John H. McLain Veteran of the Year Award-winner Todd Hughes (center) with Christopher Kielty (left) and Carlos Moreira of the Sarasota County Veterans Commission

John H. McLain Veteran of the Year Award-winner Todd Hughes (center) with Christopher Kielty (left) and Carlos Moreira of the Sarasota County Veterans Commission

Todd Hughes—a veteran of the U.S. Army who serves as the manager for the Goodwill Manasota Veterans Services Program—was honored this week by the Sarasota County Veterans Commission with the John H. McLain "Veteran of the Year" Award. Recipients of the award are selected based upon their service to other veterans, active military and their families, patriotic endeavors, educating the community about veterans’ historic impact on democracy throughout the world, and other community service. This is the highest honor that the commission bestows annually upon a veteran.

Hughes served in the U.S. Army, with deployment to Iraq. He was injured by an improvised explosive device (IED) but completed his tour of duty and returned home a few months later. After his return home, he was diagnosed with a serious closed head injury, which significantly impacted his day-to-day well-being as well as his ability to keep a job. He used his GI Bill benefits to enroll at the University of South Florida; while on campus, he worked to help veterans who were also returning to school to complete paperwork in the admissions office. He later became the first administrator of the Veterans Program at USF Sarasota-Manatee. While in that position, Hughes helped to raise the funds to build a dedicated veterans center. His work with veterans who benefited from services through Goodwill Manasota's Veterans Services Program led to an invitation to join the staff there.

At Goodwill, Hughes— along with his service dog, Ghost—works to eliminate barriers to employment, provide opportunities for higher-paying positions for veterans and their families, and connect veterans with needed social services. The overall goal of the program is to help veterans reintegrate into their families, communities and jobs.  

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