BY MARIA SONNENBERG – Senior Life, May 3, 2022
Lt. Col. Harry “Skip” Taylor doesn’t understand why he was unanimously singled out by Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet to be part of the 2022 class of the Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame.
“I don’t know why they thought I was such an impressive guy,” Taylor joked.
The Indian River Colony Club resident is indeed being too modest. The Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame honors veterans who continue walking the walk of community service long after leaving the military. Not a traditional military hall of fame, Florida’s focuses on post-military contributions to the welfare of the people of the state of Florida.
“You had a great career, but what are you doing for the community?” was Taylor’s Cliffs Notes explanation of the award.
James Hartsell, the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs executive director, tells it differently, noting that the award honors “the best of the best.”
The recognition honors veterans who through their lives during or after military service have made a significant contribution to civic, business or public service.
In Taylor’s case, the community benefits immensely from his efforts. He began volunteering at the age of 5 as an altar boy in Nebraska. At 81, he is still doing altar duty.
His 31-year Army career commenced in 1962, when Uncle Sam drafted him. He rose from the bottom to close to the top, working at the Pentagon, NATO, the DIA and the State Department.
His Vietnam tour of duty began auspiciously when the platoon he commanded captured five Vietcong soldiers and discovered 90 souls the enemy had captured.
“I had quite a spectacular first day,” Taylor said.
During his two years in Vietnam with the 1st Cavalry Division, Taylor was awarded a Silver Star and three Bronze Stars for valor, plus two Purple Hearts.
After retirement, Taylor and his wife, Mary Beth, lived in Belize, where he served as operations officer for the Belize Youth Conservation Corps. He then ended up in Miami, where he volunteered as a master naturalist in the Everglades, taught at Florida Atlantic University and Nova Southeastern and served as the Rotary Club’s assistant district governor for Florida.
A board member and survivor assistance officer with the Cape Canaveral Chapter of MOAA, Taylor helps veterans with VA issues as a DAV Chapter 123 certified service officer. At Indian River Colony Club, he chairs the community’s foundation, which funds college scholarships for local students.
He has mentored approximately 100 veterans through Veterans Treatment Court. These troubled individuals have substance abuse issues; some are homeless. Taylor earns their trust and tries to help them get back on their feet.
He also often visits the county jail to help incarcerated veterans with issues regarding their health, disabilities and court proceedings.
“It’s all positive; we want to help them get well,” he said.
During days in court, Taylor arrives at 7:30 a.m. and leaves 12 hours later.
“We’re dead tired,” he said.
Taylor joins Sgt. First Class Juan Santiago and the late Maj. Gen. John Cleland as the only three Hall of Fame inductees from Brevard County.
“My motto is never stop serving,” he said.
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