James Van Thach Hero

Captain James Van Thach, USA (Ret.) is a highly decorated United States Army veteran who was wounded twice in the line of duty in Iraq. He is a Bronze Star and Purple Heart recipient, and is the first Vietnamese-American to become an advisor to the New Iraqi Army. In recognition of his service, Captain James Van Thach was given the honorary title of Brigadier General by the Iraqi government. He is a native of Bellerose, Queens where he resides today. After graduating from Touro Law School, Captain James Van Thach volunteered for a two year tour of duty in Iraq where he was first injured in an IED explosion. After recovering from those injuries, he was injured again during a rocket attack, which exploded less than 20 meters from where he was standing.

As a result of those injuries, James retired from the Army in 2009, and in May of 2012 was invited to participate in Team Training at Canine Companions for Independence in Medford, NY. James was matched with his service dog and now constant companion, Liz. Since receiving Liz, James has gained more self-confidence and persevered through his injuries and was strong enough in 2013 to take a tour to Afghanistan on Operation Proper Exit to speak to over 1,500 troops about his wounds and how having his service dog has changed his life. He has been a tireless supporter and spokesperson for Canine Companions Wounded Veterans Initiative speaking to other wounded veterans about the difference an assistance dog can make in their lives.

Kayla Vallar Artist

From midwest collegiate to SoCal designer, Kayla Vallar leads a multifaceted lifestyle as a designer, artist, and athlete based in Los Angeles, CA. Her passion to unite designs/apparel and social responsibility, is driven by her goals to be an innovative designer and future world class Track & Field athlete. She compliments her creative, active lifestyle working as an art teacher for KidsArt Inc.


With a Bachelors in Art, she expanded her knowledge with a degree in Apparel Industry Management. This lifelong designer/artist enjoys a wide body of work from custom renderings, photoshop editing, advertisement, typeface, layout design, to apparel design. This new independent designer cliental range from local businesses, establish apparel companies, and educational institutes.