On Wednesday, November 4, the City of Hattiesburg’s Veterans Committee and Mayor Toby Barker announced Vernon F. Dahmer, Jr. as the 2020 Veteran of the Year.
Dahmer, 91, served in the United States Air Force from 1951 until 1971 as a subject matter expert in the United States Air Force Telecommunications Center Operations field. After 20 years of service, which included the Korean and Vietnam wars, he was honorably discharged as a Senior Master Sergeant for which he received many awards and commendations for serving during his exemplary military career.
Later, he went on to serve the United States Marine Corps Finance Center in Kansas, Missouri as a civilian to establish and manage a telecommunications center. In 1982, he returned to his childhood home in the Kelly Settlement Community on Monroe Road in Hattiesburg, where he has spent more than 38 years selflessly giving back to his community across a variety of organizations.
“Typically around election day, this announcement is always my favorite and also timely as a reminder for all. One of the principal reasons we have free and fair elections to elect presidents, senators, representatives, other offices and initiatives is because of the courage of those who serve in the military,” said Barker. “We cannot truly speak of the political process without our words being steeped in gratitude for those who made that process possible, including this year’s honoree – Mr. Vernon F. Dahmer, Jr.”
Barker added, “I am proud to announce him as this year’s recipient. Mr. Dahmer is a man of quiet strength, great character and proven courage – just as his mother and father have proven before him – and, he has given graciously to both our country and our community.”
Dahmer’s accomplishments and accolades are many due to his committed service to country and community, including serving as a founding member of the African American Military History Museum, serving local youth through programs like the Boy Scouts of America and the Grant’ Child Care Center in Eatonville, helping African-American families to preserve and retain ownership of land and heir property and continuing the Dahmer legacy of voter turn-out and voter registration living out the mantra of his father, Vernon F. Dahmer, Sr., “If you don’t vote, you don’t count.”
When asked about how receiving this designation felt, Dahmer stated, “I’m just a regular guy – quite low key to be honest with you – and it’s an honor to be recognized. It’s always been our goal – my wife and children and my family – to make our home a better community. Being recognized is incredibly humbling, especially at home by those who know you, your family and how you grew up.”
He added, “I was raised in a family that respected this community – our community – and our country. My conduct today is honoring them and all who came before me to lay down that example for me to follow.”
The Veteran of the Year program began in the early 2000s and each year’s recipient is selected by a committee of past recipients. This year, Dahmer joins a list of approximately 16 other veterans.
Dahmer will be presented with a proclamation for this honor during the City of Hattiesburg’s Annual Veterans Day program on Wednesday, November 11 at 11 a.m. This event is presented by the Hattiesburg Veterans Committee and will also feature a keynote from Colonel Rick Weaver, the incoming commander for Camp Shelby.