The latest from Key West’s Military Affairs Committee 

The mission of the Key West Military Affairs Committee is to foster and strengthen the relationship between the military and civilians in our community.

President’s message:

This month, as I complete my third term as MAC president, and look back on my 38-plus years of membership, I celebrate the committee’s impact and our 2023 accomplishments, especially with regard to our primary focus areas: 

Sigsbee Charter School

Our first focus is the military-centric Sigsbee Charter School (SCS), where about 50% of students have at least one parent serving in the military. MAC is committed to supporting SCS, which is a Florida School of Excellence, meaning it’s ranked higher than 85% of K-8 Florida schools, and it earned a 2023 Purple Star School of Distinction for serving military-connected students. 

Sigsbee earned $500,000 grants in both 2022 and 2023 from the Department of Defense Education Act. Last year’s grant was for problem-based learning and the 2023 funds are for the science of reading. The school has received four such DoD grants since 2011.

Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride

Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride (WWSR) is our second focus area and was a resounding success in January 2023, prompting the organization’s executive director to call Key West the most welcoming city they visit. Much credit goes to our WWSR committee chair Cathy Crane, who is poised to have another great Soldier Ride next month to support the warriors. 

USS Key West (SSN 722)

Support to our namesake Los Angeles Class Fast Attack nuclear submarine, USS Key West (SSN 722), is our third focus area. We sent the submarine’s crew care packages of Key West items so they would feel more connected to the city that is their sub’s namesake. We continue to follow its homeport change from Guam to Washington State and the timeline for its planned decommissioning. 

DECEMBER MAC MEETING

This month’s MAC meeting took place the evening of Dec. 11 at La Trattoria Oceanside, where we held board elections for 2024 and celebrated a great year with our membership that includes civilians and military. The “holiday festive” dress code was exemplified by VFC-111 CO CDR Matt Gibson and his wife, Jackie, who dressed in matching Christmas plaid outfits — a move that could be expected of a naval aviator. 

Juan Llera will begin his term as MAC president on Jan. 1. Other elected officers include Abraham Conn as president-elect, Justin Tejeda as treasurer  and Daylin Starks as secretary. Ron Demes will assume the role of immediate past president. Llera will select up to six additional board members for a maximum of 11. Jim Reynolds was recognized for serving as MAC’s secretary for nine straight years, as was Kerry Baker for her 30 years of support as our executive assistant. Baker will turn over those duties now that she is executive director of the Key West Chamber of Commerce, but she has become a positional member of the MAC and will support the committee in different ways.

— Contributed

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