Catoosa Citizens' and Veterans' Memorial Foundation Board has presented its annual awards to veterans and other patriotic citizens.
Catoosa County Veteran of the Year
Ronnie Lea, a Boynton native, said he was surprised to receive his award that now hangs over his fireplace.
"It shocked me," said Ronnie Lea, who is a Vietnam Veteran that served in the United States Army from 1965 to 1967 and in the Vietnam War from October of 1966 to 1967. "It was not that bad serving in the military, but it was not that good either. When someone is shooting at you ... you get scared. As a country boy thrown into war in Vietnam, you do what you're told and hope you're alive the next day. I was drafted. To be pulled out of society, it's a little rough on you for the first four or five months. I was a mechanic working on the tanks. If they rode over a landmine, we fixed it and got it going again."
Lea recalls coming home and taking two months of vacation and opening a service station on 2A and 75. Then, he went to work for TVA for 30 years.
"I like helping, but I don't like being the front guy," said Lea. "I've got one of the best jobs in the world. I get to help people through the American Legion."
Now serving as the commander of American Legion Post 40 in Ringgold, he is the steward of the post's money. Post 40 assists Ringgold High School Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. When the April 27, 2011 tornado hit Ringgold, Post 40 let Mt. Peria Baptist Church members meet at the post until they could rebuild their tornado struck church nearby.
Lea also serves as the chairman of the Ringgold Beverage Commission and on the board of the Catoosa County Sheriff's Stocking Full of Love. He is a member of Lodge No. 466 in Fort Oglethorpe. Lea is a member of the Catoosa Citizens' and Veterans' Memorial Foundation Board. He is a graduate of Ringgold High School and attended McKenzie College for two years.
Catoosa County Outstanding Patriotic Service Award recipient
Catoosa County Sheriff Gary Sisk accepted his award from the Catoosa Citizens' and Veterans' Memorial Foundation Board on behalf of the Catoosa County Sheriff's Office too. Sisk said his officers not only work on fighting crime, but also work on rehabilitating and helping their fellow man.
"It was an honor to receive it for the Catoosa County Sheriff's Office," said Sheriff Sisk. "I have a great group of employees. Our staff care about their community and I want to make a difference as well."
Sisk said the Catoosa County Sheriff's Office is successful in identifying subjects on its Facebook page. Meanwhile, the department assigns employees to be mentors to students in local elementary schools to be a positive role model for them.
Sisk began a program called Anonymous shortly after becoming sheriff Jan. 1, 2013. He hired a full-time jail counselor that helped place an estimated 100 inmates with drug or alcohol problems in drug rehabilitation. The program is once a week with group sessions.
"Anonymous is ran by recovering addicts," said Sisk. "We allow them to speak to inmates. They can associate better with inmates, like 'I've been where you are.' That helps them to relate better and hopefully see the light and you can be a more productive member of society."
Sisk also launched Project Change with a short training to help people become a third party mentor to the inmates, since those leaving incarceration can no longer associate with the people they hung out with prior to going to jail.
Catoosa County Sheriff's Department has also partnered with Georgia Northwestern Technical College for their General Education Diploma program.
"Inmates can go ahead and work on their GED," said Sisk. "Our own learning center in Catoosa County will pay for any resident to take their GED test. We are working with GNTC to become a testing site because only certain places can give that test."
Sisk is also working with the court systems to get an accountability court going, he said, adding he wants to help families get out of bad cycles they are in.
Catoosa County Patriotic Citizen of the Year
William Venable, of Ringgold, was "completely surprised" to receive his award from the Catoosa Citizens' and Veterans' Memorial Foundation Board.
"Yvonne Morgan said she needed my help to present the award, so I had no clue," said Venable. "I was completely shocked. The award really touched me."
Venable is a Catoosa County Chamber of Commerce Ambassador and said that helped him network in the community.
"I joined the volunteer support staff for the Fire State No. 1 Fort Oglethorpe Fire Department," said Venable. "I've been involved with several charities. I was very active in Relay for Life at Saddle Ridge School April 26. We raised $4,500 for that campaign. We raised $15,500 when I was active with Making Strides for Breast Cancer. We've done car shows, cookouts and wrestling events. It's been a very community-oriented event. We want people to come out and support charities. My mother has had breast cancer on three separate occasions."
Venable is one of the managers for the Fort Oglethorpe Walmart on Battlefield Parkway. He has worked at Walmart for 17 years. He has an Associate's Degree in Business Management.
"People could do so much if they dive into the community and get involved," said Venable.