Veteran honored for his ongoing recruiting excellence

IRCC Resident, Juan Santiago

BY WENDY SCHEURING – Sep 4, 2023 – Senior Life Newspaper

The Army did a lot for him, he likes to tell high school students. And he has made it his life’s mission to give back.

Retired Sgt. First Class Juan Santiago, a Florida Veteran Hall of Fame inductee, recently received a U.S. Army Recruiting Excellence Medallion presented by Lt. Col. Michael Norton at Icon Park in Orlando.

Sgt. First Class Willis Ferguson, who worked at the Army recruiting office in Rockledge from 2014 to 2020, nominated Santiago for the award.

“Juan welcomed me to the team and said he was there to help in any way he could,” he said.

“He went above and beyond to help with recruiting duties. He’s been changing lives since before I met him in 2014.”

Santiago, a Viera resident, served in the U.S. Army for nearly 23 years, including five consecutive tours in Vietnam, and has been volunteering since 2004.

“They asked Juan to be a part of their team,” said Santiago’s wife, retired Lt. Col. Carmen Santiago, referring to the U.S. Army’s Community Partner Outreach Program.

“Juan is what they call a ‘center of influence’ (CIO)/VIP,” she said.

Santiago enlisted in the Army in his native Puerto Rico. At the time, he could not speak English, but he could read and write it.

“We’re very patriotic on the island,” he said.

Santiago has helped with recruiting in high schools throughout the county.

“Over the years. Juan has gone to almost every high school in Brevard County and has talked to students,” Carmen Santiago said.

He’s also involved in judging competitions, attending Junior ROTC, graduations, and also helps recruiters make presentations.

“Juan had so many community partners, he would get called from Congressman Bill Posey’s team to assist in bringing home the remains of fallen soldiers that had no family here,” Ferguson said.

Photo credit: Klinton Landress, Senior Life

Book A GetAway!