San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher launched a new program to recognize the exceptional contributions made by local veterans to the community.

During a press conference on the USS Midway Museum’s hangar deck, the former combat Marine, announced his inaugural “Salute Our Veterans” awards. This nomination-based program acknowledges the achievements of those who severed their country while in uniform and now are uplifting themselves and their communities as veterans.

After meeting the winners, I am even more encouraged by the contributions our veterans are doing to make our county a better place.

“In America, at times, it feels like no one wants to sacrifice for one another, no commitment to one another,” said Nathan, who deployed to both Iraq and the Horn of Africa as counterintelligence and human intelligence specialist while serving in the Marines Corps. “On Wall Street, they give bonuses to those who sacrifice others for themselves. In the military, we give medals to those who sacrifice themselves for others.”

County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher conducts a press conference on Midway announcing his “Salute Our Veterans” awards program.

Veterans are nominated in three award categories to include veteran community leader, veteran-owned small business, and veteran non-profit organization.

“Once veterans have served their country many go on to serve their community, and I want to recognize some of the individuals and organizations who are going above and beyond the call of community service,” said Nathan, who served in the Marine Corps from 1997 to 2007.

His office received 50 nominations for the inaugural awards.

Kay Black, a U.S. Army veteran was selected as the community leader award winner for her advocacy for science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) events for underrepresented youth.

The Mental Bar, a specialty coffee and tea shop serving Southeastern San Diego owned by U.S. Navy veteran Tommy Walker, was recognized with the veteran-owned small business award.

The veteran non-profit honor went to Marine Corps veteran James Smith II who started Black Deported Veterans of America, an organization focused on bringing home Black veterans who have been unjustly deported.

“Many of our service members, when they leave active duty, transition into doing great things for the community, but not often enough is their civilian service recognized,” said Nathan, whose son is currently an active-duty Marine. “The Salute Our Veterans award is my way of expressing my appreciation for their contributions to San Diego County. I really enjoyed reading all the submissions we received, and it was a tough decision, but after meeting the winners, I am even more encouraged by the contributions our veterans are doing to make our county a better place.”

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