John Folsom - US Navy Veteran - Tallahassee, FL
John wasn’t a person that achieved greatness in government, the Navy or as his profession as a postal worker. But how do you define “greatness?” For John, you see a person that is rich in friends, acquaintances and those who know of him and would like to meet him or have him on their team/organization. There is an interesting aspect I’ve found about John is that One, over the past few years, he is now a personal and trusted friend/co-volunteer and Two, people want to be around him and work with him.
He is the quiet leader who listens to others, ensures he understands their point of view and then makes a reasoned decision. Generally, there is full acceptance. But even when there is disagreement, it is with respect that John listened prior to his decision.
Santa Claus (John Folsom) is a clue into the leadership of John. He wants people to feel good and feel good about themselves. You can’t always do that but that doesn’t mean you can’t try. Understanding the requirements of being a great Santa Claus is not unlike what does it take to be a good leader of a specific organization. You have to know the organization and what makes it work right. Then you have to know how to make appropriate changes. Plus, you have to know how to motivate your workers and engage those leaders you report to. But most of all you really are there for the customer. Whether that is small children, teenagers hitting that age of non-belief or adults who want to see the joy of their children with Santa Claus. See that last page.
So, my detour above is really to explain why John is such a great person. He LOVES people and wants to take care of those who also served our great Nation. There are a number of organizations that he belongs to amongst the Veteran community. He is either a leader or influencer in each one that he is a member. Of course, his reach is limited and his outstanding capabilities are mostly focused on Tallahassee. But that is what makes us the lucky ones. He isn’t dragged off to other duties at State or National level organizations; very much our gain. The Veterans community knows that he is the quiet leader that helps make this local area gel. I could go on and write a lot more but like public speaking the best thing is to stop writing before you stop listening/paying attention.
Education and Training John Folsom has received:
- Basic Training (Boot Camp) for Navy
- Navy’s training requirements for positions as company clerk, Master at Arms and Gunners Mate
- Completed High School with GED Examination while in Service: January ’66 John retook the GED again so that it would be from Florida
- Completed One Year of College while in Service
- Earned two year Associates Degree from Tallahassee Community College
- Completed one year of college courses from Florida State University
- Finished requisite training for postal office work
Professional or Employment History:
- Served in the US Navy on the USS Galveston off the coast of Vietnam.
- While going to school and using the Gl Bill, John worked at multiple positions as a carpet installer for Lowe’s and Sears, Pizza Hut, three different movie theaters (Perry Highway Drive and Campus Art as a projectionist and Northwood Mall as the manager).
- Tallahassee Airport as screener for Pre-departure screening of people and baggage
- Served the people of Quincy for 30 years as a postal worker.
Advocacy on Behalf of Veterans:
- Veteran Rehabilitation as Commander American Legion Post #13:
- In an effort to better help our needy veterans, John work with both the Leon County Service Officer and Representatives from the Veterans Administration. Upon their request for financial assistance such as a bus ticket, lodging, or any number of other items for a veteran that can help them, John personally ensures the action is completed.
- The post maintains a food pantry at Vet Village. Vet Village is a housing project run by Volunteers of America. Fifty-one veterans can be housed there. Any veteran can make use of the food pantry and if food items need to be purchased, the Post #13 writes the check.
- The Tallahassee National Cemetery opened in October 2015. Before this happened, he joined other invited religious figures to a “consecration of the grounds”.
- Established the Tallahassee Big Bend Honor Guard that provides the rifle salute Honors for a Veterans burial at the Tallassee National Cemetery
- Established monthly Veterans Service Officers’ Leadership meetings; achieved in an environment with strong personalities and work together issues.
- VSO Leadership meetings are starting to evolve into including interested organizations, government officials and business people in the area that wish to help Veterans. This includes Congressman Dunn who wishes to work with John and the VSO Leadership to create a Veterans Service Council.
- Worked with Leon County for a mutual operation to support Veterans on Veterans Day with a free breakfast by Post #13 and awards presented by the County. Also, the county provided upgrades to the Post’s facilities to better assist this annual service for our Veterans. This all allowed the Post and the County to reach out to more Veterans than in previous years.
- Plans, Prepares and assists with the Execution of the Post’s annual Memorial Day ceremony at Oakland Cemetery.
- Co-chaired the 2017 Tallahassee National Cemetery’s Memorial Day and the Vietnam ceremonies.
- Assumed the leadership of the local Tallahassee Sons of the American Revolution and revived it. One of their missions is to retire worn-out American flags. Last year they properly and ceremonially disposed of 1,500 flags. Making a military family of little girls so happy with the surprise of their father returning from deployment. John is Santa Claus. The following note from John describes this:
“Anyone who knows me, knows that I support a beard…The truth is a little deeper than that. It is my Santa beard. The joy of being Santa, even if for just two months out of the year is almost indescribable[One time] Three young ladies age range 7, 9, and 12 were telling Santa what they wanted. The older of the three told me she wanted her dad home for Christmas. After they got up her mother came over and whispered” He is due home next week”…. A week later the three girls are back at the mall waiting to see Santa,… We were all waiting for him to arrive home from his deployment. The Santa set must have had two hundred people circle around it. TV and radio crews were there. The girls came up each on my knees. As the oldest girl told me once again how she wanted her father home, I reached into my Santa Bag pulled out a handful of magic dust threw it into the air, and with a deep bellow “ HO,HO,HO” the father, in camo, holding gifts appeared from behind the tree.”
As an E-4 on the USS Galveston, John defended a fellow Sailor at a Summary Courts-Martial. This was very unusual for a junior enlisted Sailor to serve as Defense, but the Sailor had confidence that John would do a better job than others. The JAG approved it. The charge was following asleep on duty. The presentation of the poor leadership involved with assigning the accused to the duty at the base in S. Vietnam did ultimately lead to a conviction. But the convicted Sailor was given only two hours extra duty for two weeks and an apology by the court members. This appeared to be due to the NCO shortfalls that created the problem faced by the Sailor. A win for the Sailor who put his trust in John Folsom.
Civic Activities and Contributions:
- Re-established at American Legion Post #13 on Lake Ella in Tallahassee, the French kilometer marker called a Borne from Brou, France. They were established after WWII. It is one of 1,143 placed to mark Liberty Road General Patton’s forces used to advance across France. The French leadership sent one Borne to each state to say “Mercie.” John spearheaded the refurbishing it with a local Scout for his Eagle project. At the international rededication of the Borne, the Mayor of Brou, France was part of the ceremony with a Skype connection. Commander Saules-Briqges American Legion Post 13 Tallahassee Fl. (3years)
- District 2 Vice Commander American Legion. Tallahassee to Graceville Fl. (4 years)
- Chaplain – Florida American Legion Press Association (2 years )
- Adjutant-Sons of the American Legion Squadron 13 Tallahassee Fl. (3 years)
- Although not post military but showing community involvement, President of the Tallahassee Chapter of the Son of the American Revolution.
- 2nd Vice Commander AMVETS Post 1776 Tallahassee FL (6years)
- Deputy Representative for the AMVETS to the Florida Veterans Consul. Newly appointed.
- VFW Life member
- Support committee Tallahassee National Cemetery
- Big Bend Honor Guard
- VSO Commanders Leadership Coalition
- District 2 Commander American Legion. Commander AMVETS Post 1776
Awards or Honors:
- National Defense Service Medal;
- Vietnam Service Medal and
- Vietnam Campaign Medal
- Recognized as a crewmember of the USS Galveston during its wartime actions in Vietnam during Operation Starlight
- Named a “Hometown Hero” due to his contributions to the community of Quincy as Santa Claus. The white bearded postal carrier whom young and old wanted a “Santa” hug.
Sons of the American Revolution recognitions:
- Ware Service Medal
- Vietnam War Veterans Corps
- Certificate of Appreciation for Outstanding Support
- Bronze Good Citizenship Medal for Outstanding Community Support
American Legion recognitions:
- Certificate of Service as Adjutant for Post #13
- Certificate of Service as Commander for Post #13
- Certificate of Service as 2nd District Vice Commander
- DAV Community of Heroes recognition by National Adjutant
- Florida Veterans Foundation Homeless Veterans Stand
- Down Certificate of Appreciation
- Letters of Appreciation for service as the Quincy postal worker for 25 years and then 30 years.