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March 22, 2024 Lt. Col. Erick Saks named 2023 Clay County Veteran of the Year

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GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The keynote speaker for Military Recognition Day last Saturday shared an interesting statistic, one that helps explain Clay County's rich military history.

"Today, less than 1% of America's population has raised their right hand to support and defend our constitution. Another 6% of all Americans have served in some point," Captain Mike Windom said. 

"A recent census found that 15.8% of all Clay County residents are veterans. That's truly a badge of honor we are proud to wear each and every day," he said.  

Hosted by VyStar Credit Union, Military Recognition Day was a celebration of all veterans of all branches of the military. It was also the highly anticipated occasion to reveal the 2023 Clay County Veteran of the Year. 

That tremendous honor went to retired Lt. Col. Erick Saks.

After 26 years of service in the U.S. Air Force, Saks embarked on a new mission to continue serving his country.

"Getting out after a service of 26 years, I knew it was going to be a challenge. The hardest challenge was the change in culture. We're in an organization where we're family, and that was the hardest thing to leave," Saks said during the ceremony.

Saks said he missed that sense of comradery as he transitioned back to civilian life. 

"People just didn't care so much about the people outside of their four walls. As my wife can tell you, I am incredibly stubborn. So rather than changing, I decided to develop a network of people that can make change," he said. 

Saks is the founder of Operation Lifeline, LLC., an organization dedicated to supporting veterans through various programs aimed at home rehabilitation, home ownership and military internships. Operating through his nonprofit, he was selected as one of two providers in Clay County to offer entry-level housing for the State Housing Initiative Program. 

Saks continues to help veterans by providing resources and promoting affordable homeownership in Green Cove Springs through initiatives such as Lifeline Landing. Saks' commitment and compassion toward other veterans were cited for his selection as Veteran of the Year. 

Article written by Jack Randall

Clay Today Reporter