The City of St. Petersburg held its ninth annual Veterans Day celebration on Dec. 9 at Williams Park Veterans Memorial and presented former servicemen John Green and Patrick Mack with the Honored Veterans Award.
BY FRANK DROUZAS, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG — The City of St. Petersburg held its ninth annual Veterans Day celebration on Dec. 9 at Williams Park Veterans Memorial and presented former servicemen John Green and Patrick Mack with the Honored Veterans Award.
“Our former service members, we are forever in their debt for their selfless service and for their sacrifices,” said Erica Riggins, public information office director, who served as the mistress of ceremony.
Those on hand for the ceremony included Gina Maniaci, director of the St. Pete Veteran Center, Theresa Jones, City of St. Petersburg’s manager of Veterans, Social Services and Homeless and other city officials and veterans.
“St. Petersburg is a place where veterans can be proud, be honored and can live full lives,” Driscoll said. “It makes me very happy that we’ve rescheduled this because it’s also a message that we should be honoring our veterans every single day.”
Mayor Ken Welch said – in his first celebration as mayor – that the city believes strongly in saluting our nation’s heroes “today and every day.”
“This morning, we are reflecting on the courage of two local heroes,” he said. “We are honoring their service to our country and their sacrifices for our freedom.”
Green dedicated 22 years of his life to the U.S. Coast Guard, first joining in 1986. The biggest test of his intestinal fortitude came when he was the last man on a burning oil rig. At the time, Petty Officer Green was serving as a rescue swimmer on an ariel flight, and the fire was so intense he realized evacuation by chopper and boat was the only option to rescue all 51 crew members.
Green coordinated the entire rescue operation, which required several trips back and forth to the burning rig to evacuate everyone in small groups. With the fire still raging, he volunteered to remain on the rig with the final crew members until the last one was airlifted.
President Ronald Reagan awarded him the Distinguished Flying Cross for his heroism, the highest award for Aviation terrorism in a non-combat situation.
“The entire crew survived thanks to his courageous efforts and quick decision-making,” Welch said.
Green said it was nice to receive such thanks that many deserving rescuers, such as firefighters and paramedics, rarely get.
Born and raised in St. Pete, Mack joined the U.S. Navy in 1987. He spent most of his 24-year career designing, building, and purchasing software for the navy. Following his retirement in 2011, he was still focused on helping the private sector solve critical problems, Welch explained, so Mack founded a software engineering company that became a partner with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in 2015.
The CDC’s public health workflow benefited from information synthesis techniques he learned in the U.S. Navy, the mayor said, and today, many other agencies rely on his company’s data analysis methodology.
“After nearly 35 years of living and working and sometimes fighting abroad, I’m happy to come back home,” Mack said. “I’ve lived all over the world and can honestly say there is no place like home. I return with a passion to give back to the younger versions of me that reside in this city.”
PVM, now based in the new Maritime and Defense Technology Hub in the city’s Innovation District, boasts around 50 employees, with the last three hires also being St. Pete natives – a number he expects will continue increasing. He is also intent on giving back to the city that raised him, especially its minority and underserved communities.
The ninth annual Veterans Day celebration was postponed a month due to Hurricane Nicole.