John H. McLain Award: Veteran of the Year
Steven A. Garcia, Sarasota County Veteran Services Officer, 2017
James D. Shaffer, VFW Post 3233, 2016
Woman Veteran of the Year Award
Pamela J. Meyers, Veterans Affairs Vet Center, 2017
Milli Linn, WWII Veteran, Sarasota National Cemetery Volunteer, 2016
Auxillary Member of the Year Award
Judge Andrew Owens, 12th Judicial Circuit Veterans Court, 2017
Judy Lemm, American Legion NO-VEL Post 159, 2016
John H. McLain Award
Veteran of the Year, 2015
When the criteria for the John H. McLain Veteran of the Year is fully met, such as patriotic endeavors, educating the community on veteran issues and a personal commitment to serve veterans, their families and active military, then this recipient’s name will always be at the top, former president of the Sarasota County Veterans Commission, Andy Hooker. Andy’s military service started in February 1968 and served as a door gunner and crew chief on UH-1B gunships and UB-1D slicks. Upon discharge Andy became active with veteran issues in Massachusetts volunteering with US Senator Ted Kennedy and Congressman Drinan, effecting a positive change for veterans in general and especially Vietnam War veterans. Relocating to Florida meant the same dedication from Andy to Florida veterans. Starting with Alpha Company of the Vietnam Brotherhood and then more than 15 years with the Sarasota County Veterans Commission, ending as President. During this time Andy vigorously promoted veteran issues from local to state to federal representatives. Andy’s legacy will always include promoting the prominence of the annual John H. McLain Veteran of the Year award and recognized as it should be, for always being the “go to” person on issues impacting veterans. Andy Hooker is a true patriot.
Candice Jo Bannister
Woman Veteran of the Year Award, 2015
Women veterans from all walks of life have served this country during war and peacetime. Their recognition is deservedly so. This is why this year’s Woman Veteran of the Year is Candice Jo Bannister. Known to many as “CJ”, Candice is the director of veteran services at Goodwill Manasota. This position gives CJ the opportunity to help returning veterans facing the challenges of unemployment, homelessness and a myriad of personal problems. Her commitment to veterans is evident in her establishment of a program called SERV, Special Emergency Resource for Veterans. CJ has rallied the community to collect funds for 100% allocation to veterans in need. SERV has supported an Iraq veteran and his family that tragically lost their home, all possessions, including beloved pets to a devastating fire, assisted in transportation for a wounded warrior and his service dog, just to mention some examples. During her 8 year career in the United States Air Force, she attained the rank of staff sergeant and was a crew chief on the A-10 aircraft and paralegal NCO for the JAG office. CJ brings experience, passion and dedication for veterans, their families and active military. As the Woman Veteran of the Year, 2015-2016, no one could wear this honor with more pride and compassion for veterans.
Jean Catsakis, Auxiliary Member of the Year, 2015
Jean Catsakis has been selected as Auxiliary Member of the Year 2015-2016. Jean is a long time member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, dating her family lineage back 240 years. She is currently Chairman of the Services for Veterans committee of the Sara De Soto Chapter and works tirelessly for veterans and their families. She knows how to do this because she currently has 4 grandsons on active duty with the United States Air Force. The DAR is a Commemorative Partner recognizing the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War and Jean leads the way in this recognition. Recently she presented the Vietnam Award Certificate to RADM Larry Chambers for his efforts during the evacuation from Saigon in April of 1975. Congratulations Jean and thank you for all you do for veterans!