Veterans Day 2021 | A Tribute To South Florida's Veterans
This Veterans Day, like all others, we give thanks and honor the incredible sacrifice these brave men and women made to secure our freedom and protect our homeland. We all have family or friends we can turn to and show our support, but today the Champagne & Parisi team looks to honor 5 notable South Florida veterans and shed light on their incredible stories. The Florida Veterans' Hall of Fame was established in 2011 by the State of Florida to recognize Floridians who have shown the values that reflect our greatest veterans during their service and in their communities afterward. Their website is a wonderful resource into the tales of valor and commitment to service that may not have made our textbooks. Today we give thanks - here are 5 members of The Florida Veterans Hall of Fame that we are humbly grateful for!
Sergeant Robert White served the United States Army during the Vietnam War. His motto "keeping the promise" kept him (literally) on track as he's carved out a remarkable career as both a serviceman and civilian. Sergeant White has spent over 40 years counseling veterans on their mental health, as a licensed counselor with an M.S. in Psychology, among other academic plaudits. His unyielding advocacy for veterans, particularly in the area of mental health has seen him expand the purpose and productivity of VFW Post 8195, of which he serves as commander. In addition to his tireless work changing the lives of countless veterans, he has organized valuable workshops over the year focusing on drugs, crime, social awareness, and African-American issues. Sergeant White is exactly the kind of veteran anyone would hope to meet upon their return from deployment. His deep entrenchment in the lives of veterans for over four decades has been a boon to our community and has likely saved many lives throughout his career.
USMC Veteran Raymond Cralle carries a similar legacy to Sergeant White. Following his witnessing of the types of trauma his brothers in arms experienced, including the tragic suicide of his cousin, Cralle set about using his extensive medical and neuropathic background to treat those most in need. Over his career, he has been a pioneer in the use of HBOT (hyperbaric oxygen therapy), augmenting his strong resume as a physical therapist. His work has carried him as far as speaking to HUD, presenting at the National Purple Heart Foundation's Annual Meeting, and appearing on television several times. Though his work now includes many high-end clients and professional athletes, Cralle has treated veterans in need without hesitation, question, or compensation. Thank you to Raymond for all he's done for our vets and civilians alike!
ALBIN IRZYK (1917-2018)
The highest-ranking member of our list, Brigadier General Albin Irzyk, served under legendary General George S. Patton, first training on horses - seeing firsthand the final retirement of our oldest military unit. He fought five campaigns in Europe during World War as a Tank Battalion Commander, showing his aptitude for mechanized cavalry as well atop our equine allies. He received two Purple Hearts, the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver, and Bronze Stars. His 8th tank battalion liberated the first Nazi concentration camp. Irzyk also rode in the inaugural parade of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, led by Gen. George C. Marshall During the Cold War he commanded armored cavalry responsible for manning 200 miles of the Iron Curtain, later serving in a command role during the Tet Offensive in Vietnam - a decisive American victory. Irzyk settled in West Palm Beach in 1971 with his wife, Evelyn, for more than 70 years. He finished his sixth book at the age of 99, and celebrated his centennial birthday, before passing at age 101 in 2018. At the time before his passing, Irzyk was the oldest living veteran of the 3rd Cavalry Regiment. Irzyk's name may not be plastered in our textbooks or shown in the movies, but his contribution to American history is spectacular, and his memory lives on.
One of the youngest members of the Florida Veterans Hall of Fame, Marlin is an incredible example to both service members and civilians alike - matching his gallantry on the battlefield with selfless acts of everyday kindness. Most notable is his kindness to Navy Seal veteran Demario Evans, who was involved in a bad motorcycle accident. Evans, an orphan, had no family to sit by his side as recovered. Marlin went to visit Evans (a stranger at the time) almost every day for 3 months. Evans now introduces Muller as his brother and attends family functions with the Muller family. This incredible act of life-changing selflessness is what defines the character of Muller, who showed similar humility in service as an infantryman while experiencing the traumatic violence one expects on frontline deployment. He is responsible for capturing the #7 most wanted terrorist on the FBI list at the time. His valor on the battlefield is only matched by his kindness off of it. We're grateful to have a hero like Marlin in our community!
Colonel John Thomson is noted later in life for devoting his time and attention as an accomplished attorney to the needs of veterans. A graduate of the University of Miami Law School in 1959, his academic background saw several honors to undergird his ascendant law career. Following his service to our country in the Korean War, Thomson furthered his remarkable legal career, always keeping veterans in the foreground of his practice. He served in numerous directorial, administrative, and advocacy roles - extending years of pro bono work to homeless veterans while practicing to great success across several partnerships, firms he helped co-found and solo efforts. His civic contributions to Coral Gables are remarkable, serving as a life member of American, Florida, Dade, and Coral Gables Bar Associations. His wife of 65 years, Dorothy, served as the first and only female elected as Mayor of Coral Gables from 1985-87. Thomson's service to our community began in Korea but elevated the lives of veterans nationwide. We're blessed he is here in Florida!