Veterans’ Advocates and Community Leaders Unite at Charles M. Schulz Museum to Raise Awareness about Programs and Services for Veterans

Nation’s Finest honors local heroes, brings Mobile Service Units,
and a traveling storytelling exhibition to Santa Rosa

SANTA ROSA, Calif., Nov. 13, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Local Veterans advocates and community leaders gathered together at the Charles M. Schulz Museum to celebrate Veterans Day, raising awareness about programs and services available for Veterans and their families. During the event, Nation’s Finest, one of the country’s largest Veterans service organizations, honored local heroes for their commitment to serving Veterans in need.

“We are proud to be here in partnership with the Charles M. Schulz Museum to commemorate Mr. Schultz for his dedication to helping Veterans, and to recognize other local leaders who have gone above and beyond in serving those men and women who served our country,” said Chris Johnson, CEO, Nation’s Finest. “Many Veterans return home from service and are not aware of the support available to them. We hope to bring attention to these local services, especially for those who face homelessness, physical health and mental health issues.” 

Each day, approximately 17 Veterans commit suicide, more than 6,000 lives lost per year. The Veteran suicide rate is 50% higher than that of civilians. Approximately 40,000 Veterans are homeless on any given night in the U.S.

Throughout the last 50 years since Nation’s Finest was first founded in Santa Rosa, the organization has worked tirelessly to address these challenges and has significantly expanded its services for Veterans today. To commemorate its 50th Anniversary, Nation’s Finest launched a community awareness program earlier this fall that culminates today on Veterans Day. The program has made stops in Washington, DC, California, and Arizona, bringing together community leaders, Veterans advocates, and community partners to educate the public about programs available to Veterans and their families. 

Each event features a Nation’s Finest mobile services unit on display, staffed by trained professionals to assist Veterans. These vans travel mainly to rural areas to reach homeless and low-income Veterans, providing those who normally lack access to care with a range of supportive services.

The community awareness program also highlights the Nation’s Finest 50 storytelling exhibition that shares the stories of local and national Veteran heroes. During today’s event, Nation’s Finest presented special awards to six local individuals who have gone above and beyond the call of duty in Santa Rosa and surrounding areas to support Veterans.

Santa Rosa Council Member Jeff Okrepkie, representing District 6 where the museum is located, gave special remarks during the ceremony. “I am honored to be part of such an important event that recognizes those who have empathy for our Veterans and created a positive way to help them,” said Mr. Okrepkie. “I salute those who take the time and effort to make life better for others, especially our Veterans.”

The local heroes recognized include Peanuts comic strip creator Charles M. Schulz; United States Congressman Mike Thompson (CA-4th), a Navy Veteran and staunch supporter of Veterans causes throughout his esteemed legislative career; Peter Cameron, founder of Nation’s Finest, originally established as Flower of the Dragon; Claudio Calvo, co-founder of Hearts for Veterans; Ken Holybee, President of Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 223 in Santa Rosa; and Jimmy Radford, a twice-named Purple Heart recipient. Their personal stories, along with those of all the Nation’s Finest awardees featured in the traveling exhibition, can be viewed at

“Our Veterans bravely served our nation and this Veterans Day weekend, I commit to continuing to support veterans and to do all I can to help them succeed,” said Mike Thompson, U.S. Representative, California’s 4th District. “We can never do enough for those who have served and sacrificed.”

The Nation’s Finest Community Awareness Program is funded through the support of many community partners, including Verizon as the presenting partner, U.S. Veterans Affairs, Safeway, the Land of the Free Foundation, Comcast, Turton Commercial Real Estate, Enterprise Community Partners, Lytton Rancheria of California, Recology, and the Charles M. Schulz Museum.

“Verizon is honored to support Nation’s Finest on this important event to raise awareness about services for our Veterans,” said Steven Keller, Pacific Market President for Verizon’s Consumer Group. “As a veteran myself, I am deeply proud of our combined efforts to help Veterans and their families. Verizon’s commitment to this is clearly demonstrated by our rank as #3 Military Friendly company. Veterans risk their lives for the freedoms we enjoy and they deserve all we can give them.”

Nation’s Finest, formerly known as Flower of the Dragon, was established in 1972 in Santa Rosa to support Vietnam Veterans reintegrating into civilian life. Over the last 50 years, the organization has experienced substantial growth, providing support to over 150,000 Veterans and delivering $275 million in direct services. Today, this outreach spans 31 locations in California, Arizona, and Nevada, in addition to national services. The organization’s mobile services unit program further extends its impact, reaching thousands annually, especially those living in rural areas without easy access to care.

McKinzie Burrows,
Community Outreach Director
Nation’s Finest

Maryann Marino
Tenacity Media (for Nation’s Finest)

SOURCE Nation’s Finest