ESCANABA - A Negaunee man was named the 2013 Upper Peninsula Veteran of the Year at a ceremony held Wednesday at the U.P. State Fair.
Philip Taskila of Negaunee received this year's recognition in a ceremony during the fair's Governor's and Military Appreciation Day.
Taskila was nominated to receive the award by his post, VFW Post 3165 of Negaunee.
The 2013 Upper Peninsula Veteran of the Year, Philip Taskila, of Negaunee, receives a congratulatory handshake from Gov. Rick Snyder at the end of the ceremony Wednesday morning. (Daily Press photo by Holly Richer)
According to master of ceremonies Jim Pintar from the South Range VFW and a member of the selection committee, Taskila was chosen in a very close vote.
"When Jim called to tell me that I won and when he told me I only won by one vote, I thought he was just trying to keep me from getting a big head. Well it didn't work," joked Taskila, while accepting the award, thanking committee members for the honor, and his Post for nominating him.
"I'm honored. This is totally unexpected," he said prior to the ceremony.
Taskila is highly decorated for his service as a Vietnam War Army veteran, serving from 1969 into the late 1970s, and receiving decorations such as the Bronze Star Medal, National Defense Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, among others.
He also has a life membership in the Disabled Veterans America, AMVETS, VVA, VFW, and the VFW Past Commanders Club and is a member of the Military Order of the Cootie, an honor society of the VFW.
Taskila has served his fellow veterans as a representative of the VFW National Home, VFW National Aide de Camp twice, and as Quartermaster at the Post and District level. He has also been a Marquette County Trust Fund Agent and Marquette County Senior Vice-Commander, in addition to serving on most Post chairs and committees at the Post level.
Taskila is also an avid chess player who won the U.P. Chess Championship in 1985 and was co-champion in 1980 and 1987. He continues his interest in chess as a player, and has served as tournament director of the U.P. Chess Championships. Taskila's brother, daughter, and granddaughter were among those present during the ceremony where Taskila received a plaque and proclamation from Gov. Rick Snyder; he also was honored with a U.P. Veteran of the Year cap and green jacket, and a certificate presented by U.S. Congressman Dan Benishek.
Snyder said the U.P. Veteran of the Year ceremony is an important part of celebrating veterans because it provides an opportunity to thank them for their service.
"I'd like to congratulate Phil. He's done outstanding work in terms of being a Vietnam veteran, being in the army, then the National Guard, serving veterans in so many wonderful ways. It's great to have wonderful people we can use as role models," he said.
Snyder added that moving forward there is still work that needs to be done to continue helping veterans and says the state continues to work hard with service organizations to ensure veterans receive support.