Governor kicks off “Honoring Florida Veterans Tour” in Panama City

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG-WECP) -- In an effort to keep the title of "Most Veteran Friendly State," Governor Rick Scott kicked off his statewide tour of honoring veterans in Panama City.

The republican bestowed 49 service medals to veterans of all ages and conflicts, an honor he has been granting since 2013.

Scott drew on his own military experience to discuss the importance of recognizing those men and women.

"When I was getting out [of the military] around the Vietnam War you couldn't get a job if you were a veteran," he said. "You couldn't wear your uniform off base. I wanted to recognize all of these people who defend our freedom. Thank God there's people out there every day that are still putting the uniform on to defend the freedom of this country if we don't defend the freedom, we're going to lose it."

Though the different conflicts separate the vets, Vietnam War Veteran John Gartner says they all share the same dedication.

"We love our nation," Gartner said. "We fought for our nation, we are brothers no matter if we are Navy, Marines, Air Force or Army. We're brothers, because we fought for what our freedom stands for."

The governor says to maintain the title of "Most Veteran Friendly State," he will make an effort to solve every problem and need that arises.

"We have 20 military bases in three Unified Commands for active military; what we've done there is make sure it's possible for them to get a job and make sure their kids can get the right education," Gov. Scott said. "We deal with their transportation needs and all sorts of things. Then when somebody gets out, they want to make sure that they can get a job, and if they have children, we want to make sure that they can get in the right schools. If they are disabled or there's any other services they might need, we've got a great Florida Department of Veteran Affairs. So it's working every day to make sure they can get the education to all of these things."

According to FloridaVets.Org, any Florida resident who is either serving honorably as a member of the U.S. Armed Forces, the U.S. Coast Guard, or the U.S. Reserve Forces or any Florida resident who has been honorably discharged or retired from active duty as a member of the U.S. Armed Forces, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Florida National Guard, the U.S. Reserve Forces, or Merchant Mariners with veteran status is eligible for the Veterans Service Award. Also, veterans need not have served in a combat zone to be eligible.

To download the form to submit a Florida veteran, click on the link in this article's sidebar.