SEBRING — Jack Nelson spent six years in the U.S. Army, one of those years serving as a military adviser in the early stages of the conflict in Vietnam.
On Aug. 15, he said he plans to be one of the Florida military veterans who will be attending the Governor’s Veterans Service Award ceremony, open to all veterans and active military personnel who want to receive a medal for their service.
Beginning at 3:30 p.m. in the Avon Park National Guard Armory, 2500 U.S. 27, Gov. Rick Scott will honor veterans from around the state with a specially-designed medal recognizing their service.
In Florida, wartime veterans make up about 75 percent of Florida’s total veteran population, 1.2 million. There are about 12,900 military veterans living full time in Highlands County, according to the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
According to the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs, the service award is for any Florida resident who is currently “serving honorably as a member of the U.S. Armed Forces, the U.S. Coast Guard or the U.S. Reserve Forces or any Florida resident honorably discharged or retired from active duty as a member of the U.S. Armed Forces, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Florida National Guard, the U.S. Reserve Forces, or Merchant Mariners with veteran status.”
Veterans did not have served in combat to be eligible, the site states.
To receive a medal, veterans and active personnel from all military branches need to complete a Governor’s Veterans Service Award form at the registration desk and have documentation or identification validating their veteran or military statuses, such as a DD214 or completed discharge paper for proof of service. Registration in the armory begins at 2:30 p.m.
Nelson, president of the Highlands County Tea Party, said the group sent out 465 bulletins regarding the ceremony to area veterans hoping to get them to attend to be honored.
“I think these veterans and those serving are deserving of this honor for serving the country. It’s in recognition of that service,” he said.
Gov. Scott said Thursday he was looking forward to honoring current and former military residents from around Highlands County and other areas.
“I am honored to recognize Florida’s veterans during another Florida Veterans Service Award tour,” he said in an email. “These brave men and women have protected the freedoms and opportunities that all Americans enjoy, which is why we must take every opportunity possible to thank them for their service and sacrifice.”
Another Highlands County veteran, Sebring’s Bob Gillmore, 80, served in the U.S. Army in 1958 and spent from 1958 to 1969 around the Pacific Ocean in active reserve. He said no matter when or where, it’s always appreciated when active and past military service men and women are acknowledged for their service, including those who have or are currently serving in Afghanistan.
“We have a lot of retired vets here; it’s good to recognize them and this event is exciting to me,” he said.
Although there are no official estimates of how many veterans and service people will attend, Joanne Parzygnat, Highlands County Tea Pary advertising committee chair, said she sent out about 1,000 invitations around Florida via email.
Any veteran wanting to receive the award may call (850) 717-9207 or go to Floridavets.org/gvsa to download and fill out a form. Forms will be available at the awards ceremony prior to the event. Veterans are asked to bring completed paperwork to the Armory along with proof of service.