Our Staff Jim Bessel Lt. Col. (ret) Jim Bessel is a 1988 graduate of the United States Air Force Academy and retired from the US Air Force as a Lieutenant Colonel after serving for 21 years. Jim was an Instructor Weapon Systems Officer (IWSO) and retired as a Master Navigator with over 3,400 total flying hours, over 3,000 F-15E hours, and over 1,800 hours instructing in the F-15 Strike Eagle. Jim was born on Long Island and grew up in Freeport, NY. He graduated from the United States Air Force Academy with a Bachelor’s degree in Astronautical Engineering. During his military career, Jim deployed twice in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. In 2007, Colonel Bessel returned to Seymour Johnson AFB and the 334th Fighting Eagles where he concluded his Air Force career in 2009 as an F-15E Instructor. Following his military service, Jim worked in the DC metro area as a defense contractor supporting the Joint Strike Fighter Program Office and the Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition Special Programs Office. He also worked as a sub-contractor for Boeing working on the F-15SA program. With the completion of the Boeing contract, Jim joined the online merchant Amazon as an Operations Supervisor. While with Amazon, Jim helped open its one million square/foot Fulfillment Center in Fall River, MA. Jim and his wife Elizabeth live in Barrington and are the proud parents of Sarah, Maggie, Grace, and Jane. Matthew Golderese Matthew Golderese serves as the Chief Systems Specialist. His role encompasses project management, information technology systems, and grant operations. He came to us from the Governor’s Office of where he served in a similiar capacity developing and implementating CRM systems. Matt brings with him a strong commitment to making state government work efficiently and effectively. With a long history of military service in his family, Matt aims to make his contribution by assisting the Ocean State’s veterans. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from the University of Rhode Island, and resides in West Warwick. Lynn Lavallee Lynn Lavallee started her employment with the Division of Veterans Affairs in November 2012 as the Assistant Administrator for the Rhode Island Veterans Home. Before her current position, she served with the Rhode Island National Guard for 31 years, achieving the rank of Colonel before her retirement in March 2010. Lynn grew up in North Attleboro, Massachusetts, and at the age of 17, enlisted in the Rhode Island Army National Guard. After serving as an enlisted soldier for six years achieving the rank of Sergeant, she attended and graduated from the Rhode Island Military Academy Officer Candidate School Program and became a Second Lieutenant in the Transportation Corps. Lynn later became the first female officer to command the 1207th Transportation Company in East Greenwich, Rhode Island. As a commissioned officer, Lynn performed in positions of increased responsibility throughout her career, to include Management Analyst, Internal Auditor, Supply and Services Officer, Finance Officer, and Director of Human Resources. Lynn served on the Joint Staff as the J1, Director of Personnel, advisor to the Adjutant General, Commanding General, where she oversaw all personnel actions for more than 700 full-time and 2,500 part-time soldiers and airmen. A 1991 graduate of Roger Williams University in business management, she earned her Master’s in International Relations from Salve Regina University in 2001. That same month, she was selected to attend the School of Strategic Landpower, United States Army War College, the Army's highest level of professional military education, where graduated with her second Master’s Degree in Strategic Studies in 2003. Lynn resides with her husband in North Kingstown. Jennifer Marquis-Caruso Jennifer Marquis-Caruso is an Army Veteran who served ten years as a Combat Photographer. She joins us from the American Mathematical Society where she served as the Society’s recruiter. Jennifer's role as the first female Chief of Veterans Affairs is to advocate for women Veterans by promoting inclusivity and equitable access to resources, benefits, and healthcare. Jennifer will serve as the Women Veteran Coordinator for Rhode Island, working directly with the Providence VA Medical Center and the Center for Women Veterans. Jennifer earned her Bachelor’s in Human Resource Management and will have earned her Master’s degree in Leadership and Management by Fall 2020; both degrees are from the University of Maryland. She lives in Cumberland, RI with her two children. Kasim J. Yarn On February 17, 2016, Governor Gina Raimondo appointed Kasim J. Yarn to the first Director of Veterans Affairs for the State of Rhode Island. Kasim is an active-duty naval officer who retired May 16, 2016, after 20 years of faithful service to our nation and joined the Raimondo administration the following day. While from Jackson, Mississippi, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy the day after graduating high school. His first duty station was in South Weymouth, Massachusetts, a time that began Kasim’s lifelong love affair with New England. While stationed at Naval Station Newport in 1995, the Navy selected Kasim to attend college and become an officer. That same year, he met his future wife, Rosaria, a native of Italy who grew up in Westerly, Rhode Island. Kasim decided to go to school in the New England area and chose Boston University. He graduated in 2000 and shortly thereafter married Rosaria. Kasim also received his commission as a naval officer that year and was deployed in the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf area of operations. After his assignments at sea, Kasim became an instructor at the Surface Warfare Officers School at Naval Station Newport in 2004. While in Newport, Kasim earned a Master’s Degree in National Strategic Studies at the U.S. Naval War College in 2006. Beginning in July 2007, Kasim served on several deployments with the Navy’s Sixth and Fifth Fleets in increasing roles of responsibility and returned home to Rhode Island in July 2013 to become a faculty member at the Naval War College. Kasim and his family made Rhode Island their permanent home in 2004 and bought a house in North Kingstown in 2009. He and Rosaria have two children, Jonathan and Giovanna. All are die-hard Red Sox fans. Meghan Connelly In March 2021, Meghan Connelly joined the Rhode Island Office of Veterans Services as the Strategic Planning Policy & Communications Administrator.