Rick Scott had already presented Governor’s Veterans Service Awards to more than 300 veterans on Thursday when he spotted Jackson Carson, 86, sitting at the back of the room.
The Bradenton National Guard Armory had just about emptied out, and Carson seemed unable to come forward to be recognized.
The governor walked back to Carson with Major Gen. Michael Calhoun, Florida’s adjutant general, at his side. Scott placed the award around Carson’s neck, thanked him for his service and asked him when he served.
Carson’s surprised family smiled with pride.
“That was mighty nice of him,” said Carson, a Korean War veteran.
Howard Acord, 89, of Myakka City shared that sentiment.
“I think it is wonderful,” said Acord, who served two years in the U.S. Navy.
Bill Skinner, 74, chair of the Manatee County Chapter of the Korean War Veterans Association, was especially pleased for the 90-year-old Marines, soldiers, airmen, and Navy vets in the room.
“So little means so much,” Skinner said.
Dan Craw, 66, who served 21 years in the Navy, looked around the standing-room crowd at the armory, and said he was surprised so many vets had turned out.
“I think it’s a great thing,” Craw said.
Donna Driggers came to the ceremony with her husband Stan Driggers, who served with the U.S. Army’s 1st Cavalry Division.
“It’s very emotional seeing all these men and women together,” Donna Driggers said.
William Thompson, 91, and Ned Teves, 82, came through the award line together. Thompson served in the South Pacific during World War II, while Teves served as an Army doctor in a military hospital in Japan during the Vietnam War.
Teves said he had been a recent immigrant from the Philippines and not yet a citizen when he was drafted into the Army.
He called his draft notice a “love letter” from the U.S. government.
Teves, like other vets from the Vietnam War era, welcomed the appreciation expressed for their service in recent years.
“Beautiful, it’s really amazing,” Teves said of Thursday’s ceremony.
Scott presents the medals about once a month to veterans as he travels around the state. He awarded 317 on Thursday. Florida is home to about 1.6 million veterans.