Kicking off an annual observance, grants were awarded Wednesday to 11 agencies and nonprofit groups that help hundreds of military veterans with needs as varied as mental health to employment.
The grants from the Jaguars Foundation signified the start of the 2023 Celebration of Valor, two months of events honoring military members past and present. The events include the city’s Veterans Day Parade on Nov. 11, the Tennessee Titans/Jacksonville Jaguars Salute to Service Game on Nov. 19, and the annual Wreaths Across America at Jacksonville National Cemetery on Dec. 16.
Among the $70,000 in grants, $10,000 of it will help the 11-year-old nonprofit Five STAR Veterans Center continue to help veterans ages 22 to 55 with issues like post traumatic stress and brain injuries, and to reintegrate into society.
“Five Star is totally dependent on organizations like the Jaguars and the city for their support,” said Mike O’Brien, director of development at the 40-bed Arlington center. “Five Star is a transitional home for veterans in crisis, many of them suicidal when they arrive at our doors, So we greatly appreciate not only the financial support, but we also appreciate the awareness of our mission that gets out to the community.”
Along with Five STAR Veterans Center, 2023 recipients include K9s For Warriors, Operation Barnabas, Operation New Uniform, United Way of Northeast Florida, Northeast Florida Women Veterans, Florida National Guard Foundation, Hope4Veterans, Friends of Jacksonville Veterans Treatment Court, Yoga 4 Change and the Jacksonville Humane Society. Each received either $5,000 or $10,000, the city said.
“We are celebrating our 11th year of our partnership with the city to operate the veterans resource and reintegration center here at City Hall,” said Jacksonville Jaguars President Mark Lamping. “Over the past 11 years, thousands of military members and their families have received support in their transition from active service to civilian life here on the First Coast.”
Peter Racine, senior vice president of the Jaguars Foundation, announced each grant recipient, at one point joined by many of the service dogs trained by K9s For Warriors for veterans who need support.
“All of our groups commit to work with each other and work with the city to make sure our military and veterans communities receive the support that they not only need, but deserve,” Racine said.
Mayor Donna Deegan reminded everyone that Jacksonville is a proud military town.
“One in four of our citizens have a direct link to a military service member or veteran, and we take seriously our commitment to the men and women of our military,” Deegan said. “I am honored to recognize that part of our shared values and recognize every individual who has played a role in shaping it.”
The mayor offered a brief update on the city’s plans to build a veterans community center. The center is one of the issues under study by the mayor’s new Military and Veterans Committee, which is focusing on issues facing local military members. Retired U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Rick Snyder leads the committee.
“We are putting the pieces together for a first step fund which will support the initial cost of researching and planning a location for this much-needed resource,” Deegan said.
The Duval County Veterans Council also announced its annual grants, with $10,000 each to the Friends of Veterans Treatment Court of Duval County and Patriot Services Group; $5,000 each to Helping Through the Arts and Marine Corps League Detachment No. 59; and $2,000 to the Cecil Field POW/MIA Memorial.
Celebration of Valor events
Here’s a schedule of events planned over the next two months:
- Nov. 4: Wounded Warrior Project Carry Forward 5K Charity Run at 4899 Belfort Road, woundedwarriorproject.org.
- Nov. 6 to 10: Veterans Art Display in the City Hall Atrium at 117 W. Duval St.
- Nov. 7: University of North Florida Veterans Day Tribute, 10:30 a.m. at the Veterans Plaza.
- Nov. 9: JAX Chamber’s 21st annual Military Appreciation Luncheon, 11:30 a.m. at the Hyatt Regency Riverfront on Coastline Drive.
- Nov. 10: Marine & Navy FMF Corpsmen Memorial, 4 p.m. at Evergreen Cemetery.
- Nov. 11: Veterans Day Parade, 11:01 a.m. in Downtown Jacksonville.
- Nov. 14: Faith Leader Military Awareness and Support Training, 11:30 a.m. at the Cohen Clinic at 7011 A.C. Skinner Parkway.
- Nov. 16: NEFL Women Veterans Thanksgiving Lunch, 11 a.m. at the Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena.
- Nov. 19: Tennessee Titans vs. Jacksonville Jaguars Salute to Service Game, 1 p.m. at EverBank Stadium.
- Dec. 1: SBA Vetrepreneur Summit, 9 a.m. at the Florida State College at Jacksonville Tech Center, on the Downtown Campus at 401 E. State St.
- Dec. 2: Army Navy Watch Party, 3 p.m. at 1 TIAA Bank Field’s East Club.
- Dec. 16: Wreaths Across America volunteer wreath-laying, noon at the Jacksonville National Cemetery at 4083 Lannie Road.