Officials from Northwest Florida gathered Wednesday to celebrate the designation of the Eglin Air Force Base – Hurlburt community as one of 10 Great American Defense Communities.
“Everyone in this room is aware of the importance of our military installations,” Nathan Sparks, executive director of the Economic Development Council of Okaloosa County, told the hundreds of military, business and community leaders. “We also know that those installations are made up of people with families, and all of you here are working to find ways to serve them,” Sparks said, reported the Northwest Florida Daily News.
One of the Eglin-Hurlburt community’s signature initiatives is a program to foster entrepreneurship by veterans, military spouses and DOD retirees. Participants receive training, mentoring, office space and a $25,000 grant. The effort is just one example of how the community supports the service members and military families at Eglin AFB, Hurlburt Field and Duke Field.
“I think if you read the [community’s] nomination package, you’d discover things that you didn’t know were going on,” said Bob Ross, who presented the award on behalf of ADC.
Ross, a member of the association’s board of directors, added that one person or organization can’t support the service members in Northwest Florida on its own.
“It takes a community of people, everybody pulling together, to support service members and their families,” he said. “You have really distinguished yourself as a community.”
ADC launched the Great American Defense Communities program this year to acknowledge the unique contributions cities, counties and regions that host installations make to improve quality of life for service members, veterans and their families. The inaugural class of 10 communities was selected by a panel of defense community advocates and experts from dozens of nominees based on the broad range of efforts they carry out on behalf of military personnel and their families, covering areas such as education, job opportunities, housing, family support during deployments and community appreciation.
Nominate your community to be one of the 10 designated as part of the 2017 Great American Defense Communities program! ADC and the Defense Communities Caucus are now accepting nominations.