FORT WALTON BEACH, Fla. (WKRG) — Living legends of the United States Military sat in the same room Wednesday night for a salute to Okaloosa County inductees for the Veterans Hall of Fame.

The Greater Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce along with Eglin Federal Credit Union hosted the eight inductees and their families for a dinner at Magnolia Grill in Fort Walton Beach.

Northwest Florida Veterans Hall of Fame inductees, by year:

  • 2016
    • Dr. David L. Goetsch USMC
  • 2017
    • 1st SGT Thomas S. Rice USA
  • 2018
    • Lt. Gen. Gordon E. Fornell USAF
    • Brig. Gen. T. Patt Maney USA
    • Dr. Charles R. Merkel Jr. USA
  • 2019
    • Col. Michael Flynt USAF
    • Dr. Albert Zant USA
  • 2020
    • Brig. Gen. Michale Ferguson USA

Chamber President Ted Corcoran hosted the salute to recognize the men and women that continue to serve passed their military retirements.

Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs representative Bob Asztalos spoke about the importance of the Veteran’s Hall of Fame, which started in 2016.

“This is not to recognize the veteran for their military service, it’s their post-military service. It’s for what they did when they came back,” said Asztalos. “It’s incredible to me how veterans will go off to war, will serve this county, will do all of that, and then come back and continue to keep giving. And that is who we are honoring tonight.”

Purple Heart Marine Veteran, actor and author Dale Dye made an appearance at the southern cottage restaurant. Dye was one of five Purple Heart recipients at the ceremony.

The dinner was a ticketed event with all proceeds going to the Air Force Enlisted Villiage. A program to help aging veterans and enlisted widows navigate life.

“The money that we raised tonight goes actually to help our residents, particularly our widows. So our primary mission is to provide a home to Air Force enlisted retiree widows,” said Vatema Ivy, AFEV Director of Development.

Ivy said 84% of all veteran caretakers are spouses. The AFEV is also working to raise $25Million for a new village across the street from their current location aimed at serving all military branches.

“They have sacrificed so much for us, not just across the country, but they’re still giving back locally,” said Ivy. “Tom Rice, who is actually one of the honorees tonight, is one of our board members for Air Force Enlisted Village and every chance he gets, he’s always out and about in the community trying to give back no matter what. So they’re still serving.”

The chamber presented two plaques to Okaloosa County Commissioner Trey Goodwin to display in the county’s two courthouses.