Founder and PresidentPaul Rieckhoff is one of the most important and dynamic leaders and social entrepreneurs in America. The Founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), author of Chasing Ghosts, President and Founder of Righteous, and Host of the Angry Americans, and The Dispatches podcasts, and a regular back-up host for Chris Cuomo’s SiriusXM radio show, and most recently as a Creative Consultant and guest for Vice TV’s While the Rest of Us Die, Rieckhoff is a nationally-recognized authority on leadership, team-building, social entrepreneurship, war, the modern military, politics, new media, pop culture, and veterans affairs.
A gritty, funny, and engaging former high school football coach, Army Infantry Officer and 9/11 First Responder, Rieckhoff brings inspiration, hope, humor, and practical life-lessons from the battlefields of Iraq, the halls of Congress, the skirmishes of Twitter, and the airwaves of cable TV.
He’s built a world-renowned social impact organization that was born in his tiny Lower East Side studio apartment with only his personal credit card and a MySpace page that has grown to over 400,000 members and landed his face on the cover of TIME Magazine, where IAVA was called “…the most important organization representing the new generation of veterans.”
Always at the forefront of innovation and engagement, Rieckhoff has shared harrowing stories he’s witnessed from Ground Zero on 9/11, to the battlefields of Baghdad during the Iraq War, to fierce meetings inside the Roosevelt Room of the White House battling with three Presidents. He’s been fearlessly leading America during some of our most important times and created multi-million dollar advertising campaigns and impactful partnerships with companies ranging from Victory Motorcycles to Google to Southwest Airlines to Uber to PAX Labs.
Prolific on social and traditional media, Rieckhoff is a sought-after public speaker and moderator who’s drawn audiences in communities ranging from The Pentagon to Wall Street to Silicon Valley to SouthBySouthwest to The Riverside Church
He often testifies before Congress, is a regular on Morning Joe, Cuomo Primetime, The Rachel Maddow Show, CNN, Fox News and MSNBC and has appeared on hundreds of television and radio shows ranging from Real Time with Bill Maher to The Colbert Report to Meet The Press to PBS Newshour to The Kelly File.
He’s led IAVA’s groundbreaking bi-partisan efforts to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs, pass the New GI Bill, fight veterans suicide and repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”, while forging creative partnerships with O.A.R., Lady Gaga, Linkin Park, Drowning Pool, NASCAR and Netflix.
Rieckhoff has also produced four films (Warrior Champions, Reserved to Fight, Jerebek, and When I Came Home) and acted in Green Zone starring Matt Damon. Rieckhoff has personally trained thousands of veteran leaders to be “changemakers” in their communities and inspired millions worldwide to get involved, take action and make positive change. Rieckhoff’s mantra is “adapt, improvise and overcome” and he and his work are showing the world what American ingenuity, leadership and innovation are all about.
In 2011, Rieckhoff appeared on the cover of TIME Magazine for a feature titled “The New Greatest Generation.” He is an Ashoka Fellow and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. His honors include: GQ’s “50 Most Powerful People in D.C.”, Esquire’s “America’s Best and Brightest,” Rolling Stone’s “The Quiet Ones: 12 Leaders Who Get Things Done”, Penthouse’s Annual “Badass List”, The Hill’s “Top Lobbyists: Grassroots” for 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017.
The Hill wrote, “Rieckhoff champions legislation to help veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars deal with brain trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder.” In 2014, Rieckhoff was selected for a “Teddy Award” by TIME Magazine for his political courage in demanding VA reform throughout years of scandal. Political guru Joe Klein wrote, “Paul Rieckhoff of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America has been an edgy, controversial figure in recent years, a creative critic of the Department of Veterans Affairs. The revelation of widespread corruption and incompetence in the VA, and the dismissal of Secretary Eric Shinseki, proved the value of Rieckhoff’s persistence. His willingness to take flak for his brothers and sisters in arms merits a Teddy.”
In 2014, Task and Purpose named Rieckhoff to it’s “Mighty 25 Veterans Poised to Make a Difference” writing, “Under the leadership of the well-networked and media-savvy founder Paul Rieckhoff…Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America marked a decade of existence in 2014, and the organization is showing no signs of slowing down going into next year.”
Rieckhoff lives in New York City with his awesome wife, Lauren and hilarious and exhausting sons, Ryder and River.
For speaking, media interviews or any other requests:
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Chief operations adviser
Mercy Rich is an accomplished brand strategist and execution expert bridging more than 20 years of startup experience in the American apparel space including Flight Club, Heatherette, Avirex, Zoo York, and Colosseum Athletics. Mercy has led dozens of successful brand launches and has pioneered in sourcing and production around the globe. With a passion for design innovation, performance technology and lean startup infrastructure, Mercy is an avid brand builder and a dedicated problem solver. Leading past apparel programs averaging $18M in first-year sales, Mercy’s also been adept in creating opportunities for strategic partnerships including retailers like Macy’s, Nordstrom, and Barneys NY. Mercy is synthesizing her dynamic range of skills with strategic systems know-how to kick ass and optimize all that the Righteous brand has set out to achieve.
Chief of Design, Digital and Experience
Chris Rosenthal is an award winning designer with 25 years of web and print design and development experience. Chris has worked with clients around the world, helping non-profits, community journalists and political campaigns along the way. He’s done the animation on Sundance award winners. He’s produced print work on five continents. He’s the proverbial digital unicorn, a jack of all trades. Odds are you have never heard his name, but chances are good you’ve seen his work.
Wayne is an accomplished veterans advocate who has worked with war veterans for nearly four decades. A native of Providence, Rhode Island, he was an altar boy and choirboy. After serving nearly 18 months in Vietnam as a combat medic, Smith overcame his own wartime trauma before becoming a nationally recognized mental health therapist and advocate for war veterans. Smith has led educational programs about veterans and the causes and consequences of war, and helped raise more than $2 million for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. In 1998, Smith returned to Vietnam with 20 American veterans to promote peace and reconciliation.
Together with 20 Vietnamese soldiers, these former enemies rode bicycles 1,200 miles, from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, to help heal some of the wounds of that war. Smith is one of the veterans featured in the Emmy Award winning documentary about the experience.
Wayne is a board member of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) and an expert on leadership, diversity and inclusion and military and veterans cultural competency. He has advised CEOs, Universities, Senators and candidates for President and has been featured extensively in media and film-and most recently in the groundbreaking Ken Burns Vietnam series on PBS.