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Crapo’s office to honor vets and service to vets


Idaho Senator Mike Crapo will recognize 28 Idahoans with his 2019 Spirit of Freedom Awards this month.

Crapo started the awards in 2002 as a way of recognizing the contributions of veterans and volunteers who support veterans. Each recipient receives a certificate for their service and a United States flag that has flown over the U.S. Capitol Building. The nominations are made by a number of veteran related organizations across the state.

“The Spirit of Freedom Awards recognize veterans and volunteers who set an example of leadership and service in our communities and across our state,” said Crapo.

This year, Crapo’s staff will present the awards at Veterans Day programs Monday at 10 a.m. at Madison High School in Rexburg and Firth High School in Firth. Two other eastern Idaho ceremonies are planned Monday at the Bannock County Veterans Memorial Building at 10:30 a.m. and the Idaho State Veteran’s Home in Pocatello at 2:30 p.m.

These are the eastern Idaho award winners:


Phillip Catorena, Pocatello: The Idaho State Veterans Home—Pocatello nominated Phillip Catorena for his service to our nation. Phillip moved to Idaho as a young adult to live with his sister in Wilder. He joined the U.S. Army in 1962, and his service included serving in the Dominican Republic and Germany with the 82nd Airborne Division, and then as Airborne Infantry in Vietnam with the 101st Airborne Division. Phillip received many honors for his service including Expert Rifle (M16), Marksman (M14, M1), Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (Dominical Republic) and more. Following his service, he returned to Aberdeen to be near family, including his Mother. Phillip enjoys spending time with his three sons, Michael, Patrick and Matthew. Carrie Leavitt, with the Idaho State Veterans Home—Pocatello, wrote, “His determination and strong will to overcome stumbling blocks are inspiring.” She shared that, “he has a positive outlook on life, a great sense of humor, and a smile that is infectious.”

Phillip Hartman, Pocatello: The Veteran Student Services Center at Idaho State University nominated Phillip Hartman, who served in the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps during the 1980s and 1990s. Phillip was born in Sugar City, Idaho. He served in Desert Storm and Desert Shield, and he earned numerous recognitions for his honorable service. These include the National Defense Service Medal and Kuwait Liberation Medal—Saudi Arabia. Phillip has been married to another 2019 Spirit of Freedom awardee, Melissa Hartman, for 20 years. Together, they have a blended family with seven grown children and seven grandchildren with the eighth to arrive in May. Phillip’s civilian career has involved his work as a diesel mechanic. Phillip organizes the local Toys for Tots program and serves in the Marine Corps League. He also volunteers for Veterans Treatment Court and the Field of Heroes.

Dr. Grace C. Jacobson, Pocatello: The Disabled American Veterans Department of Idaho nominated Dr. Grace Jacobson, who joined the U.S. Army Nurse Corps for the first time during college in the 1950s, and has contributed remarkably to the health care field and to serving fellow veterans. Dr. Jacobson’s 16 years in military service includes serving in Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Her husband, Jon Jacobson, served in the U.S. Army for 29 years, including three tours in Vietnam. Grace and Jon, who passed away in 2008, have two sons, Erik and Karl, and one daughter, Jona. Dr. Jacobson has earned numerous military and civilian honors for her service to our nation and her contributions to nursing. These include the Meritorious Service Medal, Army Achievement Awards, and the Idaho Nurses Association awarded her for 58 years of dedication to nursing. Grace works with several veterans groups, including her service as Commander of the Disabled American Veterans, Chapter #3.

Larry Payne, Pocatello: When nominating Larry Payne, Carrie Leavitt, with the Idaho State Veterans Home—Pocatello, shared, “He has a heart of an American Veteran, always serving others and his country.” Larry, a Pocatello native, was drafted into the U.S. Army after high school and served our nation in two tours in Vietnam and the Army National Guard in California. Larry earned a number of recognitions for his honorable service, including the Bronze Star Medal. After his service, Larry returned to live in California to assist his mother, and he worked for the California Vision Service. Larry is considered by his loved ones to be a great big brother and the favorite uncle of his two nieces, Cassidy and Carson. Larry, who enjoyed playing football and baseball during his high school years, spent time teaching his nieces how to catch and throw a baseball. Larry is also very close to his Aunt Norma, and is always available to give her a helping hand.


Melissa Hartman, Pocatello: Disabled American Veterans Chapter 3 Commander Dr. Grace C. Jacobson nominated Melissa Hartman. Melissa is recognized for putting her heart and soul into serving veterans and the military community through her work as a County Veterans Service Officer and as a volunteer. She shared that learning about history from the men and women who made it is the most rewarding part of her efforts on behalf of veterans. Melissa has assisted with numerous projects, including the Idaho Field of Heroes Memorial, Military and Veteran Appreciation Day, Veterans Treatment Court and more. Melissa is a mother, grandmother and the wife of another awardee, Phillip Hartman.

Carrie Leavitt, Pocatello: The Idaho State Veterans Home—Pocatello nominated Carrie Leavitt, noting she coordinates more than 24,000 volunteer hours for the home every year and has served veterans for more than 10 years. When making the nomination, Josiah Dahlstrom wrote, “Her love is felt by all those she serves, especially here at the Veterans Home.” Carrie’s daughters and son conveyed their thoughts about her. Her son, Wade, shared, “She continues to look out for the one in need, by learning their stories of service, bravery and honor.” Carrie’s daughter, Heidi, expressed, “My mother’s goal every day is to shine a little more light and bring love and hope into our sweet, deserving heroes’ lives and all those around her.” Her daughter, Dawn, wrote, “My mom’s arms are always stretched out to hug, lift, and reach for someone in need.”

Beverly McLendon, Rigby: Service members and veterans have been an important part of Beverly McLendon’s life, as her husband served in active duty in the U.S. Army for 22 years. The Idaho State Council of the Vietnam Veterans of America nominated Bev McLendon noting her dedication to those still serving and those who formerly served. Bev is a member of and assists with fundraising for the American Legion Auxiliary, Disabled American Veterans Auxiliary and the Military Affairs Committee. She also organizes homecoming events for returning service members, and she has sent hundreds of care packages to those on deployment. Bev says that she loves to be around the veteran community.

Gene Womack, Blackfoot: The Idaho State Veterans Home—Pocatello nominated Gene Womack, crediting Gene with being “an outstanding veteran who serves his fellow military brothers and sisters.” Carrie Leavitt, with the Idaho State Veterans Home—Pocatello, wrote, “Gene is modeling to his family and everyone he meets the best practice of volunteering and selfless service to others. He is an inspiration in his drive to give back to those who have served our great nation.” Gene served 10 years in the Army Reserves and 26 years in the Navy Seabees Reserves. Gene also worked for the U.S. Postal Service for 41 years. He is a member of the Idaho Veterans Assistance League—East and the American Legion Stewart Hoover Post #23 and has been instrumental in ensuring veterans have items they and enjoyable events, including the home’s annual fishing trip. Gene and his wife of 63 years, Marietta, have five children, 12 grandchildren and 9 great-grandchildren.

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