Meet Our Staff

Karen Smietanski

Karen Smietanski is the daughter of a US Navy WWII veteran. She is the proud mother of two grown sons. She was raised in a small farming community south of Springfield IL. Her passion has always been in helping people. Never in a million years did she know that would lead her to helping veterans every day. Karen is the Assistant Superintendent at the Veterans Assistance Commission of Kankakee County, Illinois. She has had the privilege of serving veterans since 2009. She is committed to improving lives of veterans and their survivors through evaluating their needs and aiding them to obtain County, State, and Federal VA benefits they are entitled. She ensures every veteran, surviving spouse and family member is taken care of and never feels alone. Every day she is finding new ways to get involved and help veterans and their families. Karen is part of two Non-Profit organizations that deal strictly with helping veterans and their families. As a part of Project Headspace and Timing NPO, she works with the advocacy program that brings in veterans working at local law enforcement agencies and hospitals to better assist suicidal/despondent veterans in crisis. She is the Court Coordinator for the 21st Jurisdiction for the Veterans Treatment Court, helping veterans get their lives back on track. She also graduated from the National Association of Drug Court Professionals Justice for Vets Mentor Boot Camp in 2013. In 2017, Karen was invited to try out to become a trainer for the National Association of County Veteran Service Officers. Now, she gets to teach people from all over the country the job she loves. Karen also serves as Treasurer for the National Association of County Veteran Service Officers.

David McCleery

David McCleery is a 46-year-old disabled veteran and happily married to the love of his life, Rebecca. He is the father to four children and grandfather to five wonderful grandkids. David served in the NAVY Seabees as an equipment operator for 14 years before being Honorably discharged. He comes from a Veteran family. His Father was in the Air Force in Vietnam and Grandfather was in Army in WWII. Coming to the Veteran Assistance Commission in 2021, he is currently in training for the Mentor Coordinator role for Veterans Treatment Court. David is a Nationally licensed EMT and is currently attending Liberty University for Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology with a specialty in Military Resilience. David also is on the Outdoor Retreat Committee for Project Headspace and Timing NPO. Fishing, hunting, and any outdoor activities are more than just hobbies for him, they make-up the foundation of who he is. David uses his passion for the outdoors as part of his mission of helping his brothers and sisters-in-arms from succumbing to the wounds of PTSD and becoming a victim of the 22 suicides a day. Most of all he wants to help any veteran in need and wants veterans to know that while he understands how hard it can be to reach out, that he is here without judgement.

Ashley Appleton

Ashley was born and raised in Southern California where she attended Mira Costa College out of Oceanside. Ashley moved to Illinois in 2017. She comes from a long line of proud military veterans. Her dad served two tours with the Army in Vietnam and her grandfather served during the Korean Conflict with the Navy. Ashley is also a proud mother of her 5-year-old daughter, Finley, of whom she spends most of her free time adventuring in outdoor activities and dance. Ashley began her journey with the VAC in 2020 as an Administrative Assistant. She quickly took to the office and is now an accredited Veteran Service Officer. She is committed to serving the veterans of the community.