Two dedicated Upper Peninsula residents were recognized by Michigan Veterans Affairs for their dedication to improving the lives of veterans across the state. Sonny Putvin of Munising was recognized with the most prestigious award as the 2023 Michigan Veteran of the Year, while Denise Formulo of Iron Mountain was named Veteran Service Provider of the Year. The awards were two of seven statewide awards given at the 2023 Michigan Military and Veterans Gala on Saturday, November 4.
How they helped the community:
A Vietnam veteran serving in the U.S. Army, Putvin received the Purple Heart and other recognitions in his 19 months of service. However, his work at home has been crucial, serving in the local honor guard for more than 300 services, formerly serving in various leadership roles in service organizations, continuing a veterans’ gravestone cleaning program and organizing visits for those in Marquette’s D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans. He, along with fellow veteran Rocky Van Dorn, helped grow the Munising Fourth of July celebrations, which have brought in millions of dollars to the community over their years of leadership.
Formulo is the Dickinson County Veteran Service Office and vice president of the Michigan Association of County Veteran Counselors. While not serving in the military herself, she is the local point of contact for veterans who need assistance filing paperwork with the government to receive full military benefits. As part of the MACVC, local registration of veterans is up across the state, which increases the amount of available funding dollars for local veterans assistance programs. She is the second U.P. resident in a row to win this award after Alger County’s Becky Burns won it last year.
What they're saying:
“I would like to thank our veterans. It is because of their service and sacrifice that we can enjoy the freedoms that we have today. They have given so much, and it is our duty to give back to them. As a county Veteran Service Officer, I am committed, as are the hundreds of other Veteran Service Officers, to ensuring that our veterans receive the care, support and benefits that they deserve. This award is a testament to that commitment and I, along with my counterparts, will continue to work tirelessly on behalf of our veterans. Thank you again for this amazing honor, I look forward to continuing our mission to serve the Veterans in our communities,” Formulo said.
“I wanted to serve my country. I always respected the WWII vets I knew. I served as a sergeant in the U.S. Army in Vietnam, facing the hardships of war while celebrating my love for this country. After an honorable discharge and a Purple Heart, I found solace and purpose in the American Legion, serving in various roles and supporting local veterans' organizations. I also volunteer to clean veteran tombstones to preserve the memory of fallen comrades. I hope to inspire younger veterans to contribute to the well-being of their communities,” Putvin said.
Veterans, service organizations and local Veterans Affairs offices will continue to serve Upper Peninsula veteran residents. The U.P. sees a higher percentage of the population who served in the military compared to other regions of the country, with some U.P. counties having up to one in every seven people honorably discharged by military branches.
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