Local Veterans and "Patriots" Honored at Annual Recognition Ceremony & Policy Forum

Thursday, May 28, 2015

In conjunction with Armed Forces Day and National Military Appreciation Month, on Friday, May 15, Senator Mike Morrell (R-Rancho Cucamonga) hosted the second annual Patriots of the Past, Present and Future Recognition Ceremony at Cable Airport in Upland.

“Patriots of the Past, Present, and Future is about reflecting on the service of the men and women of the Armed Forces and how we as a community can support them,” said Morrell. “We need to remember, honor, and recognize their continued patriotism and promote these virtues in the hearts and minds of younger generations. It was a privilege to be in the company of so many who put everything on the line for freedom and liberty.”

Navy veteran Herbert “Bill” Harrison of Hemet was selected by last year’s awardees as Patriot of the Year. Bill served during World War II, surviving six days at sea after his minesweeping ship, the USS YMS-472, was sunk off the north shore of Okinawa near Japan. After his time in the military, Bill dedicated his life to serving others and formed a construction company that built over 50 churches up and down the West Coast. For his work, Bill was nominated as a Patriot of the Past in the Business category. At 93 years old, he continues to travel around the country sharing his story of survival and faith, which is soon to be made into a feature film. More information can be found at 6daysonaraft.net.

Senator Mike Morrell presents Hemet resident and World War II Navy veteran Herbert “Bill” Harrison with the award recognizing him as “Patriot of the Year.”

Over 300 members of the community attended the event, honoring veterans, active duty service men and women, reservists, members of the National Guard, and businesses and organizations that have supported them. It was also an opportunity to discuss public policy issues affecting veterans, including Senate Bill 418, which would help active duty California State University students finish their college degrees, and Senate Bill 2, which would clarify property tax exemptions for Veterans Halls.

The evening included live musical performances by the Swing Dames and the Inland Sound Choir, which presented a medley of military anthems. Chaffey High School Navy Junior ROTC served as the color guard.

“Patriots” were recognized in four categories - Business, Education, Public Safety and Community Service. All nominated finalists received a medal and certificate. “Patriots” are defined as:

  • Patriot of the Past: A veteran of a conflict such as World War II, the Korean War, or the Vietnam War.

  • Patriot of the Present: A currently enlisted service member, a reservist, a veteran of a recent conflict such as the Gulf War or Operation Iraqi Freedom, or a business or organization that currently serves veterans in some capacity.

  • Patriot of the Future: An individual under 21 years of age who either actively serves the military or veterans or plans on enlisting.

Nominations were submitted from all over the 23rd Senate District, which includes portions of San Bernardino and Riverside counties. Last year’s award winners were asked to review the applications and select this year’s honorees, which were announced at the event.  A list of finalists and winners can be found here.

This year’s finalists from Menifee included:

Darci Castillejos – Patriot of the Present, Business Category (winner of the category)

Darci Castillejos joined the Navy Reserve in 1994 and by 2007 rose to the rank of Chief Petty Officer. She is currently assigned to the Navy Cargo Handling Battalion 14, Delta Company as the senior enlisted leader for 31 sailors. Last year, Darci was called up to active duty to provide expeditionary logistics support to Special Operations Forces stationed at Bagram Air Field in Bagram, Afghanistan. In addition to her time in the military, Darci has been the owner of multiple restaurants and currently manages the French Valley Café. Darci also served as the Chairwoman of the Menifee Valley Chamber of Commerce and President of the Menifee Valley Middle School PTSA.

Menifee resident and Navy Reservist Darci Castillejos was recognized by Senator Mike Morrell as a Patriot of the Present winner in the Business Category.

Menifee Mayor Scott Mann – Patriot of the Present, Business Category (finalist)

Scott Mann started as an enlisted member in the Navy and rose through the ranks to become a Senior Chief Petty Officer. He retired as a mustang officer after 25 years of service as Lieutenant Commander. During his career, he made nine overseas deployments that included Operation Desert Storm, Beirut, Lebanon, Bosnia-Herzegovina and counter-narcotic operations in Central America. Scott now serves as the Mayor of Menifee and has served as a city council member and also on the Menifee Union School Board. He owns and operates Mann Consulting, a business services consulting firm, specializing in strategic business planning, organizational development, executive recruiting and coaching, succession planning, risk management and loss control services.

Navy veteran and Menifee Mayor Scott Mann was recognized as a Patriot of the Present finalist in the Business Category.

Devan Holbert, Patriot of the Future (finalist)

As an aspiring Air Force officer, Devan is a cadet in the U.S. Air Force Civil Air Patrol at March Air Force Base. In this role, he participates in community service projects and events that support both veterans and active military and their families. At age 14, Devan is currently a college freshman, having graduated high school at age 13.