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Weekly Column: Dedication To Others A Common Thread In Idaho

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

Each year, I honor Idaho veterans and volunteers who support veterans with the Spirit of Freedom: Idaho Veterans Service Award.  The lives of the award recipients are fascinating and inspiring and represent the core of what makes our communities and state so special.  A common characteristic among the recipients of the award is that they give so much often not only in service to our nation, but also to many others.  They are leaders demonstrating a dedication to caring for their fellow veterans and Americans, and they create unquantified good in our communities.   

For example, Lucky Gallego, of Grangeville, is a U.S. Marine Corps Veteran who dedicated more than two decades in service to our nation and continues to give tremendously to his fellow veterans and their families.  Lucky’s mental health training and experience as a veteran contribute to his ability to reach fellow veterans working through challenges.  Lucky sets an extraordinary example through the care and compassion he puts into helping others.

Dan Oliver Nelson and his wife, Kacey Nelson, are a great example of a dynamic couple who are an important part of the community.  They are parents to two young children and dedicate their time to supporting military families.  Dan is a former U.S. Army Special Forces Officer who served multiple deployments and received a Purple Heart for injuries received in Afghanistan.  Dan earned many recognitions for his exceptional service.  The narrative that accompanied Dan’s Silver Star Award is a moving account of Dan’s sacrifice of his personal safety for his American teammates and partner forces.  Kacey has been recognized for her exceptional care of Dan and his team members when they were wounded in action, and for her advocacy for those wounded or killed in combat and their families. 

In addition to these great Idahoans, a complete list of the 28 recipient of the 2019 Spirit of Freedom Award is provided below.  Summaries of their service are posted on my official website,


  • Phillip Catorena, Pocatello;
  • John R. Crotinger, Grangeville;
  • Gary Forsey, Sr., Lewiston;
  • Gerald Haines, Fruitland;
  • Phillip Hartman, Pocatello;
  • Dr. Grace C. Jacobson, Pocatello;
  • Ralph G. Kramer, Boise;
  • Harvey Cordell McCoy, Buhl (posthumously);
  • Ronald McIlnay, Bonners Ferry;
  • Daniel Muguira, Meridian;
  • Dan Oliver Nelson and Kacey Nelson, Eagle;
  • Larry Payne, Pocatello;
  • Matthew J. Wrobel, Meridian;
  • James A. Wuehler, Kuna;
  • Lloyd Young, Jerome;



  • Tammy Burst, Eagle;
  • Bruce and Joy Finch, Lewiston;
  • Lucky Gallego, Grangeville;
  • Melissa Hartman, Pocatello;
  • Mary G. Krempasky, Lewiston;   
  • Carrie Leavitt, Pocatello;
  • Beverly McLendon, Rigby;  
  • Steve Pratt, Boise;
  • Connie Seymour, Boise;   
  • Lucile Summerlin, Nampa; and
  • Gene Womack, Blackfoot.

I am grateful to the veterans’ organizations that submit nominations for the Spirit of Freedom Award.  The American Legion District 3; Department of Idaho Military Order of the Purple Heart and Chief Joseph Chapter 509; Idaho Veterans Assistance League; Disabled American Veterans Chapter 3; Disabled American Veterans Department of Idaho; Idaho State Veterans Homes in Boise, Lewiston and Pocatello; Idaho State Veterans Cemetery; Lewis Clark Valley Veterans Council; Veterans Advocates of Ore-Ida; VFW Posts 3001, 3520, 3604 and 7019; Veteran Student Services Center at Idaho State University; and the Vietnam Veterans of America Idaho State Council submitted nominations for the award this year.  

As of this year, 313 Spirit of Freedom Awards will have been presented since the award’s creation in 2002.  The awardees represent the tip of the iceberg of the deserving individuals in our communities.  Thank you to the veterans, military families and volunteers who serve veterans in our communities who infuse Idaho with a sense of purpose and a deep understanding of the importance of supporting those around us.   

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