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Third Annual Ceremony Honors Patriots of the Inland Empire

By Rebekka Wiedenmeyer
Community Writer
2016-04-21 at 08:11:19
RIVERSIDE >> Local veterans and “patriots” were honored at the third annual Patriots of the Past, Present, & Future Recognition Ceremony & Dinner at March Field Air Museum in Riverside April 1. The event honored veterans, active duty service men and women, reservists, members of the National Guard and businesses and organizations that have supported them. Senator Mike Morrell (R-Rancho Cucamonga) hosted, and veterans had the opportunity to discuss public policy issues affecting them, such as Senate Bill 1155, during the event. Attendees enjoyed pictures, cocktails and appetizers, along with the ceremony and dinner. The night also featured musical presentations from the Swing Dames and the California Baptist University Male Chorale. The Hemet High School Air Force Junior ROTC performed the duties of color guard for the evening. Nominations were submitted from all around the 23rd Senate District, which encompasses a large portion of the Inland Empire. At this year’s ceremony, 45 finalists for the Patriots of the Past, Present, and Future were recognized, along with the Patriot of the Year, Canine Veteran Service and Torch of Patriotism awards. All of the ticket proceeds from the night went to allow the first 100 military personnel to attend the event for free. There were three different levels of awards available for five different categories this year. “Patriots of the Past” are defined as veterans of a past conflict such as World War II or the Vietnam War. Those qualifying for the “Patriots of the Present” award are currently enlisted service members, reservists, veterans of more recent conflicts like Operation Iraqi Freedom or the Gulf War or a business or organization that currently support veterans. “Patriots of the Future” are those underage who either currently serve in the military, are veterans or who have plans on enlisting. The five different categories listed this year were Community Service, Business, Civic Engagement, Education and Public Safety. The individuals recognized at this year’s ceremony are as follows: PATRIOTS OF THE PAST Community Service • Gary Farris • Everett “Dean” Hickox • Jess Vizcaino • Pat Voce Business • Nicholas Lopez • Joe Lyons • Paul Moore Civic Engagement • Pete Aragon II • Randolph Riley • Ralph Wagner • Frank Williams Education • Ted Alejandre • Hugh Jackson • Ricardo Williams Public Safety • James Hamlin • Allen Hill • Joseph Landaker PATRIOTS OF THE PRESENT Community Service • Teresa Bullock • Maria Hootman • Michael Kampbell Business • Estefan M. Encarnacion • Ruben Hernandez • Joel Ortiz Civic Engagement • Carolyn Conley • Marlene Merrill • Christopher Williams Education • Andreas Kossak • Robert Sanchez • Martin Telles Public Safety • Art Alvarado • Justin Burgher • Joey Hunter PATRIOTS OF THE FUTURE Community Service • Kira Bell • Aurora & Scarlett Hampton Business • Jazmin Ramirez Villalobos • Aubrey Wechselberger-Muniz Civic Engagement • Zachary Molnar • Cynthia Morris Education • Giselle Gonzalez • Darian Kuhn Public Safety • Roberto Alvarado • Anthony Fonzi • Patrick Perez • Samantha Ramos Three awards were also handed out to individuals and businesses in three separate categories. Canine Companions for Independence Robert Wendler (Guide Dogs of the Desert) received the Canine Veteran Service Award. Sergeant Joshua Ashley posthumously received the honor of the Torch of Patriotism Award, and Marine Corporal Justin Crabbe from Yucaipa was awarded Patriot of the Year. Sergeant Ashley's mother Tammie, his brother Jordan, and the retired Military Working Dog Sirius, who served at his side in Afghanistan, were there to receive the award in his name. During this year’s event, guests had opportunities to discuss public policy issues that affect veterans. In the past, they covered Senate Bill 418, which helped active duty students registered at California State Universities finish their college degrees, and Senate Bill 2, which clarified property tax exemptions for Veterans Halls. This year, they discussed Senate Bill 1155, which would help veterans in their transition from military life to the civilian workforce. Senator Morrell also opened up the topics of Senate Bill 2, which would effectively close off property tax loopholes in regards to Veterans Halls, and Senate Bill 1081, which would help give veterans more opportunity for sport fishing and hunting. The evening concluded with the introduction of Corporal Crabbe, who stepped on an improvised explosive device while serving in Afghanistan in 2011 and suffered severe injuries, including the loss of both legs above the knee. He was honored for both his courage and his service. Canine Companions for Independence was also recognized at the event and donated Gnome the service dog to Corporal Crabbe. The nonprofit Homes for Our Troops also built a custom-made house for Corporal Crabbe and his family. Both of these factors have helped him maintain an independent lifestyle. The spirit of the evening can truly be encapsulated in one singular event that occurred, which was when San Bernardino Sheriff's Deputy Chief Steve Kovensky won a drawing for a round-trip flight to any location Southwest travels. Instead of accepting the prize, however, Deputy Chief Kovensky handed his prize to Corporal Crabbe, and according to Senator Morrell, said, "There's no other person in this room who deserves this more."

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