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Employee Perspectives: Honoring and Celebrating Our Veterans

Veterans Day at Bozzuto

On Veterans Day, we pause to remember the invaluable service of our veterans—their bravery, sacrifice and resilience. To all those who have served, especially the veteran and veteran spouse employees in our Bozzuto community, thank you for your service to our country. 

Bozzuto is proud to support veteran and veteran spouse employees through the VETS (Veterans Empowered to Succeed) employee resource group (ERG), which is dedicated to empowering veteran employees and their families to have a successful transition to civilian life through recruitment, representation, community service and more. 

If you identify as a veteran or spouse of a veteran, please reach out to the VETS group to let them know. To join VETS or learn more about this ERG, please visit Teleskope here

Do you know these Bozzuto veterans and veteran spouses? We asked several of our Bozzuto veteran and veteran spouse employees to share stories about their experiences in the military with us. Below, read about their service, career journeys and what Veterans Day means to them. 


Taneesha Nicole Graves | Executive Concierge | Liberty Harbor East (Baltimore, Maryland)
Tell us about yourself. 

I am originally from Fresno, California, and currently reside in Baltimore, Maryland. I am the executive concierge at Liberty Harbor East and transitioning to a new role as a sales and marketing associate. I have been with Bozzuto for about two years and I hope to continue to grow within the company.  

Outside of work, I enjoy reading, hiking, learning history, and I also love to create. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I have learned a great deal about the book publishing process, and I established my own self-publishing company, Cultured Reads Publishing. I am now in the process of self-publishing the first book in my children’s book series, “The Scholars Crew and Their Grown-Up Dreams.” I have also certified as a COVID-19 Contact Tracer through the Bloomberg School of Public Health at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. I’ve also started an online master’s in public health program through the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans, Louisiana. 

Tell us about your military service. 

I enlisted in the United States Air Force in October 2001, just one month after September 11. I served for 10 years. The first seven years, I was a military police officer in Security Forces, and the last three years as an ophthalmic technician and the personal assistant to the dean of the U.S. Air Force Academy. I was certified on nine different weapons systems, taught how to create and set up a physical security perimeter in bare land and worked in an Iraqi prison. I also participated in a medical humanitarian mission in Benin, West Africa. 

Why did you join the military? 

I joined the United States Air Force to learn new skills and take advantage of the education benefits. As it turned out, I gained a wealth of knowledge in the areas of leadership, management, organization and communication. I had experiences that I will never forget, traveled to places all over the world and established life-long friendships. I will forever be grateful for the time I spent serving my country. 

How has your military experience helped your career at Bozzuto? 

My time in the United States Air Force shaped the way I think, the way I communicate and the way I treat others. I am a better employee because of my military service, and Bozzuto has given me the time and space to utilize the skills that I’ve learned and apply them to my job. These are also skills that I will build upon as I grow within the company. 

What does Veterans Day mean to you? 

To me, Veterans Day means a day of reflection for those of us who served. It is also a time for the nation to recognize and pay tribute to the sacrifice and the courage of those who raised their hands to protect these United States. I am honored to be a part of such an extraordinary group of people who chose service before self. I say thank you to the veterans who served before me, to those veterans who served with me and to all of those who continue to serve in our great armed forces. 

What was your biggest challenge in the military? 

My biggest challenge in the military was always overcoming being the only one and being taken seriously as a woman. I worked in a male-dominated career field while serving as a military police officer in security forces and I often found myself being the only woman. While in Iraq, I worked in a prison as a correctional officer and I was the only female guard in charge of a quad of over 300 male detainees. When I transitioned from security forces to train as an ophthalmic technician, I was the only African American in my class and graduated as the Top Graduate with a 98% overall average. I was the only enlisted personnel working on the staff at the academy and the only African American woman working in a sea of Air Force officers, retired officers and cadets. I am very familiar with being the only one, and over time, I found ways to not just overcome these challenges but also be successful as a minority woman serving her country. 


Kelly Cantley | Senior Vice President | Bozzuto Construction Company (Greenbelt, Maryland)
Tell us about yourself. 

I was raised in Tennessee and have a profound love for travel. Seeing new places and being a geeky tourist are when I’m in my element. I joined Bozzuto almost 10 years ago, where I have been focused on finding new opportunities for Bozzuto Construction Company and growing our business. 

Tell us about your military service. 

I served for 10 and a half years in the Navy, four of which were at the Naval Academy. After graduation, I was deployed to the main duty station on the USS Eisenhower in the Mediterranean. Eventually, I transferred to the Civil Engineer Corps, where I finished out my service at the naval base in New Orleans. 

Why did you join the military? 

Having been raised by my father, an army pilot who retired after 36 years, I admired his love for the service and felt it would be a rewarding experience. 

How has your military experience helped your career at Bozzuto? 

Discipline, teamwork and dedication were three of many values that the military instilled in me that have helped me throughout my career with Bozzuto. 

What does Veterans Day mean to you? 

This day is a reminder that freedom is not guaranteed. I’m honored to have been amongst the ranks of women and men that have dedicated time to serving in the armed forces to ensure freedom for all. Although the observance focuses on military personnel, it reminds me to be thankful for all current uniformed service members that protect us every day. 


James Gatling | Maintenance Manager | TRIO (Newton, Massachusetts)
Tell us about yourself. 

I grew up in Waterbury, Connecticut, but I spent the majority of my adolescence living in North Carolina. I started working for Bozzuto Management Company in June 2020 at TRIO, a property that is in the lease-up phase located in Newton, Massachusetts. I enjoy woodwork and building cabinetry, tinkering with tools on my vehicle, fishing and spending time with my family. I read about and research my many interests and love learning new things. 

Tell us about your military service. 

I joined the United States Marine Corps in 1993. I did a four-year active-duty tour, and four more years in the reserve. My main job was being a telecommunications technician. I primarily set up networks that allowed units to communicate from any location, as well as monitored, troubleshooted and maintained such networks. I also cross-trained with the engineers, who supplied electrical services to whole campsites. I also held a billet as the HAZMAT non-commissioned officer (NCO), a job that requires identifying and handling hazardous material. 

Why did you join the military? 

I joined the military to serve my country and because I had an interest in learning and traveling abroad. I always felt that young citizens should join a branch of the military before living life as an adult. I chose the United States Marine Corps because the recruiter I was working with was always prompt, precise and honest. Structurally, the Marine Corp highlights the character traits that are already instilled in a person and perfects, sharpens and hones them.  

How has your military experience helped your career at Bozzuto? 

Military experience builds a base of loyalty, respect and due diligence to achieve and succeed! 

What does Veterans Day mean to you? 

Veterans Day is a meaningful time to reflect and remember all members who are currently serving, have previously served or who gave their all for liberty and justice! On this day, we remember. 


Pavi Silva | Assistant Property Manager | Central (Silver Spring, Maryland
Tell us about yourself. 

I grew up in Colombo, Sri Lanka and moved to the United States when I was 14 years old. I currently live in Gaithersburg, Maryland. I have been with Bozzuto for about four years and absolutely love working for the company. In my down time, I enjoy watching all sorts of sports. 

Tell us about your military service. 

I served in the United States Marine Corps for four years as a machine gunner (MOS 0331). 

Why did you join the military? 

I joined the USMC to serve the country that gave us an opportunity, and to take on a new challenge. 

How has your military experience helped your career at Bozzuto? 

There’s no greater team than the military. The teamwork skills I gained during my time in the military have helped me work with my colleagues as a unit and accomplish our goals at Bozzuto. Adaptability is a key component of military service and that trait has translated well into day-to-day work here. Last but not least, leadership experience was a priceless quality I was able to bring with me to Bozzuto. 

What does Veterans Day mean to you? 

Veterans Day is a day to reflect on the ultimate sacrifices made by men and women for this amazing country. The recognition of this day also gives me such honor and pride to be among such an extraordinary group of people. 

What was your biggest challenge in the military? 

One of the biggest challenges I faced during my military service was how to deal with stress. There are many factors that contribute to stress in the military, such as being away from family and friends, pressure to perform, staying ready 24/7, etc.  


Jack Verner | Regional Director, Maintenance and Engineering Services | Bozzuto Management Company (Greenbelt, Maryland)
Tell us about yourself. 

My hometown is Villa Rica, Georgia. Between the ages of nine and 16, I spent summers at our family’s farm on Chandler Mountain in Steele, Alabama. Our primary crop was tomatoes, and we grew everything we needed. Working on our farm taught me to be resourceful and to make use of the things around you when possible. 

My work history with Bozzuto started in September 2014, when Washington Real Estate Investment Trust hired Bozzuto to take over and manage their entire residential portfolio. Recently, I’ve had the privilege to work with the Maintenance and Engineering Services team as a regional director. We have a lot of experience and knowledge in our division. I feel extremely honored and lucky to be a member of the team. 

My hobbies are fishing and playing guitar. I first started learning to play guitar when I was 11 and have been learning ever since. A couple of years ago, I started repairing and building them. 

Tell us about your military service. 

In 1978, I joined the United States Army on a three-year enlistment as a military police officer. I spent the first two years working for the military police school at Fort McClellan in Anniston, Alabama. My job was to support the military police school. I helped train officers on combat orientation, undercover surveillance, investigation, integration, polygraph techniques and many more topics. I found this part of my military experience incredibly rewarding. I spent my third and final year in Wildflecken, Germany working as a military police officer. 

Why did you join the military? 

I joined the military to gain job skills training and be a part of the veteran community. After I graduated high school, the U.S. economy was not doing very well and there were not many jobs available where I grew up. I had a family to support and joining the military was a great option for us. I continue to use and benefit from the invaluable skills I gained from my time in the military and I would do it all over again if given the opportunity. 

How has your military experience helped your career at Bozzuto? 

My military experiences have helped my Bozzuto career in many ways. The military taught me the benefits of being focused, disciplined, adaptable and resourceful. It taught me the value of hard work, that details matter. My military experience gave me the confidence to make conscious, fact- and outcome-based decisions—detailed planning is critical to all missions, goals and overall success. Having this mindset has helped me be successful not only at Bozzuto but also throughout my overall career as well. 

What does Veterans Day mean to you? 

To me, Veterans Day means honoring the women and men who have made sacrifices to help us preserve our freedoms, to defend us and our country. To serve in the military means people are asked to leave their families for extended periods of time and put their lives at risk. Veterans Day reminds me that our way of life in this country is possible because of the sacrifices and lives lost by the women and men who have served in the military. 

What was your biggest challenge in the military? 

My biggest challenge in the military was being away from my family. I spent a year overseas in Germany and it was really hard being away from my wife. 


Elsie Rose | Corporate Accounting Manager | Bozzuto (Greenbelt, Maryland
Tell us about yourself. 

Family has always been my foundation and the source of my happy place. I enjoy taking long walks, doing/planning road trips, hiking, having date night with my amazing husband and being a mom and a grandma. I have worked at Bozzuto for eight wonderful years. 

Tell us about your military service. 

I trained in the Signal Corps but when I got to my duty assignment in Hawaii, I started training and working as the unit armorer/small arms specialist. 

Why did you join the military? 

I joined the military for several reasons. Initially, I wasn’t interested in going to college, but during my senior year of high school, I attended an assembly during which several uniformed, well-decorated soldiers did a presentation. Before that day, I’d never paid much attention to the military as an option for my future. After talking to a recruiter, reviewing the options and getting an understanding of what this decision meant, the decision was easy. I knew I wanted to be a service member. 

How has your military experience helped your career at Bozzuto? 

Being a service member taught me to be thoughtful in my approach to everything—to always maintain the highest level of integrity, self-respect and respect for others, to fight for the things that are important and to be willing to make sacrifices and protect those who depend on me. Working at Bozzuto provides me an opportunity to maximize those qualities. 

What was your biggest challenge in the military?

As the unit armorer, my biggest challenge was breaking through the race and gender barriers.  This field of expertise was predominately white and male-driven, and I wasn’t so easily accepted. The constant battle to prove myself and keep up with my fellow soldiers was tough.  Eventually it worked out and though it was hard, I did gain the respect of many of them. 


Vanessa Smalls | General Manager | The Clark (Arlington, Virginia) | Spouse of a Veteran 
Tell us about yourself. 

I grew up in Washington, D.C. and began my career with Bozzuto as a Sales & Marketing Associate in April 2006. I met my husband in August 2007 when I leased an apartment to him and his roommate while they were on active duty. Two months after moving in, his roommate received permanent change of station (PCS) orders and he ended up moving to a community across the street. After he moved out, he stopped by our leasing office to return a parking permit to me (to avoid being charged) and asked for my phone number. 

Tell us about your spouse’s military involvement.  

My husband served as an active-duty member of the U.S. Air Force for 20 years. He retired in December 2019 at the rank of E-7, which is master sergeant (MSgt). His duties varied in the field of intelligence throughout his career. 

What was your experience like with the community of fellow military spouses? 

It was very interesting. I had to leave my position at Bozzuto to move with my husband to Hawaii for four years. I was able to connect and bond with a diverse group of women who shared different experiences, services, support and advice on how to cope and make the best of your time at a duty station. This was extremely helpful to me, and I didn’t feel alone during this time while my entire family was back in the DMV area.

Did you move around a lot? If so, where is the most memorable place you’ve ever lived? 

For the career field that my husband was in, there were only a limited number of places that he could receive permanent change of duty station (PCS) orders to. During our marriage, the only place to which he received PCS orders was Hawaii for four years. This was very exciting, since this was our family’s first time there, and while Hawaii is a part of the U.S., being on the island felt like we were overseas. My children were seven and one year(s) old at the time, so I was very thankful for that they were able to experience the many cultures and lifestyles that Hawaii had to offer.  

What does Veterans Day mean to you? 

It gives me a sense of appreciation for all veterans of the armed forces. The sacrifices, dedication and pride that they take in their duties are very inspirational and motivating! Veterans love their families, and I think the best support we can give them is letting them know that their spouses are “taking care of home.” I am honored and blessed to be a military spouse.


Leanna Templeton | Assistant General Manager | Novel South Capitol (Washington, D.C.) | Spouse of a Veteran 
Tell us about yourself. 

My hometown is Macon, Georgia. I’ve been with Bozzuto since 2017. There is a gap in my work history with Bozzuto from when we moved to Fort Bragg in North Carolina, but I missed Washington, D.C. and Bozzuto tremendously so now I am back!  My husband and I have known each other since high school and he has been in the army for 10 years. We have been through three deployments together and our seven-year anniversary was just on November 1. 

Tell us about your spouse’s military involvement.  

My husband is a staff sergeant in the army. He’s currently a jumpmaster (expert paratrooper) in the 82nd Airborne Division. He will be attending drill sergeant school beginning on November 11 and will start as a drill sergeant at Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia starting March 2021. 

What was your experience within the military spouse community? 

Fellow military spouses are very supportive and very communicative regarding different activities. There were always updated emails being sent out with information on what was going on regularly as far as location, timeframe of return dates, etc., especially during deployments. When we were not able to hear from our spouses, we were never left in the dark about anything—what could be shared with us was shared. 

Can you share any specific memories about your spouse’s deployment? 

My husband’s very first deployment was in 2012, his second deployment was in 2014 and his third was this year, from January – May 2020. The third deployment earlier this year was unexpected, and he left within 48 hours due to being a part of the Immediate Response Force at Fort Bragg. 

What does Veterans Day mean to you? 

The word sacrifice comes to mind. The commitment Americans make when joining the military is such a huge sacrifice and while service members join the military for several different reasons, the common trait across all branches is sacrifice. The fact that service members do not always have the freedom to decide their job nor their living location in order to fight for America’s freedom is a testament in and of itself. Respectable, brave, strong-hearted and courageous are all words that come to mind. 


Amber Yates-Brown | Assistant Property Manager | Luminary at One Light (Baltimore, Maryland) | Spouse of a Veteran 
Tell us about yourself. 

I was born and raised in the DMV area. I started working for Bozzuto Construction Company and Bozzuto Corporate in 2014, then I transitioned to an on-site role with Bozzuto Management Company in 2016. My husband and I met in college and have been married for 10 years. I love to spend time with my family and two dogs. 

Tell us about your spouse’s military involvement.  

My husband served in the United States Air Force for eight years, during which time he worked in both finance and intelligence roles. 

What was your experience within the military spouse community? 

Unlike many military families, I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by a tremendous amount of support from my own family who was living nearby. But the network of military spouses is extremely strong and supportive to not only to new incoming families but also seasoned ones alike. Previously, I was active with the Enlisted Spouses Club at Fort Meade, which supports the needs of the families on base and in surrounding communities as well. 

Can you share any specific memories about your spouse’s deployment? 

Due to my husband’s job, our family feels fortunate to have never experienced a deployment. 

What does Veterans Day mean to you? 

Veterans Day means so much to my family! I use it and every day to say thank you for all of the selfless service that veterans have given to all of us. 

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