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Governor visits armory to honor veterans

July 1, 2014
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

They served at Pearl Harbor, in the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan and everywhere in between.

And on Monday at the 3rd Battalion Headquarters 265th Air Defense Artillery in Fort Myers, Gov. Rick Scott and numerous dignitaries came to give a token of their thanks for their putting their lives on the line to protect our freedom.

Scott kicked off his Florida Veterans Service Award tour in Southwest Florida by awarding medals to military veterans from all walks of life at the Governor's Veterans Award ceremony sponsored by the Florida Dept. of Veterans Affairs.

Article Photos

Chuck Ballaro

U.S. Navy veteran and Pearl Harbor survivor Russell Winsett receives appreciation from State Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto during an event to honor veterans at the the 3rd Battalion Headquarters 265th Air Defense Artillery in Fort Myers. World War II veteran and Battle of the Bulge survivor Mario Grossi is to Winsett’s left.

The veterans in attendance were given medals for their service, with the governor allowing plenty of time for families to take a photo op with the honored loved one.

Scott gave a 10-minute speech, honoring the recipients and discussing his and his family's service in the military.

"It's nice to do this. I always think about my dad. He had a sixth-grade education and didn't think he would come back alive. He was captured by the Germans," Scott said. "When I was in the Navy during Vietnam you couldn't wear your uniform off base."

Among those in attendance was Russell Winsett, a U.S. Navy survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, and Mario Grossi, a survivor of the Battle of the Bulge and the invasion on Omaha Beach in 1944.

Scott spoke of Winsett's best friend who was taking pictures of the attack when he was shot and killed.

"Many friendships were made during that time, and some were lost," Scott said before a teary Winsett received a standing ovation.

"It brings tears to my eyes. I've never had anything like this before. I'm just honored to be recognized by the governor," said Winsett, who became a postmaster following his 20 years of service. "Florida is a veteran-friendly state."

The governor finished by handing out the medals, to Winsett and Gorssi first, then to the multitude of veterans (some still in uniform as reservists) in a fashion that almost resembled a high-school graduation.

"I'm honored to receive this award from the governor and honored to get the word out about the Iraq War monument," veteran Michelle Rosenberger said of getting her medal. "It's nice the governor wants to honor people who served for him."

Scott spent time with veterans afterward for photographs, including one with a large group of uniformed state troopers who came to be honored.

Many Republican lawmakers were there to lend their support for a program that drew no political agenda.

"It's a great day when you can get veterans from all over to come to one place to thank them. It's the most important thing you can say to veterans," County Commissioner Brian Hamman said.

"I'm proud of the governor to come here and honor our veterans. Southwest Florida is one of the bigger veteran areas in Florida, so to come here is great," State Rep. Dane Eagle said.

"It was a wonderful expression of our gratitude and the governor has continued to show he is proud of the work these people have done and the sacrifices they've made," State Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto said.

Scott also took the time to plug his Florida GI Bill, which went into effect Tuesday. Scott used the federal program to go to college following his time in the service.

"If you're a veteran, you'll get in-state tuition, if you do something where you'll need a license, you'll get it immediately so you can get a job faster," Scott said. "We're doing all we can to be a veteran friendly state."



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