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Mindy Soisson-Calhoun 'really surprised' to be 2019 Huron Co. Veteran of the Year

Norwalk Reflector - 12/13/2019

Dec. 13--BELLEVUE -- Mindy Soisson-Calhoun didn't want to be nominated for the Huron County Veteran of the Year. In fact, she told people not to vote for her.

Regardless, the Huron County Area Veterans Council found her worthy of the annual award.

"I am grateful for this honor. I am in great company. I think each of you deserve a plaque," said Soisson-Calhoun, who served as a military police officer with the U.S. Army for five years.

The other nominees are also Army vets: Jim Alt, of Bellevue, and Norwalk residents John Lendrum and John Roeder.

"Even though I am a veteran, I love veterans," said Soisson-Calhoun after accepting her plaque and while attempting to fight back tears.

She received her award from the 2018 Huron County Veteran of the Year, Nate Whaley, who was the emcee for the annual banquet Sunday. Other vets of the year in attendance were Bob Good, Thom Price and Matt Raymond. New London Mayor John Martin, who served in the U.S. Navy in the 1970s, and Bellevue Mayor Kevin Strecker were among the local and state dignitaries.

The Lake Erie Shores Blue Star Mothers nominated Soisson-Calhoun.

"I was kinda embarrassed to be honest because I worked so hard on the committee and with the chairman," Soisson-Calhoun said, pausing for a second after the banquet to collect her thoughts. "It's just what I do.

"I was really surprised because I told them not to do it," she added with a chuckle, referring to being nominated. "There were amazing nominees."

Soisson-Calhoun has worked with the Huron County Area Veterans Council for the last three years and is the first vice. Also, she serves as the chairwoman for the golf outing, which raises money for the banquet so veterans can eat free of charge. Nearly 180 vets attended Sunday's event, which included prime rib and dessert.

"It's a great night out in December, of all months. It's the perfect time; it's like an extra Christmas gift. I don't know how to explain it better than that," Soisson-Calhoun said. "When I joined the council and they were trying to figure out how to raise the money, I was like, 'Hey! Let's do a golf outing. I'm a golfer, right?'"

Also, she is the current commander for the Huron County Chapter No. 62 of the Disabled American Veterans. Soisson-Calhoun was the first vice for American Legion Post 41 in Norwalk, treasurer for the Ohio Amvets Post 1965 in Norwalk and an associate with Blue Star Mothers.

"With the Starting Lineup, we sell chemo care packages and donate those to the Cleveland Clinic. We will be doing that on the 20th of this month," said Soisson-Calhoun, who lost two aunts to cancer. "Starting Lineup is part of my Mary Kay organization. I know that's kinda crazy, but we don't make any money; that's straight-up donations."

Soisson-Calhoun also is involved in schools. She assists with the St. Paul High School PTO, Girl Scouts and Heroes Right to Read program.

Each veteran of the year directs a $1,000 scholarship to a local school. Soisson-Calhoun's choice was Western Reserve, even though she graduated from Norwalk.

"Western is the first school I went to when I came to Ohio and the people (who) came out here to support me today are my high school friends," said the veteran, who considers herself an honorary Roughrider.

"I go to Western's reunions. ... It's still part of my love. My core group of friends ... meet every three months," Soisson-Calhoun added. "We've been doing it for 20 years."

History enthusiast Eric Ebinger, of New London, was the banquet speaker and shared memories of his late grandfather. William Dale Ebinger, who died Sept. 25, 2017 at the age of 93, was part of the fourth wave of soldiers at Utah Beach in France during World War II.

"I hope my words are appropriate," said Eric Ebinger, who wasn't nervous about speaking until he saw his seventh-grade social studies teacher, Bob Gainok, in the crowd.

"He was a great teacher. ... He was the first veteran I came in contact with," added Ebinger, who didn't know at the time his grandfather served in the Army. "Grandpa didn't start talking about the war until 2002."

When some people are more interested in the relics of war instead of people, Ebinger said "we are in trouble." He also said the world will remember the statistics associated with warfare, but communities will remember veterans' faces.

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