Speaker for the event was Col. Many-Bears Grinder, commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs. Her topic was “One Woman’s Journey: From Combat Tour to Veterans Affairs.”
Grinder is an “Operation Enduring Freedom” combat veteran, having served as the head of secretariat for the International Police Coordination Board. During her tenure, she traveled throughout Afghanistan, working with international diplomats and police, as well as the Afghan leaders and local police officers, to ensure standardized training and equipment for the Afghan Police.
Grinder’s military awards include the Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star Medal. Grinder retired from the Tennessee Army National Guard as a colonel with more than 35 years of service, and was on track to be promoted to general, had she not retired to accept her current post as commissioner of Veterans Affairs.
Grinder is the first female in the state of Tennessee to serve as commissioner for the Department of Veterans Affairs. She is responsible for the operation of the Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs’ Field Offices, Claims Office, and four State Veterans Cemeteries. She is also an ex-officio voting member of the Tennessee State Veterans Home Board, which controls the three existing state veterans homes, and the plans for future homes in Tennessee, such as the one planned for Bradley County.
Grinder serves as the Southeast District vice president for the National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs.