AMVETS in Action

Leadership Bios

James D. Pidgeon
James D. Pidgeon
National Commander James D. Pidgeon

Jim Pidgeon served in the US Navy from 1969-1973 including deployment as a Flight Deck Trouble Shooter on the USS Kitty Hawk in Vietnam. Jim attended The College of the Sequoias where he studied business, marketing and creative writing.

In 1975, three years prior to his graduation from The College of the Sequoias, he started his first company, TNT Automotive. In the early eighties, Jim’s interest in plastic injection and molding led to his second company, FBN Plastics. He invented, manufactured and marketed products for the hardware, lawn and garden markets with nationwide sales. In 1998, he became a founding partner in Dondero, Brown and Pidgeon Commercial Properties. All three companies are still in business today.

Jim has been a member of AMVETS since 1984 serving in a variety of capacities including Post Commander, Department 1st Vice Commander, Department Commander and National First Vice Commander. Additionally, he served as the National Service Foundation President for six years.

Jim Pidgeon’s accomplishments as an AMVET include coining the name “Team AMVETS” and conducted trademark research for several phrases for the Department of California and their Service Foundation. He also invented the Freedom Bar Program and was instrumental in launching the Welcome Home Program. He led Team AMVETS California on Capitol Hill in numerous meetings with key legislators including senior ranking Congressman Waxman and Senators Boxer and Feinstein. Jim also met with leaders of the Veterans Affairs, the VA Appropriation Committee and homeless Veterans.

In 2013, Jim was the Department of California AMVETS Bronze Helmet Veteran of the Year, and Minority Leader Congress Woman Connie Conway honored him as the Veteran of the Year in California’s 26th District. Also in 2013, he was honored as Small Business of the Year in his hometown.

Jim is a Life Member of the DAV, VFW and American Legion, all organizations to help veterans. He and his wife Paulette have been married for four years. He has two children: a son, Jason, who manages Black Hole Manufacturing and a daughter, Jennifer, who is President of Banc of California in Los Angeles, CA.

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National Executive Director Joe Chenelly

Joseph R. Chenelly was appointed national executive director of the nation’s fourth largest veterans service organization in May 2016. In this capacity, he administers the policies of AMVETS, supervises its national headquarters operations and provides direction, as needed, to state and local components. Joe previously served as AMVETS’ national communications director.

A native of Rochester, N.Y., Joe enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in March 1998, serving with the 1st Marine Division, and was honorably discharged as a Staff Sergeant in April 2006. He is a combat veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, having served in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Kuwait, East Timor and the Horn of Africa.

Joe became a veterans advocate, a journalist and a political adviser after his time in uniform. He covered military and veterans matters on staff with Leatherneck magazine, the Military Times newspapers, USA TODAY and Gannet News, reporting on operations in the Middle East, Southwest Asia, Africa, as well as disaster relief in the United States.

Joe was named one of the 100 “most influential journalists covering armed violence” by Action on Armed Violence in 2013. He was the first U.S. Marine combat correspondent to step into enemy territory after September 11, 2001, as a military reporter in Pakistan and Afghanistan. He also reported from the frontlines with American and allied forces in Kuwait and Iraq as that war began. He was on the ground for the start of both Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Joe served as AMVETS’ national communications director in 2005, and the past eight years as assistant national director for communications for the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) in Washington, D.C., leading grassroots efforts through social networking and new media.

He’s also served as president of Social Communications, LLC, and a public affairs officer director for the Department of Navy. Joe is an alum of Syracuse University and Central Texas College. He resides in Fairport, N.Y., with his wife Dawn, a service-connected disabled Air Force veteran, and their five children.


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