“I cannot thank the VTA enough. They stepped in during a difficult time in life. I was having to make multiple trips from Virginia to Oklahoma while my father was battling cancer. The VTA allowed my family to focus on the last days of my father’s life and not stress over the steadily increasing costs of travel and a funeral. Without hesitation they provided financial assistance to help with funeral expenses. Many organizations say they want to help but their process is so cumbersome and lengthy that help seems so far away. The VTA wants to help families and they prove that every day. My extended family was in awe of the thoughtfulness of the VTA and their willingness to help. The VTA is like no other organization I have been a part of and I am proud to be a member. Today, I can sit back and reflect on all the great moments I was able to spend with my father during his last days and I owe that to the VTA.”
HOW WE HELP
OUR FAMILY. OUR MISSION.
We provide support to Active and Former Members of the Special Operations community who may or may not be fully served by other military support organizations. To do this, we provide scholarships, emergency relief funds, family maintenance and resilience assistance, and social activity support.
WHO WE SERVE
Through scholarships, emergency relief funds, and family maintenance/resilience support, Vigilant Torch
serves both Active and Former members of the Special Operations community as well as their dependents.
HOW WE SERVE
HOW WE HELP
“Some may say blood is thicker than water, but my husband’s organization has proven that statement wrong. They have become not only coworkers or friends, but family. My mother-in-law was in a major car accident and we needed to fly out to Florida to be by her side. We never knew there was an assistance program that would help families out in times of emergency such as this…In a matter of days we received a check to cover our flight, hotel, and a rental car. I am so appreciative to call his organization our family because they have proven to me the brotherhood does not end with the soldiers, but it ends with the families.”
“Being a part of an organization that is filled with hand-selected members was one of the highlights of my career. Unfortunately, part of the uniqueness of the Special Operations community is that when you leave, often the information flow is shut off and it becomes harder to maintain connections. The VTA afforded an opportunity for me to regain that connection with the organization and the former members. Over time, as I got older, the importance of the VTA shifted…I will forever be thankful that the VTA keeps members aware of our losses. I believe that no one should be forgotten and the VTA works hard to make sure everyone has a chance to properly honor and remembers those that have served in our organization.”
VIGILANT TORCH BROCHURE
Click here to download the Vigilant Torch brochure to learn more about our organization, who we support, how to get involved and how our donations are impacting the Special Operations community.
Michael K. Nagata
Michael K. Nagata retired from the US Army in 2019 after 38 years of Active Duty, with 34 years in US Special Operations. His final assignment was Director of Strategic Operational Planning for the National Counterterrorism Center. He is today a Strategic Advisor & Senior Vice President for CACI International, and owns Hanada Bridge LLC, a national security consulting firm.
A native of Virginia, he graduated from Georgia State University, and first enlisted in the US Army as an Infantry Private, later receiving his Commission as an Infantry Officer in 1982 from the US Army Officer Candidate School. He served in the 2nd Infantry Division in Korea before volunteering for Army Special Forces in 1984. Assigned to the 1st Special Forces Group, he served in both 1st and 2nd Battalions. In 1990, he was selected for a Special Mission Unit, and deployed extensively over several assignments there on contingency and combat operations.
From 1999 to 2000, he commanded the Army’s Special Forces Qualification Course. In 2000, he returned to a Special Mission Unit as a Squadron Commander, and was involved in the initial combat deployments after the 9/11 attacks. After graduating from the National War College in 2003, he served in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence. From 2005 to 2008, as a Special Mission Unit commander, he led multiple Joint SOF task forces across more than a dozen countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. He then served within the US Intelligence Community in Washington D.C. as a Military Deputy for Counterterrorism until 2009. He then deployed again until late 2011 to Pakistan as the Deputy Chief, Office of the Defense Representative at the US Embassy. Upon returning to the US, he served on the Joint Staff as the Deputy Director for Special Operations and Counterterrorism until 2013.
From 2013 to 2015 he commanded US Special Operations Command-Central, was responsible for Special Operations across the Central Command, and was heavily involved in the first two years of combat against the Islamic State. LTG (R) Nagata is a graduate of the Infantry Officer Basic and Advanced Courses, the Special Forces Qualification Course, the United States Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and the National War College in Washington D.C.
He and his wife Barbara have five children, and one granddaughter, who are the lights of their lives.
Tom Sullivan serves as executive director and one of our civilian board members. Tom has over 30 years of experience in senior leadership roles leading various sales, business development, operations, finance, and M&A teams across the technology and healthcare fields. Tom has an undergraduate degree from the University of Notre Dame and an MBA in finance from DePaul University. Tom is passionate about supporting Vigilant Torch and its military families.
Vice Chairman, Vigilant Torch Association
Dave is a retired Command Sergeant Major with 30 years of service in Army Special Operations. Joining the Army in 1989, Dave began his military career with the 75th Ranger Regiment and then served in other select assignments within the Special Operations community. As a senior leader, he witnessed firsthand the positive impact Vigilant Torch had on both the men and women of Special Operations and their families. Dave is honored to join the Vigilant Torch board in 2020 and looks forward to seeing this great organization take care of those who continue to serve in the SOF ranks.
Dave holds a Bachelor of Science in Organizational Leadership from the University of Charleston West Virginia and currently resides in Montana with his wife and two daughters.
Vice Chairman, Vigilant Torch Foundation
Mike Buggs’ 21 years in the United States Army included serving in the Special Operations Community in the 1990’s as a detachment sergeant. He retired in 2001 as a company Sergeant Major in the 7th Special Forces Group and has since worked for Chenega Corporation where he serves as the Chief Operating Officer for one of its Strategic Business Units (SBU). Chenega Corporation is an Alaska Native Corporation (ANC) and proud sponsor of Vigilant Torch.
John “JC” Campagna retired from the United States Army where he served on a variety of assignments largely focused in the areas of Intelligence and Special Operations. During his tenure in Special Operations, JC served as an operator, team leader, and the Force Modernization officer where he defined and developed a strategy to bring new technologies and capabilities to the it’s arsenal.
JC is currently the President of Chenega Corporation’s Military, Intelligence and Operations Support (MIOS) Strategic Business Unit (SBU), an 1,800-personnel, $300M+ organization focused on the U.S. Federal Defense and Intelligence Community market segments.
Christie Blake has spent close to 22 years in the U.S. Army. She started this journey in 1991 straight out of High School as a Logistician. She changed gears in 1994 to become an Army Signals Intelligence Analyst with a variety of assignments inside Special Operations Command. Her career culminated in 2012 as a SGM promotable inside a Special Mission Unit, where she made the difficult decision to retire in order to focus on her family.
She received her education in Florida at St. Leo University earning a Bachelors of Arts in Sociology in 2001 and at Eastern Michigan University earning a Master of Science in Information Assurance & Cyber Defense in 2015.
Christie currently spends much of her time raising her family, volunteering, and is self-employed as an Independent Contractor supporting various organizations when she is able. She is married to CSM(R) David J. Blake and they have three children ranging in ages from 4 to 18.
Treasurer & Legal Counsel
Chris Marston practices non-profit and political law in Alexandria, VA, providing compliance and financial services to non-profit organizations, candidates, party committees, and political action committees. Chris is a graduate of Dartmouth College and the Georgetown University Law Center and prior to beginning his practice, he served as Assistant Secretary of Education in the George W. Bush administration.
Chris actively volunteers with the Boy Scouts, teaches dog obedience classes for the Mount Vernon Dog Training Club, and serves as a director of the Library of Virginia Foundation.
Secretary & Legal Counsel
Dawn Gile is presently a partner with MacDonald Law Group, LLC, where her practice focuses on the defense of corporations, insurance companies, and individuals in matters involving complex civil litigation. A graduate of Loyola University Chicago School of Law and Rockford University, Dawn is admitted to practice law in Illinois, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. Dawn also serves as Immediate Past President of Military Spouse JD Network (“MSJDN”), an organization of military spouse attorneys, having previously served as its membership director and as an intake coordinator for its Justice for Military Families Committee, an initiative dedicated to providing pro bono legal services to Gold Star families. As the spouse of a Special Operations member D.J. Gile, Dawn has long volunteered with family readiness groups at the battalion level, including twice having served as its leader. In September 2019, she was awarded the Special Operations inaugural Volunteer of the Year award. Additionally, Dawn serves as the alumni trustee for Rockford University’s Board of Trustees and volunteers her time in her neighborhood community association.
She resides in Maryland with her husband D.J. and her daughters Addy and Betty.
Brian Gellman retired from the military in 2020 after nearly 30 years of combined service. Brian enlisted at 17 as a medic in the Army Reserves and was later commissioned as a Military Intelligence officer with a branch detail in the Infantry.
Brian first served in the Special Operations community as a member of 5th Special Forces Group which led to other select SOF assignments throughout the community to include the Joint Staff, Deputy Directorate for Special Operations. Brian completed his career as the G2 of the US Army John. F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School.
Post-military, Brian is keeping close ties to the community by working as an instructor of highly specialized skills in the Joint SOF and Intelligence communities. In addition, he also serves as an adjunct professor for Angelo State University teaching intelligence analysis and critical thinking.
Brian assumed the role of Chairman of the Vigilant Torch Scholarship Committee in December 2021 in an effort to give back to a community that he still considers his family.