Orange Park man to be inducted into Florida Veterans' Hall of Fame

Gary Newman will be honored Tuesday for helping veterans

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ORANGE PARK, Fla. – As a result of Gary Newman's work on behalf of veterans - especially incarcerated ones-- the Orange Park resident will be inducted into the Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame during a ceremony Tuesday in the Cabinet Room in the State Capitol Building in Tallahassee.

Newman, a retired Navy petty officer, master-at-arms, is founder and past president of the Vietnam Veterans of America William G. Byrns Chapter 1059 in Clay County. He is currently Vietnam Veterans of America Florida State Council second Vice President and adviser to the incarcerated members of Chapter 1080 at the Union Correctional Institution in Raiford. In addition, Newman is president of the VVA Florida State Council Foundation, a group dedicated to support veterans.

The 76-year-old was one of 20 veterans from the state inducted into the prestigious Veterans’ Hall of Fame. “I am very humbled and honored to receive an award of this caliber,’’ Newman said.  

“It's important that I share this award with the many people who have allowed me to enter into their lives. Without them, I would not have received this prestigious honor.’’

As advisor to the incarcerated chapter members at Union Correctional Institution, Newman was instrumental getting the chapter chartered. The chapter received national recognition by the Vietnam Veterans of America in 2017 with a pair of awards – Incarcerated Chapter of the Year and Ed Snook, Chapter 1080 president, recognized a Member of the Year. 

In addition, Newman was driving force in organizing, funding and construction of the TAPS Monument, dedicated to the 66 fallen warriors from Clay County, in Green Cove Springs. The TAPS Monument was dedicated in October 2017.

Newman is passionate about assisting and mentoring veterans, spending countless personal hours doing so, and inspiring others. 

“When I became Chapter 1080’s president three years ago, he helped me become a better leader with his advice and encouragement,’’ Snook said. “He is the backbone of Chapter 1080.
“His motto: ‘Leave No Veteran Behind’ is words that he follows every day. He is a leader. I am proud to call a friend and a true veteran.’’

Newman, a former Clay County deputy sheriff, chief of police at Naval Air Station Jacksonville and deputy director of security at NAS Jacksonville, was recognized as the VVA Florida State Council co-member of the year in 2018.

“Throughout his tenure, Gary has been the voice and advocate of all veterans regardless of location,’’ V. Paul Haws Jr., Chapter 1059 treasurer, said. “I can say with unqualified certainly that in my four decades of naval service, I have met few men or women who would equal Gary’s resolve and strong, effective leadership.’’

Still active with Chapter 1059, the chapter he founded seven years ago, Newman works hard for the forgotten veterans, especially the Vietnam Veterans at UCI. “Gary lets the inmates know that someone on the outside still cares about them and provides a positive focus for them,’’ UCI Officer Mary Goodge said.

“Gary undertook our plight to become a chapter of the VVA and worked many long hours to help us get our chapter,’’ George P. Ballman, Chapter 1080’s founder and first president at UCI. “He worked tirelessly using his own time and money to help us become a chapter member of the VVA.’’

Newman is very grateful of the honor being bestowed.

“One of the proudest titles one can earn is veteran,” Newman said. “It has been my distinct pleasure to serve the veteran community. They are all my personal heroes. “To be recognized with such a prestigious award for doing what comes naturally is mind boggling. I am just overwhelmed and humbled that I would even be considered for this presentation. Thank you to all who have helped me accomplish so much.

“I have spent six decades serving my neighborhood, county and country in one way or another," Newman said. "I enjoy helping those veterans who have been forgotten over time. I am inspired by the look in their eyes when you reach out to offer a hand up, not a handout.”