Veterans Rebuilding Life | In Memoriam
In Memoriam | Sgt. James Dolan | United States Marine Corps

July 20, 1981-Dec 27, 2017

—Semper Fidelis—

Sgt. James Dolan served in the Marine Corps as a Data Network Specialist, and deployed twice during the Iraq War. James was known as an expert in data security by the military, and the private sector. Creators Kevin Poulson, James and Aaron Swartz of Securedrop, a software platform developed to secure communication between journalists and their sources.

Said of James; “In New York, a computer security expert named James Dolan persuaded a trio of his industry colleagues to meet with Aaron to review the architecture, and later, the code. We wanted to be confident that the system wouldn’t be compromised. James wrote an obsessively detailed security guide for organizations implementing the code.”

Veterans rebuilding life, in memoriam.
Members of the Marine Corps Honor Guard, seen here during the final flag folding portion of the memorial service.
Veterans Rebuilding Life, Marine Corps Memorial.
Members of the Marine Corps Honor Guard, a specialized branch of the military dedicated to providing final burial honors for fallen service members.
Veterans Rebuilding Life Marines..
U.S. Marine Corps Honor Guard detachment.

VRL member and fellow Marine Kevin Vargas-Colon, served with James during the Iraq War, and stated;

“James was a great Marine. He was a great leader who cared for his junior Marines, and was often considered by many to have been a mentor and motivator unlike any other. I had the honor, and the privilege of getting to know him professionally and personally. He was a great friend who could advise you on almost anything.”

At the time of his passing, James was employed as the head of internet security for Classy, an online fundraising platform developed for nonprofit organizations.

Sgt. Dolan is believed to have taken his own life in a Brooklyn motel room, on the evening of Dec. 27th, 2017, when visiting family for the holidays. It is estimated that 22 veterans a day lose their battle with post-traumatic stress disorder and commit suicide.

Veterans Rebuilding Life | In Memoriam | Denise Lukowski | NYPD
Veterans Rebuilding Life | In Memoriam | Denise Lukowski | NYPD

May 11, 1960-Feb 23, 2018

—Fidelis Et Mortem—

The veteran community suffered a profound loss with the sudden passing of Denise Lukowski on February 23rd, 2018.

Denise was an exemplar of personal and professional integrity, whose contribution to the community will always be measured by the lives she touched.

Her life was driven by a commitment to core values of faith, love, compassion, and dedication to the principles of selfless service.

Denise was a native New Yorker from Queens, who served with distinction as an officer with the NYPD. She was deeply touched by the stories of people in the communities that she served, and ultimately was moved to travel a second vocational path as a social worker.

Denise completed a Master’s degree in social work, and received additional credentialing as a substance abuse specialist.

As a retired member of the uniformed services, Denise had a natural affinity veterans, and was honored to join the social work division at the Dept. of Veterans Affairs. During the course of her career at the VA, Denise provided a wealth of clinical and support services to generations of vets placed in her care.

In the Post-9/11 era, Denise assisted with the complex reintegration issues facing young vets. She was instrumental in the development of services, the development of community based services, and the integration of holistic services for veterans.

2022 Veterans Day Event, Friday, November 11th, 6:30PM-10:30PM, 38-01 23rd Avenue, Astoria, NY 11105
2022 Veterans Day Event, Friday, November 11th, 6:30PM-10:30PM, 38-01 23rd Avenue, Astoria, NY 11105

Denise was integral to the network development of the Supreme Court initiative, known as the Veterans Treatment Court. Denise served as the first designated Veterans Justice Outreach Coordinator in the program’s history.

On February 23rd, 2018, Denise passed away in her home, located in Queens, NY. Police officers entered her residence after she’d missed several days of work without notice, and was unreachable by her friends and co-workers. According to the report, Denise was battling flu symptoms the week prior to her absence. She appeared to be resting when officers found her in the Queens residence.

Denise will be remembered as a very special person who lived a life of meaning and purpose. She brought warmth, humor, creativity, boundless energy, and unwavering dedication to her work.

She believed in our unlimited potential for growth and change, and in the healing power of community, and she “walked the walk” every step of the way. May her life stand as illustration of how one person can have real impact in the world, and may she be rest in the peace deserving of a hero.

Veterans Rebuilding Life | In Memoriam | David Vargas | USMC
Veterans Rebuilding Life | In Memoriam | David Vargas | USMC

April 30, 1978-Jan 7, 2012

—Semper Fidelis—

U.S. Marine David Vargas was born in Brooklyn, NY. He served with 6th Communications Battalion, Alpha Company, and deployed to Iraq in support of Operation: Phantom Fury historically known as the bloodiest battle of the Iraq War.

Upon completing his tour of duty in Iraq, David returned home to Brooklyn, to the embrace of his family and friends. But like so many returning veterans of his generation, David struggled to readjust back into civilian life.

Refusing to burden friends and family, David confided his concerns to healthcare professionals at the VA hospital. But like so many veterans seeking help from the VA, David was prescribed a variety of prescription drugs, designed to sedate the emotional turmoil may veterans endure.

On January 7th, 2012, David passed away in his sleep without warning at the age of 34. He received full military honors from his Marine Corps brother-in-arms. Since David’s passing, his family and friends have become lifetime members of Veterans Rebuilding Life, supporting the annual events held in honor of David’s memory.

Veterans Rebuilding Life held a private ceremony attended exclusively by his family, and members of the Dept. of Defense. The landmark event formally launched the grand opening of VRL Headquarters, the first official location dedicated to the memory of Lance Corporal David Vargas. Today, his portrait is displayed for all to see and know who we are, what we stand for, and why we’ll never stop fighting for our brothers-in-arms.

Veterans Rebuilding Life | In Memoriam | Gary Lee Woods Jr. | USA
Veterans Rebuilding Life | In Memoriam | Gary Lee Woods Jr. | USA

June 24, 1984-April 10, 2009

—This We’ll Defend—

Born in Kentucky, Staff Sgt. Lee Woods was an artist. He was a talented musician who sang and played many instruments and had a passion for illustration. He graduated from High School and began his training at Fort Knox, Kentucky.

Lee completed two tours of duty in Iraq with the 3rd Armored Calvary Regiment, and was deployed on his third tour in September 2008, assigned to the 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.

On April 10, 2009, Staff Sgt. Woods volunteered for a mission while deployed in Mosul, Iraq. The mission would led to a deadly ambush in which five vehicles in Staff Sgt. Woods convoy were attacked by the enemy, who utilized a dump-truck to barrel through a US military check point.

Staff Sgt. Woods, driver of the 5th truck in the convoy, took immediate evasive action and strategically positioned his vehicle to provide his machine gunner a clear line of fire.


Lee’s gunner effectively engaged the enemy, killing the driver and causing the massive truck to veer off path and roll to a full-stop. Despite being disabled, the truck had been loaded with 10,000 pounds of explosives the enemy managed to detonate within range of the convoy, killing all five U.S. Soldiers on-board, including Staff Sgt. Woods. He was 24 years old.

To this day, Gold-Star mother: Mrs. Becky Manning Woods Johnson, has dedicated her life to keeping her son’s memory alive. She has developed an online-memorial page that’s received an overwhelming response of support from all over the United States. Staff Sgt. Woods and the men he served with, will live forever in the hearts of those who knew them.

Veterans Rebuilding Life, In Memoriam: Jeffrey Lam, USMC
Veterans Rebuilding Life, In Memoriam: Jeffrey Lam, USMC

July 8, 1982-Nov 8, 2004

—Semper Fidelis—

As Buddhist priests chanted prayers and lit incense, hundreds of mourners gathered at the Chun Fook Funeral Home in Queens, NY to say their last good-byes to Lance Corporal Jeffrey Lam, who was killed in Iraq a week earlier.

Lam was 22 years old and a native of Queens NY. He was assigned to the 4th Force Service Support Group in Brooklyn, NY. Lam died in a dramatic vehicular accident in the Al Anbar Province of Iraq. He was 1-of-2 Marines who drowned when the vehicle he was in, overturned into the Euphrates River.

The son of immigrants who speak little English, Lam was a student at Pace University, studying information technology. He met his wife while at Pace and they were married in June of 2003. The couple had a daughter Teri, 3 months before Lam was killed.

He was the youngest of 3 children. His mother is a seamstress and his father is a chef. His brother, Anthony, 2 years older, said how much Jeffrey enjoyed playing video games and that he had matured when he had gotten married and became a father.

At the funeral, his widow, dressed in black with a black veil, had to be held up by her sister-in-law, Annette. As part of the ceremony, immediate family members circled the wooden coffin several times as the priests intoned their prayers and then bowed three times.

There were candles, incense and a bowl of oranges in front of the casket. A large, framed photograph of Lam in his Marine uniform was surrounded by black ribbons. The Buddhist priests chanted soothing prayers to the sounds of bells and drums.

Members of the Marine Corps Honor Guard, during the final flag folding ceremony.
Members of the Marine Corps Honor Guard, during the final flag folding ceremony.
U.S. Marine Jeffery Lam during his combat deployment to Iraq.

Mourners came in groups to pay their respects. Several elderly veterans went to the coffin together, as did members of the Chinese-American Military Family Association, a nonprofit group that assists families with children serving in Iraq.

The open casket had a Marine honor guard that was changed periodically during the ceremony. Lam was dressed in his uniform, an American flag at his head. A convoy of Marines paid their respects, as did members of the Army, Navy and local police officials.

As the service progressed, it became standing room only for mourners. A graduate of the Bronx High School of Science, Lam and his family lived in the Oakland Gardens section of Queens.

A battalion of Marines accompanied the body to Maple Grove Cemetery in Kew Gardens, where there was a 21-gun salute and Taps was played. Lam was the fifth Queens soldier to die in Iraq and the second in a month.

On October 10th, PFC. James Prevete, age 22, died when his military vehicle crashed due to poor weather conditions. Army Specialist Roger Ling, 20, died when his vehicle was hit by an IED.

Marine Corporal Robert Rodriguez, 21, when his tank came under artillery fire and plunged off a bridge. Army Specialist Wilfredo Perez Jr., 24, was killed in a grenade attack on a children’s hospital. All were Queen’s natives.

Veterans Rebuilding Life, In Memoriam: Michael Curtin, USMC
Veterans Rebuilding Life, In Memoriam: Michael Curtin, USMC

Aug 24, 1956-Sept 11, 2001

—Semper Fidelis—

Sgt. Major Michael Curtin, an officer in the NY Police Dept., died on Sept. 11th, 2001. Looking at Curtin’s history, it’s clear he was a hero long before that day.

Curtin was not only a first responder on Sept. 11th, but also at the World Trade Center bombing in 1993, and again at the Oklahoma City Bombing, in 1995.

Curtin received notoriety during rescue when he caught a glimpse of blue material with a red strip sticking out of rubble, he knew it was the dress blue trouser leg of a Marine uniform.

Curtin discovered the remains of Captain Randy Guzman, an officer stationed in the Oklahoma City Federal Building. Curtin requested special permission to endanger himself and a small group of volunteers to recover Guzman’s remains.

Granted a 4 hour window, the recovery caught the Nation’s attention. A flag was draped over Guzman’s body, as witnesses fell froze and fell silent, saluting as he passed. When asked why he risked his life to recover the Captains remains,

he replied: “Marines don’t leave their own behind.” In the line of duty as a NYC police officer, Curtin saved a man trapped in a collapsing building in Harlem. The man said he would have died without Curtin:

“I want to tell his family that he is a good person, that hundreds of people in NYC are still alive because of Mike Curtin. Because of who he was, because of what he was.” said Kerik.

Former Mayor Giuliani said of Curtin: “It gives me great inspiration to know the people whose strength and bravery defend America and New York.”

Listening to the mayor’s words in the front row were the Curtin girls – they knew what their father did and who he was.

“Your daddy cannot be taken from you. It can’t be done, it’s not possible. You have something most children don’t have; the absolute knowledge that your dad was a great man, a patriot, and we thank you very much.” Giuliani said.

Bill Vallely's former Marine Unit: 6th Communications Battalion, Alpha Co.
Veterans Rebuilding Life
Veterans Rebuilding Life

Reverend Romano, NYPD Chaplain and friend of Curtin said; “There were few officers like Mike. He was the type of guy that got involved to make sure that everything was done right. He was proud of his wife Helga, and talked about her much. She too, is a Marine. But as heroic as Mike was, he was also modest.” said Romano. “He’d say to all of us today; Stop this, it’s unnecessary. There was a job to be done, so I just did it.”

Never forgotten in any remarks about Curtin’s life were his wife and children. “Twenty-two years ago, if someone said that Mike and I would be together, I’d say you’re crazy. I was just a Private in the Marines and Mike was a drill instructor, who knew?”

Later, she said nothing could keep them apart, and described her husband as the perfect person for her, a tough Marine with a soft side for his girls. “I could stand here for days and tell you about Mike and the things he loved, like watching our girls play soccer and going to track meets. Mike so loved life, and the pleasures it brought him.”

Mourners filed out of the church to where hundreds of police officers and Marines stood at attention. A Marine honor detail from Washington DC unfolded the flag to the cracking sound of 21 rifles firing, accompanied by trumpeters playing taps.

The Marines carefully folded the flag into a blue triangle and presented it to the NYPD, who then presented it to Helga. “What happened on September 11th is something that will be with me for every day of my life yet we know somehow we’ll pass through it. Time goes on. But it reminds us of the sole appreciation we have for our family, friends, community and country. He will be missed forever.”

Veterans Rebuilding Life, In Memoriam: Matthew Garvey, USMC
Veterans Rebuilding Life, In Memoriam: Matthew Garvey, USMC

Oct 31, 1963-Sept 11, 2001

—Semper Fidelis—

Matthew Garvey enlisted in the Marines at the age of 18. In his 10 year career, he would achieve the rank of Gunnery Sergeant and become a squad leader in 2nd ANGLICO, an elite Marine scout team inserted behind enemy lines, ahead of the Marine’s ground troops.

He served in military operations in Beirut, Desert Storm, and Desert Shield.

At 37, he joined the NYC Fire Dept. and earned his way into Squad-1, operating out of the Park Slope Firehouse in Brooklyn.

Matthew had recently been accepted to law school and was a member of 6th Communications Battalion, Alpha Company, a Marine reserve unit in Long Island, NY, when his Ladder Company responded to an emergency call on September 11th, 2001.

Matthew died alongside the other 343 firefighters at the World Trade Center running up the south–tower in an attempt to save those trapped inside.

In recognition of Matt’s bravery, the Secretary of the Navy awarded him with the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, which is presented for heroism not involving actual conflict with the enemy.

6th Communications Battalion, has participated in the annual Tunnel to Towers event every year in his memory.

The unit’s base, located in Long Island, NY has been named after him, in-honor of his service and sacrifice to his fellow man. A memorial ceremony is held by the Alpha Company Marines in the cemetery where Matthew was laid to rest, every year since his passing.

Honoring Frozen Chosin Marine Captain Richard Bishop, at Calverton Cemetery, on Memorial Day Weekend.
VRL's supporting members include active duty military personnel from all 5 branches of service.
Veterans Rebuilding Life

Seen above is the Alpha Company formation, completing the Tunnel to Towers run in NYC, which travels through the entrance of the Brooklyn Battery tunnel and ends at ground-zero, where the Twin Towers once stood.

NY Marine Units: 6th Communications Battalion and 2nd Battalion-25th Marines, complete the run every year, wearing combat boots and utilities during the 5K run.

Seen above are members of the FDNY’s Honor Guard, marching through downtown Manhattan toward ground-zero, during the opening ceremony of the annual Tunnel to Towers Event.

Honor Guard members are a combination of Firefighters that belong to the Fire Houses that lost members on Sept. 11th, 2001 and direct family members of the fallen, who have taken their place as on of New York Cities Finest. The Honor Guard has 343 flag–bearers, one flag for each Firefighter lost that day.

Veterans Rebuilding Life, In Memoriam: Calixto Anaya Jr. USMC
Veterans Rebuilding Life, In Memoriam: Calixto Anaya Jr. USMC

June 19, 1966-Sept 11, 2001

—Semper Fidelis—

Calixto Anaya Jr., known as Charlie among his friends and family, grew up in the small village of Suffern, located in Rockland County, NY. Charlie was Marine Veteran of Operation Desert Storm, and a Firefighter with Engine No. 4, in the NYC Fire Dept.

Charlie died tragically in the line of duty alongside 343 of his fellow brothers, at World Trade Center attack on Sept. 11th, 2001. He was only 35 years of age. Family and friends gathered to remember Charlie on Nov. 7th, 2001, at the Suffern Volunteer Hose Company, No. 1-35.

The gathering was followed by fire-matic services and a memorial mass, that was held at the Sacred Heart Church located in Suffern, NY.

Charlie re-enlisted in the Marine Corps, after the Persian Gulf War broke out in 1991.

Charlie believed that true patriotism meant flying the American flag, not only in front of their home, but wherever the family came to rest on camping trips and even jaunts to the beach.

“Charlie was attentive to the little things that keep love alive.”

—Marie Anaya, Charlie’s Wife

He loved both the Yankees in baseball and the Giants in football with equal exuberance. Charlie even preserved the hole he punched in his basement ceiling while celebrating the Yankees’ World Series victory over the Mets.

Calixto’s wife; Marie, remembers the NY City Firefighter as “Attentive to the little things that keep love alive” whether it was taking days off for activities with their three young children, or showing up with flowers when she did not expect them. “Charlie always wanted to do things the right way,” Mrs. Anaya said.

They were married in 1990, in a simple civil service. Charlie insisted they begin saving for the big church wedding her parents could not afford. Six months later, they walked down the aisle of St. Rita’s Roman Catholic Church, in Brooklyn, NY.