In the midst of a U.S. Senate race in which both he and his opponent, Sen. Bill Nelson, are emphasizing their military service, Gov. Rick Scott did something Wednesday he's done more than 60 times, roughly once a month, since August, 2013 – he handed out medals on red, white and blue ribbons to veterans.
In this event, at the C.W. Bill Young Armed Forces Reserve Center in Pinellas Park, 84 veterans filed slowly past Scott at the podium to have him drape the medals around their necks.
Scott spent 29 months in the Navy during the Vietnam War on the frigate U.S.S. Glover.
Scott wasn't wearing the U.S. Navy ball cap he often wears at campaign events, but one of the veterans who received the award, David Pooser, 61, did.
Pooser said he took a bus and bike from St. Petersburg, where he lives at the St. Vincent de Paul Center of Hope transitional housing facility for the homeless.
Pooser said he's had addiction problems that stemmed from lung disease and a fall off a roof when he was an air conditioning mechanic.
"I've been clean and sober for three months," he said. "I'm buying groceries and everything.
"How about that – three months ago life was s—, and now I'm getting an award from the governor.'
Scott, who has a political committee called "Let's Get to Work", has given about 14,500 of the medals since he started the program in 2013.
Florida Department of Veterans' Affairs spokesman Steve Murray confirmed that Scott has personally conferred the medals on all those recipients, in ceremonies that have at times taken more than three hours and involved more than 600 people, like one in Sun City Center recently.
The medals don't recognize valor – the only requirement for them is for a veteran to have served honorably.
Scott said Florida is "The most mililitary- and veteran-friendly state in the nation."
He said his adoptive father was in the Army's 82nd Airborne oin World War II, "and he said he didn't eat so well sometimes had to sleep in a trench. So I joined the Navy."