Today, I joined military service members and leaders from our thriving business community for JAX Chamber's 17th Annual Military Appreciation Luncheon honoring our strong military and veteran community in Northeast Florida.
Jacksonville is undeniably a military town, and we are proud of it. We demonstrate it every year with the number of citizens who attended our annual Veterans Day Parade and our other Celebration of Valor events.
We are the home to multiple marine commands and installations, including Naval Station Mayport, Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Marine Corps Blount Island Command, Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville and the 125th Fighter Wing. And we have a tremendous military and veteran community. Nearly a quarter of our population is directly connected to the service as active duty, reserve, national guard, veteran or family member.
My family's story is similar to many citizens in our community. It was the military that brought us to Jacksonville, and we've been here ever since. My father served in the Navy before he retired and opened a small business here. I am also the proud grandson of two remarkable World War II veterans. One served as an Army Ranger, the other survived Pearl Harbor in the U.S. Navy aboard the USS Oklahoma. All three taught me the value of honesty, character, discipline and a strong work ethic. I would not be the man I am today without their examples.
Without the contributions of the men and women in our military, we would not be the great city or nation we are today. The people of Jacksonville understand that better than most, and my team and I are committed to recognizing that every day. That’s why my administration operates an entire department, the Military Affairs & Veterans Department, dedicated to strengthening relationships and supporting our local veteran community with resources, assistance, and access to earned benefits.
And it’s why last week, we joined with five other area counties to put an end to veteran suicide in Northeast Florida with the launch of The Fire Watch, building a network of 10,000 veterans to support those in need.
I am very grateful for the commitment and contributions from our amazing business community in support of our military and veterans, and look forward to the great things we will accomplish together in the years ahead.