Board of Directors

Aaron Wright

Aaron Wright was born into a military family in Seattle, Washington in 1968, while his dad was serving his first of two tours in Vietnam. The family moved around the country and the world throughout his dad’s career in the Army, finally settling in middle Tennessee. After graduating with a B.A. from Toccoa Falls College in Georgia in 1990, Aaron enlisted in the U.S. Army in early 1991 as an Infantryman [11B]. He served both at Ft. Davis, Panama with the 5/87th Infantry and at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), 1/187th Infantry, the Rakkasans. A highlight of his tenure with the 101st Airborne was being selected to represent the division in the 1996 David E. Grange Best Ranger Competition. However, he considered his greatest accomplishment during his time at Ft. Campbell meeting and marrying Trish [Conrad], USMA Class of 1995. After Trish and Aaron left the military, Aaron attended Southern Illinois University School of Law, graduating with his J.D. in 2003. He spent six years with the law firm of Brandon, Schmidt, Goffinet, and Solverson [now Brandon & Schmidt] located in Carbondale, Illinois and then moving over to the Government sector with the Illinois Attorney General where he has served for 13 years as a supervising Assistant Attorney General in the Workers’ Compensation Bureau. He quite happily resides in the Carterville area with his wife of twenty-seven years, Trish, and a yellow Labrador named Bocephus. Aaron’s hobbies are duck hunting, fly fishing, and reading. He and Trish are members at Hope Church (Evangelical Presbyterian) in Carbondale. They have two adult daughters and a son-in-law, Rose Sprague and husband Jackson Sprague of Carterville, Illinois and Emma Wright of College Station, Texas. Thru the Airborne, Ranger, and West Point communities Aaron and Trish have many connections with other veterans in all stages of life and careers. Aaron is particularly passionate about helping veterans adapt to civilian life and has been doing so in unofficial capacities for many years. He is therefore very excited about the opportunity to take this work in an “official” direction thru service on the board of TAV as TAV makes a difference, one dog and veteran at a time.

Jeff Speith

Jeffrey Speith serves as the Market Executive for Banterra Bank, overseeing 28 offices in Illinois and Kentucky. His career in banking has spanned over thirty years. Jeff is active on the boards of This Able Veteran, TLC of Southern and Central Illinois, SIH Foundation, the SIU School of Finance Advisory Board, and is active with local area Chambers and civic organizations in southern Illinois and western Kentucky. Jeff earned his bachelor’s degree in management from SIU Carbondale in 1993 and his M.B.A. from SIU in 1997. He also holds degrees from the BAI Graduate School of Retail Banking at the University of Wisconsin and the Kelley School of Business graduate programs at Indiana University. Jeff resides with his wife in Paducah Kentucky and is the father of two successful young adults.


Alicia has worked in administrative/professional positions at the Southern Illinois University School of Law for more than 20 years. Her work as an attorney, mediator and administrator has given her an appreciation for the importance of collaboration to address complex challenges. Alicia has stated that the staff and volunteers of TAV bring a tremendous amount of talent and passion to the program. Her attention to detail makes her a very talented writer and an excellent proofreader – and we are delighted that she shares those talents freely with This Able Veteran. Alicia is an animal lover and is fascinated by the abilities of the dogs that are trained at TAV to assist veterans with their recovery from PTSD. “I volunteer with This Able Veteran because I believe their work is life-saving. As someone who is often frustrated by the lack of understanding and acceptance of mental health issues, I believe TAV’s success with the veterans who complete their program will help more people understand what PTSD is and that it is treatable.”


In addition to being an attorney, Jonathan Mitchell is also a United States Navy veteran.  Jonathan has more than 16 years of combined active and reserve experience, achieving the rank of Commander in the Navy Reserve.  He served in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom at Al Asad Air Base with the Base Command Group supporting the 2d Marine Air Wing.  He also served in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan as a Rule of Law Field Support Officer with Combined Joint Interagency Task Force-435 in Helmand Province. Jonathan was also the Senior Justice Advisor at Afghanistan’s Justice Center in Parwan.  He serves as an Officer in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps.  His current military assignment is Executive Officer of the 6th FLEET Legal Unit. Jonathan is welcome addition to our Board and will serve as our Military Advisor. Jonathan attended Baylor University and the University of Oklahoma Law School.  He works as an attorney at the law firm Feirich/Mager/Green/Ryan in Carbondale, Illinois. He resides in southern Illinois with his wife and two daughters.


Senior Vice President, Ambulatory Services & Chief Care Network Development Officer – Phil has been with SIHS as Vice President since 2000 and was previously Director of Corporate Planning. He became a Senior Vice President in 2017. Phil was Vice President of Planning and Marketing with Centegra Health Systems, McHenry, Illinois in early 2000. Prior to his association with SIHS, Phil was Director of Planning and Marketing with BroMenn Healthcare, Normal, Illinois (1992-1996), Director of Cardiac, Pulmonary and Neurological Services with BroMenn Healthcare (1984-1992), and Director of Cardiopulmonary Services with Mennonite Hospital, Bloomington, Illinois (1983-1984).

Phil received an Associate in Applied Science degree in Respiratory Therapy from Parkland College in 1976, a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with honors from Millikin University in 1982, and a Master of Science Degree in Healthcare Planning and Administration from the University of Cincinnati in 1987. He is board certified in Healthcare Management as a Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives and is a registered Respiratory Therapist. He has served as a lecturer/instructor in the healthcare management program at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale and has taken part in many community leadership activities with organizations such as the United Way, Holy Trinity Junior High School, Central Catholic High School, Holy Spirit Church, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, Alzheimer’s Association, and the Center for Equine Services. He is a member of the Jackson County Growth Alliance and served as the chair of that organization’s Board of Trustees for over four years.


Behesha is the founder, executive director, trauma resiliency instructor and training director of This Able Veteran. Behesha brings a unique perspective to training and communicating with dogs and as a life coach, teaches the veterans through the Trauma Resiliency program to bridge the gap and begin to take control of their lives. As a trauma survivor herself, Behesha brings an uncommon insight to how a correctly trained service dog, combined with a trauma resiliency program, can make a difference in the lives of those suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress. Through This Able Veteran, she has developed a veteran-centric model of care which is enabling veterans to regain their sense of purpose and self, changing their lives and the lives of those who love them. Behesha is a gifted public speaker, lecturer and published author on the subjects of canine behavior, communication and training.