BRANDON — Dave Braun wasn't feeling very patriotic as a 25-year-old living in Detroit.
Only a couple years had passed since the 1967 riots entered the history books as one of the deadliest and most destructive civil disturbances the United States had ever seen. Amidst violence, property destruction and socio-economic inequalities, the Army drafted him into military service and sent him to war in Vietnam.
"My whole life changed," said Braun, now 70.
After returning from Southeast Asia, Braun has advocated for veterans every chance he gets.
"I am all about patriotism," he said.
The Community Roundtable recognized his years of nonprofit patriotic outreach at its annual community affairs dinner Feb. 26 at the Center Place. In front of a packed house, which included a speech from Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee, roundtable officials presented Braun the 2014 Alice B. Tompkins Community Service Award.
The organization has presented the award since 1975 to individuals who have served local nonprofits.
Betty Jo Tompkins, who won the award last year, introduced Braun and said he easily could have won the honor a decade ago. She touched on a few of Braun's causes, but skipped detailing his lengthy list of accolades in favor of highlighting the Veterans Memorial Park and Museum, where Braun serves as committee co-chairman.
"If you haven't been to this park, you need to go," Tompkins said. "It will be a world-class destination."
Braun, who served as Brandon's honorary mayor from 1999-2000, will seek another mayoral seat so he can raise funds for his military causes. The efforts including supporting injured military members and their families through the Haley House Fund.
"I am sincerely honored," said Braun, who took a moment to acknowledge one of his mentors in attendance, Dick Stowers. "I just love my town. It should be a city. It's a wonderful place to be."
The Community Roundtable, established in 1957 to instill a sense of community pride, also announced two other awards.
Jesuit senior and Brandon-born Derek Frantz, a former Nativity Catholic School student, earned the $1,000 Maureen Krzanowski Scholarship after compiling 1,214 service hours the past four years helping countless nonprofits locally and in the Dominican Republic.
Brandon Elks Lodge #2383 took home the fifth nonprofit of the year award, for its countless charitable acts benefiting children and families for 46 years.
In his keynote speech, Gee said crime is down 50 percent in Brandon for the past five years, according to FBI statistics. He also noted that law enforcement has reduced the "number of faces seen at the jail" from 5,000 in 2004 to 2,400 today.
He preached the need to build more Boys & Girls Clubs instead of building more jails, a message he shares with other sheriffs.
And he challenged parents to get more involved in their kids' lives to reduce the problems his deputies deal with on a daily basis.
Eric Vician can be reached at [email protected]