Board & Staff

Who We Are
Board & Staff
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Bill Carnegie


Bill Carnegie is passionate about serving veterans, first responders, is a recreational kayaker and dedicated to HOW’s mission. He is a retired U.S. Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer who has spent the past 25 years in leadership roles in the nonprofit sector.  Following the shootings in Tucson in 2011, Bill was sought after to Chair the Victim Compensation Fund. He received an Arizona State Bar Association Award for his leadership role and was subsequently asked to service on the Victim Fund Board following the San Bernardino terrorist attack in 2015. Bill received a BS in Marketing from Hawaii Pacific University in 1986 and a MS in Nonprofit Management from the University of Notre Dame in 2001. Bill has taught Nonprofit Management and Board Development Courses at Arizona State University and has served on numerous local and regional Boards of Directors.

Dave Winston

Board Chair

Dave Winston joined the HOW Board of Directors in 2011.  An avid sportsman, Dave spent 20 years as a Marine officer and helicopter pilot. He retired from the US Special Operations Command after 20 years of service. Since leaving the Corps, Dave’s career experiences have ranged from operating and owning a small business in the medical distribution sector, to founding an executive search firm. Dave currently leads both the Dallas office and the industrial practice for The Caldwell Partner’s International, the eighth largest retained executive search firm in the Americas.

Dave enjoys serving all the constituents of HOW and particularly enjoys the outings. When asked what stands out most among his experiences with HOW, Dave says, “I remember talking with one of the warrior’s wives as we watched a ‘raft’ of kayaks in the middle of the tank. We soon heard a really loud laugh, to which the wife exclaimed she had not heard that laugh in over a year.” That’s what we do, and do well; we help those who served lead richer, happier lives.

Linda Minghella


Linda is the Founder and CEO of Blue River Digital Health, an independent healthcare consulting company. Prior to starting her business, Linda served as the VP & CIO at Boulder Community Health. During her 28-year career in healthcare, Linda held both director and executive level positions in several hospitals across the country.

As a graduate of the University of Maryland, Linda holds a Master of Science in Information Technology, and a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems Management. Linda also completed an advanced course in Leadership Strategies in Healthcare IT from the Harvard School of Public Health.

Linda retired with the rank of E8 (Senior Chief Petty Officer) in the U.S. Naval Reserves in 2001 and became a Certified Professional in Health Information Management Systems in 2009.

Linda has served on the Board of Trustees for Frasier Meadows. She also participated as the Chair of the Strategic Planning Committee and a member of the Executive, Finance and Governance Committees during her 7-year tenure as a Trustee.

Leslie Cohen Straka

Board Member

Leslie has been involved with Heroes on the Water since 2016. She helped to launch the HOW Fort Worth, Texas Chapter through her volunteer role as the Community Chair for the Supporters of Military Veterans at HCSC Business Resource Group, at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas (BCBSTX).

Leslie joined BCBSTX in 2013 as the Director of Marketing Communications and Positioning, Texas Sales and Marketing Division. Prior to her current role, she has over 15 years of experience in IT, UX, and marketing communications across the automotive, alternative energy, consumer electronics, healthcare and raw commodity verticals. Balancing her career with family life and her passion for volunteerism, she has supported local organizations such as Patriot Paws, Meals on Wheels, Minnie’s Food Pantry and corporate fundraising campaigns for American Heart Association.

“At the last HOW outing, the sun was just waking up, and steam was rolling off the water, as I watched a veteran arranging his gear, push off the bank in his kayak and paddle out on the lake. He looked at ease. It was in that moment I knew I had to do more to support veterans and first-responders. This is why I’m dedicated to HOW’s mission and humbled to join the Board of Directors. I’m here to make a positive impact.”

Brian Farlow

Board Member

Brian Farlow has served in the U.S. Army for 27 years. Commissioned as an Armor Officer in 1987, Brian initially served in both Germany and the First Gulf War. Brian left active duty to pursue a law degree and graduated from Albany Law School in 1995. After moving to Dallas, Brian volunteered and was mobilized and deployed as a combat advisor in Afghanistan. After redeployment, Brian applied for an appointment to the JAG Corps and was recommissioned as a JAG Officer in 2012. Brian was discharged in July 2015, having reached his maximum length of service.

Brian is currently a Partner at Gruber, Elrod, Johansen Hail Shank, where he focuses on commercial litigation.

Brian is pleased to be able to serve his fellow veterans through HOW. “The commitment of the HOW volunteers is inspiring and the help they bring our veterans is unsurpassed. I am proud to work with the great men and women of HOW to assist our veterans with the challenges of integration.”

Matt Branigan

Board Member

A lifelong fisherman, Matt retired as a Security Forces Officer in the US Air Force shortly after 9/11. Capitalizing on “the best security training and experience in the world” he started a security management consulting practice for SAIC in Virginia. He followed SAIC for three years as the VP and CSO for Brink’s Inc. In 2007 he and a partner founded Watermark Risk Management International, a business and risk management consulting company. In 2013, Matt took a leave of absence from Watermark to serve as the CEO, President and Chairman of the Board of Akal Security. He returned to Watermark in March of 2016.

Matt is honored to serve the men and women of Heroes on the Water, and support the health and welfare of our Nation’s veterans. “I stand in awe of the work HOW volunteers are doing with our veterans and their families, and look forward to working as hard as I can to assist this noble endeavor.”

Byron Harris

Board Memberr

Byron Harris is a veteran journalist and investigative reporter.

Among his national accolades are two Peabody awards, four Edward R. Murrow awards, six DuPont Columbia batons, including the only gold DuPont ever given to a local television station, and four Gerald Loeb Awards for business and economic reporting. He has also received numerous state and local awards for his work.

Harris was an investigative reporter for WFAA in Dallas for forty-two years.  He also worked for ABC News, KWTV in Oklahoma City, and KGNC-TV in Amarillo, Texas.

He has written for Texas Monthly, The Atlantic, Air & Space, and The Wall Street Journal, and appeared on Nightline.

He has an MSJ from Northwestern University and a BA from the University of Michigan.

Jim Dolan

Founder of HOW

Jim Dolan is the Founder and former President of Heroes on the Water. Following graduation from the United States Air Force Academy in 1976, he served in the USAF for 13 years as a pilot flying mainly C-130s with 8 years overseas in the Philippines and Germany. He earned a Master’s Degree in Computer Information Systems (MCIS) from Boston University in 1984. Jim is a retired Captain with American Airlines. He is a born and raise Texas Bass Fisherman, including 7 years as an avid kayak fisherman.

Randy Ramler

Office/Accounting Coordinator

Randy Ramler is a CPA with a Master’s Degree in International Management. He has been with Heroes On The Water since 2014. Randy has over 30 years’ U.S. and international experience in corporate accounting, finance, and general management.

Nathan Franks

Chief Operations Officer

Nathan Franks has been involved with Heroes on the Water since April of 2012. As both an avid kayak fisherman and an Army Officer, HOW was a perfect fit for his passions and interests. He was involved in starting both the Northwest Washington Chapter and the Ft. Hood Chapter.

He has over 10 years of experience in Finance and Program Management.

Nathan and his wife, Barbara, have a young daughter, Naomi.

Amber Helms

Operations Manager

Amber resides in Sapulpa, OK, a suburb of Tulsa.  She has been with HOW as the East Coast Area Coordinator since March of 2016. Amber and her husband, Rusty, have run the HOW – Northeastern Oklahoma Chapter since November 2012.

Amber has held numerous jobs and volunteer positions as a 20 year military wife to include: First Army Branch Secretary, 5th Grade Math Tutor, Family Readiness Group Leader, and several church committee positions.

Amber has been married to Rusty for 26 years.  She has two sons, Craig, age 20, with fiance Reagan, and Josh, age 18.

María Castañeda

Area Coordinator

Maria was born in Harlingen, Texas and spent many formative years traveling and residing in Texas and Mexico. Volunteering and giving back to the community was part of her upbringing instilled in her by her mother. Learning to hunt and fish came later in life and she has continued to enjoy and learn more from her husband and his family in the last 18 years.

Maria has experience as a Assistant Community Outreach Patrol Officer, Federal Agent, and Computer Lab Manager. She and her husband, Rudy, began volunteering for Heroes on the Water in 2014 when they started the Rio Grande Valley Chapter in Corpus Christi, TX.

“We have all been given a talent, or learned skills along the way it’s the manner in which we use them that makes a difference in people’s lives. I couldn’t ask for a better way to use mine than to further the mission of Heroes on the Water.”

Joe Winston

Area Coordinator

Joe is an avid kayak fisherman, preferring to talk about fishing and kayaking over almost any other subject. His other passion is helping others. Combining these two loves, Joe has volunteered with Heroes on the Water for years, working in the early days with founder Jim Dolan to build the organization to what it is today – a highly successful therapeutic kayak fishing organization serving thousands of warriors.

He graduated from University of Houston School of Art in 2007 with a Master’s Degree in Photography/Digital media. Joe then spent the next couple of years working with the Heroes on the Water program at Brooke Army Medical Center. In 2010, he was invited to teach at Lamar University in Beaumont for a semester, which again sparked an interest in teaching photography.  Fortunately, his wife transferred to Houston for work, supporting Joe’s desire to teach at the University of Houston and San Jacinto College.

Joe opted to become an area coordinator for HOW Nation to both impart his many years of knowledge to the volunteers and share his insights in order to help more people.

Copyright 2014 Heroes On The Water