Jason Barnes, President

After experiencing the loss of two friends in the military within a year, Jason Barnes wanted to give back to families who sacrificed so much. With an Associate’s Degree from SUNY Broome, Bachelor’s Degree in Education from Carson-Newman University, and Master’s Degree in Educational Administration from the University of Tennessee, Jason applied his education as a teacher, soccer coach, and Assistant Principal from 2003-2011. In 2011, Jason took on a leadership role as the Franchisee of Chick-fil-A Haygood in Virginia Beach and in 2019, opened a second location at Northampton Blvd in Norfolk outside Norfolk Premium Outlets where he now runs two successful franchises. Married to Breyene Barnes for 10 years, Jason resides in Virginia Beach with his wife, 7 year old son, and 5 year old daughter.

Vanessa Coria

After spending nearly 20 years as a broadcast journalist, Vanessa Coria transitioned to public relations in 2015. As a Public Relations Counselor for Meridian Group, she helps to both foster positive ‘brand recognition’ and develop strategies to generate media coverage for clients all while growing relationships with contacts.

She’s lived and worked in Hampton Roads since 2003. During her time as a journalist, she covered military deployments, homecomings and day-to-day stories impacting military families and our community.  She has volunteered with 31Heroes since its grassroots inception in August 2011. Also a Crossfitter, she has since participated in the annual WOD and served as emcee for past main events in Norfolk. All to remember the fallen and honor the living.

It was during that same period she suffered a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) and spent a year in recovery. However, the effects of the damage remained with her through 2017.

Having lost close friends who served in the military over the years, she feels a deep personal connection to causes which help military families who’ve lost loved ones and veterans who are suffering from TBI or PTSD.

She is honored to serve on the 31Heroes board where she hopes to help raise awareness of both the sacrifices and needs of our service members and their families.

Vanessa lives and works in Virginia Beach.


Christopher Hayes

Chris is a Navy veteran who spent 30-years in uniform. He has led and commanded at multiple organizational levels and settings ranging from the classroom, to crisis response humanitarian relief efforts, to combat operations overseas. During his career he made multiple ship and shore-based deployments around the globe, including two deployments to Iraq. As a Navy helicopter pilot, he spent significant portions of his career working with and flying Special Forces.

A life-long learner, Chris earned a Bachelor’s degree in Science from the United States Naval Academy and a Master’s of Science in Global Leadership from the University of San Diego. Additionally, he holds a Master’s of Arts in National Security and International Studies, from the Naval War College. He is also a graduate of the U.S. Air Force’s Command and Staff College and the Navy’s Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center (TOPGUN) instructor course.

Chris retired from the Navy in 2017 and currently works as a consultant. He is an avid Crossfit and Gym Jones athlete, and enjoys spending time with his wife and three boys in Chesapeake.


Ellen Sanders Pelstring

Ellen is President of The BOW Group, a full-service Business Development, Marketing and Communications consulting firm serving the A/E/C (Architecture/Engineering/Construction) industry. As an Industry leader, her creative and big picture thinking, ability to forge relationships and build opportunities across boundaries that aren’t frequently bridged, fueled her desire to dedicate her expertise and passion to the Industry as a whole.

A former Division One Athlete, two time team Captain for The University of Alabama’s Women’s Soccer Team, Ellen Sanders Pelstring is no stranger to creating a winning tradition.

Ellen is a proud Navy Spouse and currently resides in Norfolk Va, with her two boys and husband.

John Weiss

As a veteran of USN’s Nuclear Power Pipeline, John Weiss felt called to serve our nation’s veterans and Co-Founded The 31Heroes Project. After the Navy, John obtained his B.S. in MET from Old Dominion University. Alongside working for Instron ITW as a Senior Service Engineer, John owns and operates CrossFit 757 of Norfolk, VA, and is a 3-Gun athlete. His love of God, Family, and Country set him apart as a leader in the athletic community.


Robert F. Thorndike

Robert Thorndike is a partner at Dominion Capital Partners in Norfolk, VA. He has more than 30 years experience in the securities industry. Prior to his affiliation with Dominion Capital Partners, Robert has advised a variety of clients, beginning his career at Wheat First Securities in l985.

Robert specializes in financial, retirement and estate planning. His clients include successful individuals, families, corporations and charitable organizations. He has extensive experience in constructing investment plans using stocks, bonds and fee-based portfolio management services.

Robert served on the Junior Achievement Board of Hampton Roads as their Project Business Coordinator for 10 years. He is also a past president of the Tidewater Chapter of the Virginia Tech Alumni Association and the Indian River Ruritan Club.

Currently, he is the Stock Market Game Consultant for the Virginia Council of Economic Education. Robert also serves on the Advisory Board for the Virginia Tech Student Investment BASIS Program and Equi-Kids Therapeutic Riding Program.

Robert is a graduate of Virginia Tech, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance. He has been married to Tracie, fellow Virginia Tech alum and DCP team member, for more than 30 years. They reside in Carrollton, Virginia where they have raised their three grown daughters.


Terry Ford

Terry Ford lives in Tampa Florida and created and organizes the 31Miles for 31Heroes Ruck in Washington, DC every August.

He entered active duty in March of 2003 and went on to Cryptologic Technician (Maintenance) “A” school in Pensacola, Florida after completing basic training in Great Lakes, IL. From there he was stationed at Naval Security Group Detachment Potomac at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington DC where he completed tours in Bad Aibling, Germany and Diego Garcia. From there he was screened and selected to serve at Naval Special Warfare Development Group where he was assigned to Gold Squadron communications detachment from 2005 to 2009. During that time he served one deployment in Iraq and three deployments in Afghanistan serving with many of the operators and support personnel who were lost onboard Extortion 17.

Presently he works as a Senior Systems IT Engineer for CSRA, Inc. for the Defense Intelligence Agency.