GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB)-- For the first time since it began 15 years ago, the Alachua County Veterans Celebration and Award Banquet was held as an open community event. Here's why organizers decided the change was necessary.
The celebration is about honoring veterans organizations, VA employees and veterans themselves. So instead of a closed formal ceremony, organizers hoped to draw in the public with a car show as well as helicopter and airplane rides.
Terry Martin-Back, a Desert Storm Army veteran explained, "what we wanted to do was make an event that the public can actually get involved in. Come out and see some guys in their crazy old uniforms because most of us are in our 50's, 60's, 70's."
Money raised goes towards local memorials said Martin-Back.
"100 percent of the donations that we receive after everything is paid for goes into a fund for the maintenance and the care of the veterans memorials across Alachua County."
And to go along with fancy cars and good food, four awards were given out. The VA employee of the year which went to Stephen Perdue. Veteran supporter of the year presented to Fred Judkins. American patriotic family of the year given to the Torres and Pinto family and veteran of the year awarded to Kim Davis.
Kim Davis after winning the award said: "it's so meaningful I've been working in this role for 5 years and it's exciting to know I had this much appreciation for my hard work. I love my veteran community so it felt really good that they felt like honoring me."
Davis, excited as she was to receive an award, mentioned her favorite part of the evening was meeting someone very special.
"We have a live ex-POW sergeant McQuinn here today and that's very rare. There's only one POW in the state of Florida that we're aware of that's still with us and Sarge McQuinn is one of the Korean War veterans of America and it was a privilege to sit at the table with him today."
The Alachua County Veterans Memorial Committee who hosted the event says they will keep this "open to the public style" continuing in the future.
Committee members are open to suggestions about how to keep it fun, exciting and different every year.