Recognizing South Orange County veterans who went above and beyond the call of duty by continuing to serve in their community after military service, Orange County Fifth District Supervisor Katrina Foley awarded a veteran from each of the nine cities within her district.
During the third annual Veterans of the Year Awards on Thursday, Nov. 9, Foley presented Dana Point veteran Patricia “Patti” Holliday, Nelson Coburn, a former marine from San Clemente, and San Juan Capistrano Mayor Howard Hart with plaques recognizing their service to their communities.
“Today we celebrate our outstanding veterans who served our country, but continue to serve throughout their life in our county and in our United states,” Foley said.
Girl Scouts of Orange County Troop 5388 from Newport Beach and Troop 6438 from Laguna Niguel presented the colors while veteran Larry Icenogle from Bugle Across America accompanied, performing the National Anthem.
Holliday, the Dana Point Veteran of the Year, joined the United States Army in 1989. After Holliday served the U.S. Army in active duty for eight years and the National Guard for an additional 13 years, she continued to serve her community as a deputy sheriff for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department for 19 years.
During her tenure, Holliday served as a flight medic, platoon sergeant, first sergeant, and participated as a member of a space shuttle recovery mission team.
While accepting the award, Holliday thanked her fellow veterans for their service, noting “it takes all of us to make this world a better place.”
“The things that we’ve done and seen, it’s important that people recognize all of us, what we’ve done, and that it’s really important to just listen,” Holliday said. “Those of you that maybe know somebody that’s deployed or has been deployed, if they just need to talk, let them talk.”
Representing the City of San Clemente, 1st Sgt. Coburn served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1998 to 2020. After Coburn’s years of service, he continued to serve his community as the commandant for the Marine Corps League South Coast Detachment in San Clemente. Coburn also serves as the vice president of the Veterans Association of Real Estate Professionals of Orange County.
“Nelson assists his fellow veterans by working to increase sustainable homeownership, financial literacy education, VA loan awareness and economic opportunities,” Foley said. “I really just appreciate the work that you have done for families that have students that are veterans.”
While receiving the plaque recognizing his service, Coburn said he felt a huge void in his life when he retired from the Marines.
“I didn’t realize when I retired that I could continue to give back, I thought my service ended, and it didn’t,” Coburn said. “It had really just begun. I quickly found the Marine Corps League.”
Coburn added that through the Marine Corps League, VFW and American Legion, “I’m able to help more people and more servicemembers and more families now than I ever did in the whole 22 years that I was there.”
“So that void that I had is no longer there,” Coburn continued. “A lot of veterans get out and they’re lost … it’s on us to show them that direction.”
Foley presented San Juan Capistrano Mayor Howard Hart with a plaque recognizing his service as a U.S. Naval Intelligence Officer for 30 years.
During his service, Hart survived the Sept. 11 attack on the Pentagon and earned the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Foley noted.
“I have just had the pleasure of working with Mayor Hart in my new role as his County Supervisor and I can tell you he’s always just very supportive,” Foley said. “He loves his community, he loves serving and I enjoy working with you. It’s my honor to recognize you as our Veteran of the Year.”
Hart said he joined the Navy, commissioned out of University of California, Irvine.
“When I graduated from UC Irvine, I was looking for meaning and I thought I’d go into the Navy for a few years,” Hart said. “I went in a starry-eyed patriot, fell in love with it, but after 30 years of bureaucracy and losing 16 friends and a lot of family separation and hardship, I came out a starry-eyed patriot whose country is worth fighting for.”
“Being a naval officer,” he continued, “was the greatest privilege of my life.”