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Pittsburgh First Responders and Military Champion Finalists



John Lee, President

Heroes Supporting Heroes

works on computer programs for Federal Background Investigations Technical service in the Office of Personnel Management. He has served in the Military for 20 years with 6 tours to Iraq and Afghanistan with experience in all parts of Civil Engineering; he is a cradle to grave engineer. John is a member of the Church of the Living Christ for 36 years, and has lived in Findlay Township all of his life. His desire to help people that are in need has fueled his ambition to start a Non-profit organization called Heroes Supporting Heroes, where he leads a team of skilled technicians to help with home repairs for military families that have someone deployed and also active military, retired military, disabled veterans, and others in need. In his family, John and his wife Sheri, have been married for 19 years and have been a part of the community in one way or another with PTA, Angel Tree, VFW, Board of Directors for PTI, Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce and many other services.  John and Sheri have two children in West Allegheny grade school, and plan to be here many more years in the West Allegheny area.John is looking forward to serving others and is ready to help the Reserve Command and local community to succeed in standing by our families left behind from deployments.  Being a part of a team that is willing to put others before themselves feels like home to John, after being in the Military most of his life he knows what it means to work together and accomplish a task and to value a team.



James Yauger

Service To Opportunity, Allegheny Conference on Community Development

serves as the Veteran Outreach Manager for the Service to Opportunity program, a unique online toolkit that helps connect veterans with jobs at Pittsburgh-region energy and manufacturing companies.

James is a veteran U.S. Army infantryman who served with the First Cavalry Division during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He has personally experienced the challenges of transitioning to a civilian career. For the past five years he has worked to improve the process for others by developing innovative programs and services that assist veterans and educate the public about how to better help servicemen and women upon their return back home.

James has presented his findings and insights on the career needs of returning service members at numerous conferences. His diverse background includes training and experience in human resources, higher education, customer service and training and development. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business, specializing in entrepreneurship and human resources, from Seton Hill University. He is president of the Westmoreland Human Resources Association and a member of the Society for Human Resource Management.

James knows first-hand how passionate veterans are about continuing to serve in meaningful ways. Since taking the helm of Service to Opportunity earlier this year, he has helped to break down some of those barriers by connecting veterans with the skilled, family-supporting jobs at energy and advanced manufacturing companies throughout the 10-county region.

A native of Connellsville, Fayette County but currently resides in Trafford, Westmoreland County, James enjoys downtime with his family, and staying active with fellow veterans and Team Red White & Blue members.



James O'Connor

The Mission Continues Pittsburgh Platoon

was born and raised in Pittsburgh, and served as a United States Marine. While deployed to the Persian Gulf in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, James earned a Presidential Unit Citation, National Defense Service Medal, and a Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal for exemplary service. Upon leaving active military service, he pursued his education and obtained a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in business administration.

In April of 2014, James returned to Pittsburgh and reported for duty in his community. Collaborating with the Heinz Endowments, Highmark, Mayor Peduto’s office, Checkpoint, The Forbes Funds, The Pittsburgh Penguins, and The University of Pittsburgh, James created innovative ways to engage and support transitioning veterans by creating a network and opportunities for them to continue to serve their community in meaningful ways. He leveraged his military experience and abilities to recruit and lead an all-volunteer force of over 75 veterans called “The Mission Continues 1st Pittsburgh Service Platoon” that executes monthly community service projects in Pittsburgh.

The Mission Continues is an organization that creates opportunities for veterans to reinvest the grit and experience they learned from the military back into their communities. James is currently the local platoon leader. The result has been two-fold. First, Pittsburgh veterans are ignited by service and camaraderie once again. Second, our communities are stronger for embracing their compassion and strength.

James focused the Service Platoon’s first year efforts on community revitalization in Hazelwood. By partnering with Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh, the Platoon is helping the Hazelwood neighborhood by repairing and renovating the homes of low-income, the elderly, military veterans and individuals with permanent physical disabilities. The Platoon’s goal is to support the Hazelwood community by helping homeowners preserve equity when property values increase and ensure they are included in the new neighboring ALMONO waterfront development. Second, the Service Platoon has teamed up with the Center of Life to rehab the community center’s 3rd floor to make room for new music programs for the local children. The Platoon’s overall vision is to inspire the Hazelwood community members and supporters with their energy, passion, and devotion to service.

James is also a current member of Leadership Pittsburgh’s Community Leadership Course for Veterans. He works in the Business Development Division for Allegheny County’s Department of Economic Development .He lives in Brookline with his wife, Angelica Sirabella - they were married this past January!

Note: If James and his Platoon were recognized as one of the six champions, the $1,000 would be donated to the Hazelwood Community Center – The Center of Life. The funds would empower the platoon to complete a 3rd floor renovation which will be used for a local children’s music program.



Lt. Gregory P. Vogel

Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire

currently works as a Staff Instructor at the Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire Training Academy, and is certified by the State of Pennsylvania as both an EMT Instructor and Fire Suppression Instructor. He began his firefighting career as a volunteer for Dormont Borough in November of 1998 and joined the Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire in July of 2000. Lt. Vogel is a licensed EMT-Paramedic and was a volunteer for Shaler Area EMS from July of 1995 until October of 2000. He served in the Marine Corps Reserve, 2nd Military Police Company from September of 1979 until he was honorably discharged in February of 1987 at the rank of Sergeant.
Since joining the Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire Training Academy in January of 2006, Lt. Vogel and his colleagues have provided emergency medical and fire suppression instruction to nearly 300 new recruits. He is solely responsible for coordinating all of the emergency medical training for both new recruits and veteran firefighters. Once a firefighter is certified as an EMT or First Responder, he or she must take continuing education courses to maintain their certification throughout their career. Lt. Vogel received a Letter of Commendation in August of 2013 for his Outstanding Service to the Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire in Facilitating Emergency Medical Training Programs.
Lt. Vogel has many certifications and licenses including:
National Certification for Fire Officer 1 and Fire Officer 2
PA Certified Fire Suppression Instructor
PA EMT Instructor
PA Paramedic License
PA Certified Hazmat Technician and Instructor
PA Basic Life Support Instructor
PA Certified Structural Collapse Technician
PA Certified Evaluator for:
· Fire Fighter 1
· Fire Fighter 2
· Fire Instructor 1
· HazMat Operations
· General Requirements
· Vehicle/Machinery 1
Certified Vehicle Rescue Instructor
Certified Building Inspector 1
Certified Train the Trainer - Instructional Techniques for Company Officers

Gregory is married and resides with his wife, Pam, in the city’s Westwood neighborhood.