Reflection on our heroes of 2021
As retired US Army Lt. Col. Allen West once said, “We must never forget why we have and why we need our army. Our armed forces exist only to keep our nation safe, so that each of us can sleep soundly at night, knowing that we have guards at the gate. “
More hi:Local veterans take part in Wreaths Across America
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As we approach the end of 2021 and prepare for the start of a new year, it is once again time to reflect on the local heroes who have been an inspiration to our community.
Hats off to the colonel
We simply cannot go into 2022 without recognizing the accomplishments of former Salute writer Col. Keith Oliver of the Marine Corps.
Oliver started writing for the Daily Commercial in March 2018 and over the years he has put our local veterans in the spotlight, giving them a voice and ensuring their story will never be forgotten. He has often taken a humble back seat to honors, with a mission to put others before himself.
However, Oliver has a long list of accomplishments. He spent nearly 30 years in the Marines, has three master’s degrees, worked in public affairs, was on the faculty of a naval academy, and has been deployed to five operations – Lebanon, Panama, Somalia, Desert Storm and Freedom for Iraq. After his retirement in 2004, he spent 15 years at the Defense Information School in mass communication.
He started his newspaper work in high school as a sports editor for his Eustis High School newspaper and has spent much of his career around communications.
In September, Oliver put down his pen to spend more time with his wife, Linda, children and 22 grandchildren. However, something tells me that we haven’t finished seeing it.
Hats off, Colonel.
Spotlight on local veterans
The mission of our Salute section is to shine a light on those who have served our country. All veterans, whether deployed overseas or stayed behind to protect our home front, have a special place in our hearts. Here are some amazing stories that we have featured this year that come to mind.
Lake County Sheriff Peyton Grinnell shared with us his journey from Marine to Sheriff, which included service in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and his journey from bartending to a successful career in law enforcement.
Captain Ben Mongiovi was introduced in September. Mongiovi enlisted in the Army Reserve at the age of 33. He worked as a heavy equipment operator and military signal support specialist, then as a military health services planning, operations and intelligence officer. Currently, he is a seasoned liaison with VITAS, the country’s largest palliative care provider.
Finally, Army Lt. Col. Kelley Greene is currently on his second tour as a military intelligence officer in the armed forces. Born in Ocala, she grew up as a ‘kid in the army’, whom she loved, and followed in her father’s footsteps, Captain Lorenzo Greene. She served in several special missions in Afghanistan, South Korea and with teams from US embassies in Guatemala and Colombia.
Organizations that go beyond
Our community is teeming with veteran-run businesses and organizations that go above and beyond their duty.
The first that comes to mind is the Combat Cafe, a local restaurant in Umatilla, which always seems to be doing something interesting. Owners Bruce and Beth Chambers have a heart for the veteran community. This year alone, they launched a fundraising campaign for Vets Helping Vets, adopted families for Christmas, started a war of signs and won News 6’s Getting Results award.
The VetFest 2021 in Eustis highlighted many veterans organizations at once. Host Keith Totten and his team ensured a successful event celebrating our veterans and all they’ve done. Heroes from our hometown marched through the streets and were honored at several events over the weekend.
St. Johns Hops in Umatilla hosted its second annual HopsFest in September. This veteran-run farm is owned by Navy veteran Sébastien Lajeunesse, who created the farm to help other veterans with PTSD through horticultural therapy. Not only were their hops on display at breweries across the state, but they were also able to raise money for their nonprofit organization to help more veterans.
Leesburg-based radio station WQBQ has also been a big supporter of our veterans. Owner James Floyd, Air Force Veteran Bob Peters, Marine Corps Col. Keith Oliver and Retired Col. Ric Baysinger took the initiative to highlight our salvation stories every Friday morning at the on air and are creating an hour-long talk show for veterans. .
We cannot thank our Veterans enough for their service and continued contribution to our community. May 2022 continue to bring more inspiring stories as we choose to never forget the sacrifices made for our country.
If you would like to nominate a Veteran to be featured or if you are aware of any Veterans related event, please email us at [email protected]