Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo
The enormous service of Idaho Veterans and the devotion to serving the veterans community is one of the things I most enjoy highlighting each year. Every November since 2002, I have had the great opportunity to honor Idaho veterans and volunteers for their outstanding service to our country and its veterans. The 16 Idahoans who are recipients of the 2023 Spirit of Freedom: Idaho Veterans Service Award once again represent the many deserving Idahoans who lift up others with their service and thoughtful care.
Veterans organizations across Idaho nominate the awardees. Since the award’s creation, 387 Spirit of Freedom Awards have been bestowed. The award is presented in two categories: veterans and volunteers who assist veterans.
Often times, the award categories overlap, as Idaho veterans who have served our country return home and continue to give generously of their time and resources to helping fellow veterans, military families and many others. For example, this year, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 7019 nominated retired Marine Corps Colonel William B. Johnson, of Eagle. Johnson dedicated more than 31 years to military service, including several combat deployments, and he continues to give generously of his time in service to fellow veterans. He has devoted more than 150 hours over the past year and a half visiting veterans at care facilities with his Labrador Retriever.
Another award recipient, Kim McElliott, of Twin Falls, has served as a volunteer for the American Legion and its Auxiliary for an amazing 66 years. In nominating McElliott for this award, Victor Markell with the American Legion Post 7, described her as “a dynamic leader filled with enthusiasm and is very kind to all veterans in our Post.” McElliott comes from a family of veterans--her father, four brothers, two sons and her husband have all served in some capacity. McElliott said, “Some gave their all—I only gave a few hours.”
Kim’s humble sentiment reflects the deep respect for veterans that blooms across our great State. This year’s awardees hail from Boise, Buhl, Caldwell, Eagle, Kuna, Lewiston, Meridian, Pocatello, Post Falls, Star and Twin Falls. A complete list of the 16 recipients of the 2023 Spirit of Freedom Award is provided below.
Summaries of their service and the service of past Spirit of Freedom Award recipients are posted on my official website, www.crapo.senate.gov/about/spirit-of-freedom.
I thank the veterans organizations that take the time to submit award nominations. This year, those organizations include American Legion Posts 7, 39 and 47; Bannock County Veteran Services; the Idaho Military Order of the Purple Heart; Idaho Veterans Assistance League; the Idaho State Veterans Homes in Boise and Lewiston; and VFW Posts 3604, 4000 and 7019. If interested in submitting nominations for the 2024 Spirit of Freedom Service Award, please contact Courtney Lehosit in my Boise office, (208) 334-1776.
Idaho, home to more than 118,000 veterans, is replete with a sense of duty to our country and upholding its freedoms. We barely scratch the surface of recognizing deserving Idahoans with the Spirit of Freedom award each year. As I honor the 2023 Spirit of Freedom Award recipients and thank all Idaho Veterans for their service, I also thank all those unrecognized who work relentlessly to ensure our country’s spirit of freedom is never dimmed.