Tom Sheehan, Director

Tom joined the GSL Honor Flight Board of Directors in 2017.  He is profoundly grateful for the opportunity to serve and honor our local veterans, whose sacrifice is the basis for the freedom we all continue to enjoy.

Tom is an attorney and serves as Associate General Counsel for Deloitte.  He was also a founding member of Gateway Children’s Charity, an organization committed to providing access to early childhood education for underserved communities in St. Louis.

Tom and his wife Alison have two sons.

 

Chris Springer, Director

Chris joined the Honor Flight Board in 2020. He served in the Army for 25 years and retired as Lieutenant Colonel. He began his career as an airborne artilleryman and commanded a battery during the Iraq invasion in 2003. He later went on to teach Economics at West Point, where he graduated with a degree in Systems Engineering. The second half of his career he served as an Army Strategist and taught strategy at the Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, KS. Chris is currently a Senior Director at Slalom Consulting. He lives in Clayton with his wife Kristin and their 4 kids (Ella, Georgia, Juliette, and Christopher).

 

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Rolando Lopez, Flight Director

While working at Southwest Airlines, Rolando was honored to have participated on many Honor Flights. His team coordinated their every need, including the one special salute Veterans appreciated, their “Water Cannon Salute” honoring their service.

Rolando joined the GSL Honor Flight as a Guardian in 2009, honored to have been a Guardian on several flights and continue a relationship with the Veterans. In 2010, Southwest Airlines recognized his community service and participation with GSL Honor Flight.

In early 2011, Rolando retired from Southwest Airlines to spend more time with his family and continue with volunteer work. Rolando was honored to be invited to assist GSL Honor Flight where he now serves as Flight Director.

Testimonials

“It was a WOW kind of day that I will never forget. We kept so busy that I never had time to get tired. Then when I did get in bed - I was still so excited that I couldn't go to sleep thinking about all that I saw. I just can't put into words how great that trip is.”

– Donald E. Albert

Vietnam War Veteran, US Army 1968-1971, 96th Mission - November 2, 2021

“In my 92 years of life, travels, and experiences, I have done a lot of things. In my humble opinion, this trip was A-1! Thank you for letting me ride along!”

– Robert L. Walkling

WWII and Korean War Veteran, US Marine Corps 1944-1952, 93rd Mission - November 2, 2019

“The Honor Flight is God's blessing because there is nothing else compared to it, nothing.”

– Marshall Phillips

WWII Veteran

“I am so glad I went because getting these feelings out I believe will help me settle the Vietnam War that has been buried in my mind for 52 years. Over the years I have asked God how to deal with this issue and I believe he has answered my prayers through your organization.”

– Kenneth W. Riese

Vietnam Veteran