Veteran Spotlight -- Randy McElwee

This month for our spotlight, we would like to recognize Randy McElwee.  Not only did he serve his country via his military service, he is still giving back to his community by offering training in various ways. 

"I joined the Army in Nov 1983 and served in the United States Army for 23 years. I spent the majority of my military experience in service with 3rd Ranger Batallion and with 5TH Special Forces Group.

As a young man from a small West Virginia town I joined the Army because I wanted to challenge myself and see the world. It turned out to be a life changing experience and a decision I've never regretted. 

I retired in 2005 after serving my last assignment at the University of Georgia Military Science Dept. Since retiring I am the owner / director of American Black Belt Academy in Athens and serve as the Director of the Special Operations Combative Arts Association."

Randy has almost twenty years Special Operations experience. Awarded the Legion of Merit for service that included action as the senior NCO responsible for the planning, direction, and execution of a Joint Chief of Staff directed special category classified project. He has been training and teaching Martial Arts for 17 years. His unique instructional experience includes; appearing as a featured author in Black Belt Magazine and featured Instructor in the Special Operations Combatives Instructional Video / DVD Series.

Randy is also the creator of SAFE, a women's self defense class that teaches women to Resist, Escape and Defend.  He first thought of designing a course for women's self defense when he was teaching self-defense based martial arts at the University of Georgia. One of his female students told him that a technique she learned in class saved her from assault, and he was inspired to pass on his vast knowledge of self defense to more women.

Randy McElwee


American Black Belt Academy

(706) 549-1671


Veteran Spotlight -- Alexandra Melick

This month, in honor of Veteran's Day, we are turning the spotlight on a very important aspect of our supporter base -- Veterans.

Allow me to introduce you to Alexandra Melick.  Here is a bit about her and her service:

My name is 1Lt Alexandra Melick and I am currently serving as the Assistant Officer in Charge of the 357th Aircraft Maintenance Unit at Davis Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona.

I started my journey towards becoming an officer by joining Air Force ROTC at Valdosta State University in South, Georgia, while accomplishing my master's degree in 2010. I commissioned in May of 2013 and went active duty May of 2014. My first duty station was Royal Air For Lakenheath in the United Kingdom which was an amazing experience working with foreign nationals and the mighty F-15 Strike Eagle. I PCS'd to my second duty station here in Tucson in May of 2016 and currently oversea 220 maintenance professionals and 30 A-10's as the only active duty A-10 training squadron on this base. I have always been extremely patriotic but had never seriously considered the military as an option until I made friends with several Cadets going through ROTC and it made me think that this could be a possibility for me. Once I headed down this path I never looked back. This is the best possible choice I could have made for my life and I love coming to work everyday and serving alongside the best of the best. We recently returned from Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, where we took 14 A-10's and 133 Maintenance Professionals to help give our new pilots a taste of combat experience. We provided them opportunities to experience close air support by participating in simulated combat scenarios with the Army, as well as, supporting the Weapons School. All in All, it was an amazing experience and we had 12 Superior Performers coined by the Green Flag Commander on our final day. This is just a small part of what I get to experience on a regular basis and it is one of the many things I love about my job.

One thing I think the Air Force does better than most is that we recognize the importance of our people and we take care of them while in the service! Always striving to abide by the great motto "People First, Mission Always"! 

Unfortunately once they leave the service, we are not as great about caring for their needs! I greatly appreciate organizations, like yours, that work with veterans to help make their lives better. I am proud to serve along side the men and women of the United States Air Force and I am honored to serve alongside the dedicated workers of the Moina Michael Poppy Project.


Veteran Spotlight -- Rebecca Scott

This month, in honor of Veteran's Day, we are turning the spotlight on a very important aspect of our supporter base -- Veterans.

Allow me to introduce you to Rebecca Scott.  Becca is an all-around amazing person and is always there to lend a smile or a helping hand.  Please take a moment to read a few of her words below:

"I joined the military at age 25, later than most. I am the fifth generation of my family to join and I still recall the pride on my father's face at my graduation. I have been asked before why I signed up. Was it a sense of duty? Was it for benefits? Was it patriotism? I think the answer is all of the above and more. My grandfather served in WWII. He taught me to fold a flag, to respect it, and not just the one for our own country because it wasn't the only one we should respect. I did not join the military to hurt anyone. I joined to protect people, to protect ideals worth fighting for when the cause is right. If the cause isn't right, then I was there to protect the boys and girls sent out to fight anyway. I served my country for 10 years total. Afterward, I found joy and purpose in helping civilians instead and I spend my time these days volunteering around my neighborhood, being involved in community building, and doing small acts of kindness for perfect strangers. I think we all could use a reminder sometimes that there is as much light in the world as there is dark; it's just that we all need to take turns holding up the candle."



Donor Spotlight -- Ellie Lanier

This month our spotlight is shining brightly on another element of our support group that is very important to us:  Donors.

We are very thankful to our donors for all of their very important financial support!  This month's honoree is Miss Ellie Lanier.  Ellie is a part of the UGA Law family and is the managing attorney of Georgia Law's Mediation Practicum.

Not only do we appreciate her assistance but also her enthusiasm.  Please take a moment to read a few of her words below:

"I am delighted to support the work of my colleagues who founded and are working to grow the Moina Michael Poppy Project. I am awed by the fact that they were inspired by Moina Michael's efforts and decided to continue her work on behalf of veterans and their families. Turning inspiration into concrete action is not only laudable, but sorely needed in and by this world. 

These strong, determined and creative women personify Margaret Mead's famous quote: 'Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.'

I am honored to play a role in furthering their cause by giving financially and proudly wearing my Moina Michael Poppy pin."

Thanks Ellie, from all of us at the Moina Michael Poppy Project!

All the best,

Emily, Marie & Tina