Fla. governor bestows service medals on 380 veterans

By GARY PINNELL | Highlands Today, Sebring, Fla. | Published: August 16, 2014

AVON PARK — The day he was shot, Cpl. Joshua McKee was just guarding his post, an entry control point at forward operating base Hansen, Afghanistan during 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines’ 2012 deployment in Operation Enduring Freedom.

“A man dressed as an Afghan police rode up on a motorcycle, and when we started to walk toward him, he just started shooting at us,” McKee told the Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System on Jan. 6, 2014, the day he was awarded a Bronze Star with a V for valor.

“We interacted with the local police all the time, but when rounds started to fly by me, that’s when I noticed the Afghans had circled around us,” said McKee. “Even though I was shot in my upper thigh, I managed to call for help and we took them down.”

Actually, as Gov. Rick Scott noted Friday at the Avon Park National Guard Armory, there was more to the story.

McKee, now 23, saved the lives of fellow Marines, who fought off the attack on their unit.

“The fact that McKee was bleeding everywhere, but remained vigilant the entire time ensuring that no other threats existed, was an act of a true hero,” said 1st Lt. Jonathon Harris, the platoon commander who pinned the medal on McKee’s chest in January. “McKee’s actions that day hands down prevented the loss of several Marines’ and coalition forces’ lives; he’s a hero and someone I look up to 100 percent.”

“This week, we had the honor of presenting 2,174 Florida veterans with the Governor’s Veterans Service Award,” Scott said. Avon Park was one stop on his Florida tour, which included Jacksonville, Sarasota, Crestview, Lakeland and Melbourne. More ceremonies are scheduled, an aide said.

“These courageous men and woman have made countless sacrifices in their service to our families and country,” Scott said. “That is why we will keep working to give them the thanks they deserve.”

McKee, who also received a Purple Heart, insisted a fellow Marine should be treated first, the governor noted. McKee was medically retired from the United States Marine Corps and now lives with his family in Lake Placid, who were present at the Avon Park ceremony.

Scott was joined by Col. John Rooney and Mike Prendergast, Florida Department of Veterans Affairs executive director. They shook hands and the governor lowered a red and white ribbon with a bronze medal around the necks of 380 Florida combat and non-combat veterans of the Coast Guard, Florida National Guard, Merchant Marines, Army, Navy, Marines or Air Force who signed their names and presented proof to receive the Governor’s Veterans Service Award.

The front of the medal depicts the Great Seal of the State of Florida; the back displays the five seals of the U.S. military branches with an inscription: “Honoring Those Who Served.”

“We have the privilege of honoring veterans in Avon Park today who have fought in all the conflicts over the past generations,” Prendergast said. “We truly appreciate these heroes’ selfless service to this great country.”




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