One of the great honors for the Southeast Missourian is recognizing an individual each year with the Spirit of America Award. And once again this year's nominees -- submitted by you, our readers -- are top-notch.
* Thomas Higgins has been a strong advocate for downtown Cape Girardeau for more than 30 years. Higgins was an original board member of the organization and served as president, vice president and treasurer. Additionally, Higgins is on the Area United Way Finance Committee and SEMO Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition Board. He is also a member of St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, the Missouri Society of Accountants, the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce and the Knights of Columbus.
* Robert Wake is a Purple Heart recipient, having served in Iraq. While Wake's injuries were numerous and significant, he has used his experiences to further support his fellow soldiers, including through helping facilitate emergency communication between families and active duty service members. He has also played an active role with nationally recognized veterans organizations and humanitarian efforts as well as locally with the Red Cross.
* Ross Gartman served in the military for 15 years. In addition to his involvement in the Children's Ministry with Light House Church in Dexter, Mo., his involvement with the Cape Kiwanis and having graduated from the Jackson Chamber of Commerce Leadership class in 2010, Gartman has led an effort for the Heroes Way memorials in Missouri.
* David Hitt is a Purple Heart recipient who served in Vietnam and has since held numerous leadership positions in the community. Hitt has been active in the Junior Achievement Program as well as volunteering with Safe Harbor and the Bollinger County Stray Project. He has served on the Jackson Board of Aldermen, the Jackson Chamber of Commerce board of directors, Magnet and Jackson American Legion Post 158. He has also worked with the Boy Scouts on a flag retirement program and was a charter member of the Jackson Memorial VFW Post 10495. His other community involvement includes the Jackson Rotary Club, Jackson Elks Lodge, Jackson Community Outreach Committee, Southeast Missouri Pachyderm Club, the Honor Tour and the Southeast Missouri Retired National Guard Association.
* Clemon Coolidge Crain is a World War II veteran and Purple Heart and other medal recipient, having served in the D-Day invasion as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division. He is a Shriner, a 32nd degree Mason and member of the Elks Lodge. Crain also volunteers at the Missouri Veterans Home. He has been involved with the Avenue of Flags, Freedom Corner and the upkeep of Cape Rock Flag Display. He and his wife, Naomi, have been married for more than 50 years.
* Tom Meyer is a veteran -- having served his country as a Seabee -- and an active member of his community. Meyer is a member of St. Mary's Cathedral, serves on the board of the local Habitat for Humanity chapter and is the president of the SEMO Alumni Association. He is also a member of the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce and Optimist Club. A successful business leader and realtor, Meyer has been recognized with the Realtor Lifetime Achievement Award.
We hope you come out to Arena Park this weekend, starting Friday, as the USA Veterans once again sponsor what promises to be a festival of fun for all ages. Monday evening at the Arena Park grandstand we'll formally recognize the recipient of this year's Spirit of America award who has been notified but not publicly announced.
While only one winner is selected each year, many other nominees, both past and present, are deserving of recognition. We encourage individuals and groups to consider renominating individuals not previously selected next year.
We are overwhelmed with the quality of this year's nominees and thank each of them, as well as the many past nominees and award winners, for their service to our community and country.