Board of Directors

Linda Tuisl

Executive Director

Linda Tuisl has been with OSOT-America since 2011 and has served as a volunteer and worked as a marketing contractor for the organization. Her history and experience with OSOT-America ranges from public relations, social media, graphic design, communications, advertising, marketing activities, and committee programs when needed. She has also worked on events, including Rockin’ For the Troops, Red White and Blues, and Over The Edge to name a few. Linda is also a military spouse, her husband Doyle is currently serving in the U.S. Army Reserves and has also been an active volunteer with OSOT-America for many years. Linda’s background includes working at the corporate headquarters for a movie theatre chain serving 17 theaters across the U.S. and managing all the marketing and promotional activities for all locations. She has also managed all the marketing and public relations for the launch and opening of Legoland Discovery Center in Schaumburg, IL.

We welcome Linda Tuisl and look forward to our partnership.

Justin Smitherman

Justin Smitherman

Chairman of the Board

Justin Smitherman is the President of Smitherman & Associates Inc. located in Elburn and St. Charles. He served in the Air Force for 8 years including a tour in Iraq. He is married to Carly, also an Air Force Veteran, whom they have one daughter named Lillian. Justin has been involved with Operation Support Our Troops-America for 6 years, and a board member for 5 years.

Carl Pedersen


Carl Pedersen has spent most of his business career in Corporate Finance, and is currently a partner at Synergy General Contractors in Mt Prospect, IL.  His father is a Marine, and his son was in the Army.

In 2008, Carl started his relationship with Operation Support Our Troops-America, when he organized a company-wide donation for care packages for OSOT as his son entered the Army (which took 4 SUVs to transport)!  Also, at that time, he started working with and eventually became Executive Director of Little Smoke Chicago, a cigar-friendly, annual charity fundraiser event, benefiting primarily military charities, including OSOT, and continues to provide financial support to numerous charities.

Carl was raised in Westchester and has lived in Villa Park for 25 years with his wife, Sharon, and 2 “children”, Chello and Tyler, their adopted American Eskimo dogs, from the dog rescue, Chicagoland Eskie Rescue, where Sharon volunteers as Marketing Coordinator.  Their children are grown, and Jeni and her family (2 grandchildren) live in Marengo, IL, while Adam and his family (3 grandchildren) opted for the warmer weather near Tampa, FL.  Golf, NASCAR, Cigars, and his wife are his passions.

He is happy to continue to support Operation Support Our Troops-America more formally as a Board Member.

Bill Strening


Bill Strening has been a member of the Board of Directors of OSOT since 2008. Bill is an attorney, has been in private practice since August 2016, as well as operating a surety bond agency with his brother in Chicago. Bill was previously Assistant General Counsel with True Value Company from 2001 – 2016 and prior to 2001 served in various positions with Chicago Bridge & Iron Company between 1975 and 2000 including Assistant General Counsel from 1986 to 2000.  In addition to his work with OSOT, Bill is currently President of the Parish Pastoral Council of Notre Dame Parish in Clarendon Hills as well as a Board Member of the Graue Mill Condominium I Association.

Bill Kohnke

Bill Kohnke is President of BK Office Cleaning Corp. located in Lombard, IL. He previously was employed at a financial derivative firm for over 30 years specializing in auditing and operations management.
Bill served on the Lombard Area Chamber of Commerce and Industry board of directors.  He currently serves as Treasurer of Abbey Woods Townhome Association.
Bill lives in Lombard, IL with his wife Mary Beth. His father served in the army and cousin was in the vietnam war. Bill has passionate interests in sports & stock market,  enjoys traveling to.  He has served on OSOT- America board of directors since 2020.

John Cooper

Board Member

Lt General John B. Cooper joined the OSOT-America Board in 2021.  He is Senior Vice President of Global Government and Defense at AAR Corp in Wood Dale IL, a leading aviation services provider to commercial airlines and governments worldwide. John spent 35 years serving in the U.S. Air Force, culminating his career at The Pentagon as the Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, Engineering, and Force Protection.  There, he oversaw and approved all policies for logistics, aviation maintenance, and supply chain management across the Air Force, built a $26B annual budget to support global operations, and advocated for the budget with the U.S. Congress.  He held Command at the Squadron, Group, and Wing levels and participated in numerous contingency operations.

Joe Dalpino

Board Member

Born and raised in Chicago, IL. I spent eight years on active duty in the Marine Corps. Started working at Unicon International as Marine Surveyor until I started my own company Intermodal Midwest Surveyors in 2006. Married to Valerie with two sons Joseph Jr and John who is active duty Army. Currently reside in Lemont, IL and enjoy playing 16″ softball in Mt Greenwood in Chicago.

Donald Potoczny

Board Member

Don Potoczny serves as the Commandant of the Patton Academy at Farragut High School in Chicago. The program provides leadership and civics instruction to hundreds of disadvantaged students.

Colonel Potoczny served in the US Army for over thirty-four years. After retiring from a distinguished military career, Don quickly became a leader in several community organizations. He serves as the President of the DuPage Symphony Orchestra, the Director for Professional Development for Project Management Institute Chicagoland, and a senior advisor for Operation Support our Troops. CLICK HERE to continue reading.

Bill Rickert

Bill Rickert

Board Member

Bill Rickert is a co-founder of OSOT-America and had served as Executive Director. Mr. Ricker has held multiple senior executive leadership positions, has a deep understanding of the organization, and holds a BA degree from Baldwin-Wallace College. Bill’s extensive experience with organizational leadership and change, as well as the development and growth of customer relationships will continue to benefit the work of OSOT-America.

Deb Rickert

Deb Rickert

Founder / Emeritus Board Member

Deb started Operation Support Our Troops-America in 2003 after her son joined the military in the wake of the attacks of September 11th. She served as President and CEO for 13 years creating additional programs for veterans and Families of Fallen service members. She also oversaw the integration of the of the Veterans Assistance Program into OSOT-America. In 2015 Deb stepped down from her duties as CEO but remains in her role of guiding and overseeing the fulfillment of the mission. She also served as the CEO for Sharing Connections furniture bank in Downers Grove, IL.

Cassandra Taylor

Board Member

Cassandra Taylor, is a 28 year Army Veteran, born and raised in Maywood, Illinois where she attended Proviso East High School. At the end of her sophomore year, her parents relocated to Fort Madison, IA. After graduating from Fort Madison High School in 1981, she went on to study at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, IA. She later transferred to the University of Iowa in Iowa City, IA in 1982 where she studied Liberal Arts. She received her Bachelor’s Degree of Science in Technical Management in 2007 from DeVry University in Addison, IL; and her Master’s Degree in Human Resource Management in 2008 from Keller Graduate School of Management in Schaumburg, IL. In 2019 she decided to go for her MBA with a concentration in Healthcare Management from Keller Graduate School of Management in Chicago, IL. CLICK HERE to read more.