The Start of the Band of Brothers
The Band of Brothers originated in April of 2008 with a group of seven (7) individuals. They banded
together and elected to have a support group for Veterans at the VA Clinic in The Villages. All seven
members were victims of PTSD, and their goal was to help each other in addition to other Veterans.
The original members of the support group were Albee Martinez, Andy Cardinale, Galen Mitchell,
Alfred (Mac) MacLaughlin, Joe Spinelli, Mike J. Brackett and John Verville.
The support group met every Wednesday at the VA Clinic in a room provided for them. They talked about
social meetings and the personnel at the VA Clinic advised against other social gatherings. The Group
decided they wanted to incorporate additional members and move the venue to a more centralized location.
They, against the advice of the VA, began their social gatherings on Wednesdays after their session at
the VA Clinic. These social gatherings took place at Urban Flats, currently City Fire, in Lake Sumter Landing.
As the group grew, it brought in Honorary Members, whom were the spouses and family members of those that served.
The second round of membership included Rick Dynda; Wilma Johnston, the first female member; Tony Fusco and
Alex Velez, Jr. along with other various veterans. The initial Honorary Member was Ron Ricci. The group was
against a formal structure; however, as membership increased, a decision was made to initiate a formal organizational
format and elect officers. Hence, the Band of Brothers Club was established in 2013 and Officers were elected as follows:
Al Martinez, President; Andy Cardinale, Vice President; Dolores Wilson, Secretary and Rick Dynda,
Sergeant at Arms. At the time, being without a Treasurer, President Martinez’s wife collected $50.00 per year with
these funds being utilized for birthday cakes and other group activities.
They socialized and played a game called "Coin Slap". All members of the group brought their own challenge coins
based on their branch of service. The rules of the game were that when the clock on the square struck 4:00 pm,
all members present would 'slap their coins' on the bar and the last one would purchase a round of drinks for
the other members. As the group grew in size and the cost of a round of drinks increased, this game ceased to be played.
The mission of the Band of Brothers was to provide emotional support to one another as veterans and their families and
share their experiences and treatment with civilians. In addition, they educated other Veterans in navigating their
way through the VA system. Often Veterans would become frustrated and accept the VA’s first rejection letter.
The group would encourage and aid them in securing their benefits. They would also assist with other Veteran's groups,
schools and community service needs. As an example, a kidney was needed by a non-veteran’s granddaughter. The group
instituted a fund to endorse this cause and thus community service surfaced.
As time evolved, Al Martinez resigned his position and Bob Sullivan was elected President thus the beginning of a new era.