• Get Help Now
  • Donate
  • Ways to Give
  • Current Needs
  • Get Involved
  • Contact Us
  • Log in
  • Search
  • Home

Operation Homefront - Leadership

Our all-volunteer force today constitutes our collective will as a nation and we’re honored to serve these patriots and the families who serve by their side.
John I. Pray, Jr., President & CEO, Brig Gen, USAF (Ret.)

Chosen to lead Operation Homefront following a nationwide search in May 2015, John previously served nearly six years with the United Service Organizations (USO) in a broad range of executive capacities, most recently as the executive vice president, Operations, Programs, & Entertainment. A 27-year veteran of the Air Force, he retired in 2007 to accept a position as the executive secretary of the National Security Council, where he was responsible for managing policy formulation in support of the president of the United States and other senior White House decision makers. When his government service ended in early 2009, he became the executive vice president for SPEC Innovations, where he helped the systems engineering company expand into new areas. He joined the USO later that year and has led a broad range of initiatives in operations, marketing, communications, information technology, entertainment and strategy, to ensure the USO met its commitments to service members and their families and the donors that support them. John holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree from the U.S. Air Force Academy and Master’s degrees from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the School of Advanced Airpower Studies and the Air War College. He has also completed senior executive programs at the Columbia University Graduate School of Business, Harvard Business School and Wharton.

Thanks to our generous donors, we are able to help those who protect our way of life in their time of need.
Margi Kirst, Chief Development Officer

Margi oversees a development and marketing/public relations team that is responsible for creating vibrant engagement and connection between generous donors and the military families supported by Operation Homefront. Margi has 30 years’ experience in marketing and communications for global private and nonprofit organizations and joined Operation Homefront in June 2015. She previously served as vice president of Marketing at the United Service Organizations (USO), and has also directed fundraising, marketing and communications initiatives for the Autism Society of America, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), Socimer International and Price Waterhouse. Margi has a Master of Arts from Johns Hopkins University and a Bachelor of Arts from Trinity College in Washington, D.C.  She is an extremely proud military family member, as the wife of a former U.S. Army officer, the daughter of dual-service U.S. Navy parents, and the sister of two Army reservists.

For all those who selflessly serve to defend and protect our way of life, it’s our honor to serve those who make such service possible: the military family.
Robert D. Thomas, Chief Operating Officer, Brig Gen, USAF (Ret.)

Bob joined the Operation Homefront executive team in August 2015 following a nearly 31-year career of distinguished service in the Air Force. In his final command assignment, he led the Jeanne M. Holm Center for Office Accessions and Citizen Development, where he was responsible for directing the education and training programs that produce more than 81 percent of the officer cadre of the Air Force. In addition to being an experienced combat pilot, Bob held staff assignments at Headquarters Air Mobility Command, Joint Special Operations Command, the United Nations and the Air Staff. He has flown combat/combat support missions or deployed with ground-based special operations units in Panama and Somalia, as well as Operations Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Bob holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree from the U.S. Air Force Academy and Master’s degrees from the University of Southern California and the National Defense University.

I’m honored to share in the fiduciary responsibility of the organization and thankful to work along side a great group of people with a common purpose of building strong, stable, and secure military families.
Andre Hawkins, CPA, Chief Financial & Administrative Officer

Andre Hawkins joined Operation Homefront as Chief Financial and Administrative Officer in July 2019. In this role, Andre develops, plans, organizes, implements, directs, and evaluates the financial functions and performance of Operation Homefront. He oversees the Accounting and Information Technology departments and supports the OH Senior Team, Finance/Audit Committee, and Board of Directors. Andre has more than 25 years of professional experience in accounting with for-profit and non-profit organizations. He has spent the last 13 years serving the senior population and most recently was the Chief Financial Officer for Haverland Carter Lifestyle Group and Air Force Villages, Inc. Prior to working in senior living, Andre worked in public accounting for Fisher, Herbst & Kemble PC and held accounting management positions with Texaco Inc. and Alcoa Fujikura Ltd. He has a Bachelor of Business Administration, with an emphasis in Accounting, from Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He is a Certified Public Accountant. Andre is honored to serve military and veteran families in gratitude of his own family’s military service. His grandfather served as a Navy Seaman in World War II, father-in-law as an Army Lieutenant in the Vietnam War, and his uncles served in the Air Force and the Army.  

I feel extremely fortunate to lead our housing programs and directly impact the lives of our military families. Walking side-by-side with the families and witnessing their unbelievable courage and strength keeps me going so we at Operation Homefront, as a team, can continue to build strong, stable, and secure military families.
Gracie Broll, VP of Transitional and Permanent Housing

Gracie Broll first came to Operation Homefront in 2008 as a contractor to set up and manage the first transitional housing village in San Antonio. It was during this early work that Gracie realized the need for temporary housing, especially among those recently wounded, and knew she found her life’s passion. After working her way up through the organization, she now oversees Operation Homefront’s Transitional and Permanent Housing programs that support servicemembers, veterans and their families at various stages of transitioning from military to civilian life. Watching her brother-in-law, a veteran of the Army, recover from an IED blast and thrive in his own life has helped fuel Gracie’s dedication to those Operation Homefront serves.

We strive to empower our organization through the use of technology and information to better serve our military families and engage our donors.
Troy Kasbarian – VP of Information Technology & General Services

Troy oversees Operation Homefront’s Information Technology and General Services divisions whose responsibilities include managing the IT systems, applications, and infrastructure as well as the organization’s facilities and logistics.  His 20+ year career includes deep experience in technical support, network and systems engineering, and systems management.  He was recently confirmed as a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP).  He joined Operation Homefront in 2016 from the United Service Organizations (USO) where he was the technical subject matter expert of the various IT systems and responsible for the underlying infrastructure.  Troy has several members of his extended family in the military including a cousin who is a retired Major in the US Army who served as chaplain in South Korea and Iraq.

It is heartwarming to work with so many wonderful organizations who are committed to serving our military and veteran families, and who continue to support Operation Homefront’s mission with their generosity.”
Jill Eskin-Smith, VP of Corporate & Foundation Partnerships

Jill Eskin-Smith joined Operation Homefront in 2016 and oversees the acquisition and stewardship of corporate and foundation partnerships across the country. Jill has 25 years of experience in sales, marketing and account management with nationally recognized news media organizations. Prior to joining Operation Homefront, she spent 18 years at USA TODAY where as Director of Education Resources she was responsible for cultivating strategic, revenue generating partnerships with corporations, foundations and associations and oversaw the creation of curriculum materials provided to over 30,000 middle and high school classrooms. She also served as the Director of National Sales Services, where she managed marketing initiatives for Retail, Travel and Education sales channels. Jill formerly held positions at U.S. News & World Report, PBS and Discovery Communications and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania.

I feel privileged to have the honor of supporting and working alongside an extraordinary team of employees and volunteers at Operation Homefront as together, we reach toward our shared vision of serving America’s military families.
Karen Smithhart, VP of Human Resources

Karen began her career with Operation Homefront in 2008 serving as Director of Operations for Texas. She later moved to the national headquarters in San Antonio leading field office transitions and programs, volunteer management, and staff training which evolved into her current role as Vice President of Human Resources and General Services. Karen has over 28 years in the nonprofit sector with the Girls Scouts, American Red Cross and Operation Homefront. She has experience in human resources, branch operations oversight, fund development, marketing and volunteer management. In her time with the Red Cross, Karen helped create a nationally recognized Youth Volunteer Program and, later, during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, she expertly stood up a Volunteer Reception and Training Center in San Antonio, responsible for managing and assigning over 12,000 volunteers. These volunteers facilitated the work of five mega-shelters housing over 35,000 evacuees, 24 hours a day. She later developed protocols for “Managing Large Numbers of Spontaneous Volunteers.” Karen‘s family has a rich history of military service. Her late father served in the Army, her late father-in-law served in the Navy, her husband was in the Air Force and her son is currently in his 19th year with the U.S. Coast Guard. Karen is a proud wife, mother, grandmother and great grandmother.

I am very proud of how Operation Homefront's refreshed visual identity highlights the great military families we serve and the many ways we support them. Having a great and reliable brand will help us find the right partners to support our important mission: to build strong, stable, and secure military families.
Jay Sternberg, VP of Marketing

Jay leads Operation Homefront’s integrated marketing campaigns, cause marketing initiatives, digital and social network strategy, branding and creative services projects, and marketing research. He joined Operation Homefront in October 2015 as Senior Director of Marketing before being promoted to Vice President of Marketing in January 2017. His team develops and executes marketing partnerships for the organization, provides creative and strategic direction for the organization’s events and programs, and works collaboratively with the communications, programs and development teams to expand brand awareness opportunities. Over his 20+ year marketing career, Jay has held several critical roles, including Director of Brand and Creative Services at the United Service Organizations (USO), Marketing Manager for Source America (AbilityOne), Senior Manager of Worldwide Marketing Operations at Blackboard and Vice President of Marketing for a start-up magazine (re:D) in Dallas, TX. Jay earned his M.S. in Integrated Marketing Communications from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and received his B.A. in History from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. His passion for supporting the military comes from his father serving as an Army Reservist during the Korean War, his grandfather serving during World War II and his great uncle serving as a Navy pilot. Jay and his wife, Stacey, have two boys and live in Bethesda, Maryland.

I am grateful every day for the passion and commitment of our individual donors who help make our mission of building strong, stable, and secure military families possible.
Scott Wood, VP of Individual Giving & Campaigns

Scott leads Operation Homefront’s fundraising efforts with individual donors including overseeing annual campaigns, major gift, planned giving, and direct response fundraising initiatives. He also oversees donor relations, gift processing, donor research and stewardship. He joined Operation Homefront in December 2015 as Senior Director of Direct Response before being promoted to Vice President, Individual Giving & Campaigns in March 2020. Over his 20+ year career, Scott has worked for the insurance industry, various marketing agencies and non-profits. Scott earned his MBA from Loyola University of Maryland and received his B.S. in Computer Science from the University of Virginia. His passion for supporting the military comes from his father who served as a Marine and his uncle who served in the Army in World War II.

Words often fall short when trying to communicate the courage and commitment of our service members and their families, yet I will do my best to use them to advocate for those who serve our country so valiantly.
Susan Ziesman, VP of Integrated Public Relations

Susan Ziesman joined Operation Homefront in 2010 and as VP of Integrated Public Relations provides strategic oversight of the organization’s internal and external communications, media relations, digital engagement and corporate stewardship.  Susan has over 20 years’ experience in public relations, communications and digital marketing, working in education and global energy prior to entering the nonprofit world. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Journalism and Mass Communications with a PR emphasis and a minor in Psychology from Iowa State University.  Susan has immediate and extended family members who have served and is passionate to build a bridge of greater connection between military families and the Americans whose freedoms they defend.