Mike Mason - US Army Veteran - The Villages, FL
Mr. Mason enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1970 and served as a Combat Medic in the Republic of Vietnam. He was wounded on Sept. 28th, 1971 at Fire Base Pace on the Cambodian border in a heroic action, which earned him the Bronze Star with Valor. After the military, served as Senior Vice Commander of the VFW of Rock Falls, IL, assisted Veterans in need and supported countless Veteran functions throughout Polk County, as DVOP, in Winter Haven, FL, worked to help Veterans attain employment, providing resume updates, mock interviews, and provided proper clothing. He succeeded in acquiring back to back $30,000 Labor Department grants based on his work as the DVOP Due to Mike developing a “Soft Exit” report Polk County rose from 67th place in the state of Florida to 9th place. Mike was recognized in 2011 by the American Legion as the Outstanding DVOP presenting him with the “Annual National Employment Service Award”.
He was recognized by the American Legion for “Outstanding Support for the Children and Youth” programs. Mr. Mason received the Outstanding Service and Assistance Award for American Legion Programs. Mr. Mason was awarded the “National Commander’s Award” for 2013 for MOPH and was instrumental in declaring all 17 municipalities in Polk County as “Purple Heart” cities and the county as a “Purple Heart” county.
As the County Director of Veteran Services, Mr. Mason took an office consisting of two Veteran Service Officers bringing in $90M per year to four Officers bringing in over $450M of VA benefits. lbis was due to a phenomenal feat of assisting over 60,000 Veterans in Polk County.
Mike’s tireless dedication and devotion to Florida Veterans through health, entrepreneurship, employment, education, and partnership within the community by way of Homeless and At-Risk Veterans, and Veterans with Legal Issues. Particularly, his unparalleled persistence of the introduction of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy into Florida Veterans lives has gained critical acclaim. His “lifesaving” initiatives are a reality to Florida Veterans with the ultimate goal of reducing veteran suicides.
Mr. Mason’s proactive role in Polk County Veterans Treatment court has identified veterans with qualifying criminal charges. He fostered a sense of veteran legal support while encouraging eligible veterans to enter into this problem-solving treatment court, saving many veterans from incarceration, thus enabling those with families to continue support at home.
Education and Training Accomplishments:
- Graduated from Tampico, IL High School
- Football, running back, receiver, linebacker / basketball, baseball, track & field, cross country, student council, taught freshman algebra as a senior
- Graduated from LPC (Leadership Preparation Class) Training at Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, TX
San Jacinto College, Houston, TX. Phi Theta Kappa, Associate Degree
- Represented Texas on committee with Sam Donaldson and Jack Kemp in Washington, DC
- Dale Carnegie Graduate
- Graduated as Master Negotiator from Itochu International Incorporated, NYC
- Inducted into MENSA
- Negotiated Steelworker Contracts and Teacher contracts
- Trained as a Disabled Veteran Outreach Program Specialist
- Service Officer training in Orlando for Post #8 American Legion, Winter Haven, FL
- County Veterans Service Officer training (twice a year) for Polk County Veteran Services
Professional and Employment History:
- Mike enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1970 and served as a Combat Medic in the Republic of Vietnam. He was wounded on Sept. 28th, 1971 at Fire Base Pace on the Cambodian border in a heroic action, which earned him the Bronze Star with Valor
- Upon discharge Mike worked 30 years at Northwestern Steel. He started as a floor sweeper and aspired to managing several Mills. His last position was Manager of Shipping, Distribution Services, Capital Expenditures and Special Projects Engineer of the 48 Mill in Houston, TX
- After retiring from Northwestern Steel, he was hired to manage the Manufacturing Division of PrimeSource Building Products, a subsidiary of Itochu International Incorporated
Advocacy on Behalf of Veterans:
- Served as Senior Vice Commander of the VFW of Rock Falls, IL
- Assisted Veterans in need and supported countless Veteran functions throughout Polk County
- As DVOP, in Winter Haven, FL, worked to help Veterans attain employment, providing resume updates, mock interviews, and provided proper clothing. Succeeded in acquiring back to back $30,000 Labor Department grants based on his work as the DVOP
- Due to Mike developing a “Soft Exit” report Polk County rose from 67th place in the state of Florida to 9th place
- Mike was recognized in 2011 by the American Legion as the Outstanding DVOP presenting him with the “Annual National Employment Service Award”.
- Recognized by the American Legion for “Outstanding Support for the Children and Youth” programs
- Received the Outstanding Service and Assistance Award for American Legion Programs
- Lifetime member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart
- Elected Commander of the MOPH Chapter #535
- Served as Department Commander of the MOPH in 2017
- Awarded the “National Commander’s Award” for 2013 for MOPH
- Mike was instrumental in declaring all 17 municipalities in Polk County as “Purple Heart” cities and the county as a “Purple Heart” county
- While living in Winter Haven, FL, he went on to be the National Accounts Manager for PrimeSource covering the southeast from Washington DC. to Florida including Puerto Rico and St. Thomas, VI
- After ten years with PrimeSource Mike retired again and decided to help Florida Veterans and was hired as the Disabled Veteran Outreach Program (DVOP) Specialist with the Polk County Workforce Board Mike was then contacted to apply for the position as the Director of Veteran Services for Polk County Florida. He quickly rose through the ranks to Senior Vice President of the County Veterans Service Officer Association of Florida
- Mike was then hand-picked to be District Director 3 for the Florida Veterans Foundation. Through his incredible accomplishments was then hand-picked as Chairman of the Florida Veterans Foundation in 2016- 2018 by the FDVA Executive Director
- He retired as the Director of Veteran Services on June 30th, 2017
- Led the “Purple Heart Celebration” consisting of every Veteran organization in the county and a total of 665 attending the celebration making the entire county aware of Florida Veterans and their needs
- Mike served Accredited Service Officer with the National American Legion and National Veterans of Foreign Wars
- He received the certificate for the Division of Emergency Management-Warning Coordination G-272
- He was VHPD (Veteran Homeless Prevention Demonstration) contact person for Polk County, Florida
- Member of the Polk County Veterans Council assisting with all Veteran related events throughout the year
- As the County Director of Veteran Services, Mike took an office consisting of two Veteran Service Officers bringing in $90M per year to four Officers bringing in over $450M of VA benefits. This was due to a phenomenal feat of assisting over 60,000 Veterans in Polk County
- Mike reached out to several surviving spouses that were not receiving their Dependency Indemnity Compensation due to inaccurate death certificates. He assembled a team which included the Department of Vital Statistics and Major John Haynes. The problem was solved on Jan. 20, 2016. Now when the Medical Examiner answers the question: “Did the decedent ever serve in the U.S. Armed Forces?” in the affirmative, he/she will receive an auto fax asking if there was a Service-Connected Disability that could have been a contributing factor in this Veteran’s death? Mike presented this solution to the National Convention of the Military Order of the Purple Heart in Norfolk, VA.
- Mike also started a TV program on PGTV (Polk Government Television) called “Today’s Veteran”. He Pointed out Veterans issues, available assets and the county Veterans’ own stories. They had over 300 shows highlighting Veterans.
- Mike’s day would start in the office between 5:00 and 5:30 am and occasionally return home between 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm. After work, he was regularly attending meetings of the local Veterans organizations and doing outreach to the Korean War Veterans and the VBOBs (Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge).
- He created the first “Purple Heart” bus in the State of Florida. This bus traveled Polk County and depicted members of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Veterans that were wounded in combat with the enemy. He then enlisted donors to support all Veterans to travel on this county bus for free. They just had to provide identification proving they were Veterans. Several counties, such as Leon county followed suit in creating their own Purple Heart bus.
- As Chairman of the Florida Veteran Foundation Chairman, Mike innovated and incentivized so many programs that touch the needs of each veteran under his purview. Through his personal impassioned drive to help veterans, Mike worked feverishly for FVF to ultimately be awarded a $1.25M grant. He innovatively modeled and executed a unique personal approach to reach veterans through core subject matter expert support via Florida Veteran Summits and awareness campaigns. His relentless example to serve Florida Veterans has reached over 1.2 million in an unprecedented positive, productive manner.
- Mike’s tireless dedication and devotion to Florida Veterans through health, entrepreneurship, employment, education, and partnership within the community by way of Homeless and At-Risk Veterans, and Veterans with Legal Issues. Particularly, his unparalleled persistence of the introduction of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy into Florida Veterans lives has gained critical acclaim. His “lifesaving” initiatives are a reality to Florida Veterans with the ultimate goal of reducing veteran suicides.
- Mike’s proactive role in Polk County Veterans Treatment court has identified veterans with qualifying criminal charges. He fostered a sense of veteran legal support while encouraging eligible veterans to enter into this problem-solving treatment court, saving many veterans from incarceration, thus enabling those with families to continue support at home.
- Chairman Mason teamed with the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay providing influence and hard work to effectively help secure monies in excess of three million dollars in order that the Crisis Center could hire and train Veterans to serve as Veteran Peers to Veterans who call in with suicidal thoughts. There can’t be enough said about the value of saving Veterans in despair. A Veteran peer on the other end of the call provides a degree of comfort and familiarity for those in trouble. There has been a lot of attention to this hugely effective program especially after current tragedies. This single action alone in providing lifesaving measures will pay dividends to the Active Duty and Veteran and Civilian Community long after we are gone. On his own merits Mike Mason’s actions in teaming and execution is priceless. Simply put, he has worked miracles through his sphere of influence in the Veteran community.
- Chairman Mason reached across the State of Florida to work with Bay Area Legal Services in providing resources to run a test “Veterans Legal Help Line.” The program was so successful that the next legislative session passed legislation to create a Veterans Legal Help Line Statewide. Mike is a shaker and mover and “MAKES THINGS HAPPEN!”
- His positive influence into countless cases and veterans’ lives is commendable. His personal time and heart in the matters of their personal lives has saved lives, money, and set the example for others who have lost their way. Without question, his servant character and diverse approach of example is second to none.
Civic Activities and Contributions:
- Cub Scouts of America 3 years
- Boy Scouts of America 4 years
- YMCA Indian Guides 3 years
- Coached T-Ball 5 years
- Coached Little League 4 years
- Rock Falls, IL. Community Advisory Council, Emergency Services Committee
- Elected to East Coloma School Board
- Member of Lakeland, FL Chamber of Commerce
- Assisted American Red Cross to install over 300 smoke alarms in Bartow, FL
- Represented Veterans as a member of the Polk County Homeless Coalition
- Assisted in Preparing and executing the Homeless Count
- Served meals at the Mission, homeless shelter in Winter Haven, FL
- Started Veterans Court in Polk County with Chief Judge Bruce Smith
- Lifetime member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Vietnam Veterans of America
- Active Member of the American Legion, Lady Lake, FL
- District Director of the Florida Veterans Foundation
- Chairman of the Florida Veterans Foundation
- Member of MENSA
- Received an American Flag flown over the Capitol in DC on Purple
- Heart Day for Mike Mason
- For the past seven years Patriot Mason served in many positions with the Department of Florida Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH) to include Senior Vice Commander, and Junior Vice Commander. Mason served two years as Chapter 758 Commander. Mike served as the MOPH Commander of Department of Florida
- In July 2012, Mike was appointed as the Florida Veterans Foundation, District Three Director where he also served on the Board of Directors. Mike was hand-picked and appointed by Glenn Sutphin, Executive Director of the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs to Chairman in August 2016.
Awards and Honors:
- Bronze Star with a “V” device, for Heroism
- Purple Heart
- Army Commendation Medal
- Good Conduct Medal
- National Defense Medal
- Vietnam Service Medal w two Battle Stars
- Vietnamese Gallantry Cross
- Vietnam Campaign Medal
- Combat Medic Badge
- Expert Ml6 Badge
During my five years with Mike Mason I have personally observed no less than ten times that he has received accolades and tributes. Among them were from Governor Scott, FDVA Executive Directors Glenn Sutphin and Danny Burgess, Several Legislators, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Major John Haynes, Florida District Directors, Lt General Lawrence Snowden, General William Webb, just to cite a few. Those praises for his efforts were for the Florida Walk of Honor, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Veterans Treatment Court, HBOT, Florida Veterans Foundation, Forward March, Military Order of the Purple Heart, and Florida Veterans at Risk and Homeless Stand Downs.
It is important to note that I did not search for awards and honors in paperwork. Mason is a modest man and places no tributes to him in the workplace. Instead, he holds his team up to honor them. This merit alone is testimony to what this Florida Hall of Fame Candidate represents.
Mike is the epitome of one who embodies all of those admirable attributes that is a true Veteran Hall of Famer. I had the distinct honor of working closely with him during the Florida Veterans Walk of Honor, development and execution of more than two million dollars’ worth of programs of which 95% of the monies went directly to the Veterans. His unbridled energy and extraordinary esprit de corps bring military organizations together in unity to provide relief to Florida Veterans. Mike sets the example of extraordinary service to mankind in a modest, yet prolific manner.
Due to Mike’s gifted level of perseverance and dogged determination, veterans have begun to realize relief through the opportunity to gain medical access to Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT). His personal efforts and collaboration with HBOT pioneers have realized three approved veterans for treatment for Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in FL. His understanding and articulation of the Choice Program proved invaluable to the veteran’s ability to undergo treatment. Mike was the driving force in the legislation for the Dependency Indemnity Compensation, providing relief to surviving military spouses.
Mike’s innovative approach to creating meaningful programs and brokering with partners in Veteran Advocacy executing the for full effectiveness is without peer. He worked feverishly and cleverly with the DAV and American Legion to create a partnership statewide. The DAV partnership was established to provide transportation for Veterans in need. In just one six-month period 7,701 Veterans were moved through DAV Vans, Transportation Disadvantaged and Community Transportation Boards. This was done marking 192,000 miles of travel and over 34,000 hours of driving provided by volunteers.
Through partnership with the Florida American Legion and their support group, the Project Vet Relief was the brainchild of Chairman Mason. He took a paid billet at the FVF Staff and replaced it with a State Centered program that was conducted at no cost. This allowed 100% of the designated money to go directly to the Veterans in need. The program is still powerful in meeting unmet needs today of emergency financial assistance to Veterans who fall on hard times and require funds to keep their electric on or to stay in their homes. This was artfully crafted whereby the American Legion’s 391 Florida Posts team to serve all 67 counties.
Mason’s dedication and devotion to the military is a matter of record of his distinguished and heroic life. His reach has touched a countless number of veterans in the past, present, and will have a lasting impact in the future. He still continues to give his life to the service of veterans at every opportunity. Mike’s leadership was superbly instrumental in that he led 8 State District Directors and staff at headquarters to operate on only 5% administration funds. His gift of exceptional inspirational leadership was solely responsible for making the Florida Veterans Foundation extraordinarily successful.
As a gift to the Veterans of Florida Mike’s dogged determination and persistence to the Legislative process brought the reality of the Foundation finally receiving their own license plate, which will provide recurring funding for all future projects. Mike STILL as Chairman Emeritus guides, advises, and provides his expertise on all Florida Veterans Programs.