On Friday, April 1, Senator Mike Morrell (R-Rancho Cucamonga) hosted the third annual Patriots of the Past, Present and Future Recognition Ceremony at the March Field Air Museum in Riverside, where he joined the community in honoring local veterans, service members, and young leaders from around the region. The evening included a special recognition of Yucaipa resident and Afghanistan War veteran U.S. Marine Corporal Justin Crabbe as “Patriot of the Year” for the 23rd Senate District and a remembrance of the late U.S. Marine Sergeant Joshua Ashley of Rancho Cucamonga, whose mother Tammie was able to adopt the dog who served with him in Afghanistan.
“Since being elected to state office, I have had the privilege of sponsoring and supporting legislation focusing on issues impacting those who have served in our nation’s Armed Forces,” said Senator Morrell. “Patriots of the Past, Present, and Future is about reflecting on their service and how we as a community can promote the virtues these men and women defended in the hearts and minds of younger generations. It was an honor to be in the company of so many who have answered that call, including Corporal Crabbe and the family of Sergeant Ashley. ”
The night began with a special remembrance of Sergeant Ashley who was posthumously honored with the “Torch of Patriotism Award.” On hand to accept the recognition was his mother Tammie, brother Jordan, and retired Military Working Dog Sirius, a German shepherd who served alongside Sergeant Ashley when he lost his life to an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan. In one of his final conversations with his mother, Sergeant Ashley had expressed his intention to adopt Sirius, a wish his family was able to fulfill.
Over 350 members of the community attended this year’s Patriots of the Past, Present, and Future, honoring veterans, active duty service men and women, reservists, members of the National Guard, and businesses and organizations that have supported them. The Swing Dames kept the evening lively with their 1940s-inspired songs and the 80-member California Baptist University's Male Chorale performed a medley of military anthems while veterans were invited to stand as their branch’s song was played. The Hemet High School Air Force Junior ROTC served as the color guard.
Senator Morrell also discussed legislation impacting veterans, including Senate Bill 2, which would close property tax loopholes regarding Veterans Halls, and Senate Bill 1081, which would increase access to sport fishing and hunting for veterans.
At the conclusion of the evening, Riverside County Sheriff Stan Sniff introduced Marine Corporal Crabbe as the 23rd Senate District Patriot of the Year. During his second deployment in Afghanistan in August 2011, Corporal Crabbe stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED), suffering several life-threatening injuries including the loss of both legs above the knee. He was also placed on a ventilator for 19 days as he battled a lung infection and pneumonia, which were complications from nearly drowning.
Throughout his recovery, Corporal Crabbe has been recognized for his example of courage and perseverance. Inspired by his story and will to focus on the positives in his life, the community rallied around him. Canine Companions for Independence (also an honoree at this year’s event) donated a service dog to Corporal Crabbe, and the nonprofit Homes for Our Troops built a custom, specially adapted house for Corporal Crabbe, his wife Casey, and their brand new baby girl. This home, combined with the help of his service dog, Gnome, has enabled Corporal Crabbe to maintain his independence.
A highlight of the evening was when San Bernardino Sheriff’s Deputy Chief Steve Kovensky won a drawing for a round-trip Southwest flight to any location Southwest travels to as well as a week’s car rental from Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Rather than claim his prize, Deputy Chief Kovensky walked over to Corporal Crabbe and gave him the ticket saying “there's no other person in this room who deserves this more.”
“Patriots” were recognized in five categories - Business, Education, Public Safety, Community Service, and Civic Engagement. Awardees included veterans from past conflicts and young people who have demonstrated a commitment to their community and a dedication to carrying forward the torch of patriotism.
Nominations were submitted from all over the 23rd Senate District, which includes portions of San Bernardino and Riverside counties. A planning committee made up of organizations and their members invested in the veterans community was asked to review the applications and select this year’s honorees, which were announced at the event. A list of finalists can be found here.
Photo for publication: Afghanistan War veteran and Yucaipa resident Marine Corporal Justin Crabbe is presented the award for the 23rd Senate District’s “Patriot of the Year.” From left to right: Riverside County Sheriff Stan Sniff, Marine Corporal Crabbe, Senator Mike Morrell (R-Rancho Cucamonga), and service dog Gnome. (Photo credit: Images by J.Dixx Photography - www.jdixx.com)
Photo for publication: On behalf of the late U.S. Marine Sergeant Joshua Ashley, his mother Tammie and brother Jordan, along with retired Military Working Dog Sirius, accept the “Torch of Patriotism” Award at the 3rd Annual Patriots of the Past, Present, and Future held on April 1 at March Field Air Museum in Riverside. From left to right: Operation Community Cares Founder Ryan Orr, Jordan Ashley, Sirius, Tammie Ashley, and Senator Mike Morrell. (Photo credit: Images by J.Dixx Photography - www.jdixx.com)