Support for veterans, first responders personal for DeSantis, Cabinet

Iraq-war veteran DeSantis emotional at inaugural event in Tallahassee

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Governor-elect Ron DeSantis has a passion for veterans, because he is one. 

An officer in the Navy and an Iraq war veteran, DeSantis made sure to honor members of the armed forces and statewide first responders Monday ahead of his inauguration.

More than 1.5 million veterans live in Florida, and the “A Call to Action: Honoring Service, Sacrifice & Country” inaugural event was devoted specifically to them.

With Gold Star families -- those who have lost service members -- filling the room at the Tallahassee Auto Museum, the entire incoming Florida Cabinet spoke to the group.

Appreciation for veterans and service members is personal for Attorney General-elect Ashley Moody, whose son, Brandon, was recently sworn into the U.S. Army.

“More than fear, there is pride -- an indescribable pride,” Moody said. “One that five days ago I experienced again. My husband, Justin, and I, along with our 9-year-old son, stood and watched our son, Brandon, take an oath to defend the Constitution as one of the newest members of the United States Army.”

DeSantis and his wife, Casey, spoke from the heart, with the incoming governor choking up at one point.

"Isn’t that really the people we honor here today? These are people who decided they’re not going to wait for anybody else. They were going to stand up and be counted. And I think they’ve been counted," DeSantis said. "Obviously, those who have given their lives; we have people in this audience who risk their lives, who have risked their lives in service of our country, so that to me is the essence of the American spirit.”

To finish off the event, a standing crowd sang along with Lee Greenwood the emotional anthem “God Bless the U.S.A.”

During the event, DeSantis announced that the 2019 Inaugural Committee is donating $150,000 to Operation 300, a nonprofit organization that provides aid to military families who have lost loved ones in combat. 

Based out of Port Salerno, Florida (Martin County), Operation 300 was founded in the memory of Navy Seal Aaron Carson Vaughn, who lost his life in action in the Tangi River Valley of Afghanistan. To honor his memory, Vaughn’s family chose to give back to the families of those who lost their loved ones in service to the country. 

Parents Billy and Karen Vaughn, along with Aaron’s widow, Tara Vaughn Baldwin, continue to run Operation 300 in his memory.

“Without the generosity of so many, Operation 300 would not have the resources to achieve their incredible mission,” DeSantis said in a news release. “Thanks to our dedicated Inaugural Committee and sponsors, Operation 300 will be able to further their mission to honor the memory of our fallen heroes and brighten the lives of those they have left behind.” 

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