The accolades of Lieutenant Colonel Bill Dudley are too many to list. He served ten years in the Air Force active duty flying and then moved on to the Active Reserve Force. He later pursued an Aerospace career in executive management positions both in the US and abroad. Even though Dudley has now retired, he has never slowed down. He served in various levels of the Navy League of the United States until six years ago when he became the Chairman of the Veterans Council of St. Johns County. “My responsibilities,” says Dudley about his position at the Council, “are to provide leadership and direction for the Council in support of our veterans and inform the public about our veteran’s service.” Under his guidance, the Council has grown and become the model for other chapters across the state to emulate.
One noteworthy accomplishment of the Council with the Lieutenant Colonel at the helm is the relationship with the Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC). A man of action, Dudley says, “The Veterans Council was very instrumental in convincing the VA to share the plans for the future of the CBOC to provide healthcare for our St. Augustine veterans. We did this by hosting two town hall meetings, writing letters to the Secretary of the VA, members of Congress, the President, and others. We meet quarterly with the VA Chief Medical Officer and County Veteran Service Officer to discuss the continuing service of the clinic for our veterans.”
Dudley also assists in encouraging youth programs throughout the county. “Most of our youth programs that support veteran’s activities,” he says, “are organized through our high school programs such as JROTC. The exceptions are the Sea Cadets and the Young Marines.” These programs are essential as one of Dudley’s most significant challenges is getting younger veterans to volunteer in leadership roles in our veterans organizations.
An integral function of the Veterans Council is organizing events across the city like Wreaths Across America, Veterans Homeless Stand Down, and the Memorial Day Ceremony. “Our next event here in St. Augustine,” says Dudley, “is the annual Veterans Day Program to honor all veterans. For the past four years, we have celebrated with a Veterans Day Parade. This year we plan to recognize our veterans at a program at Anastasia Baptist Church, which will feature our local St. Augustine HS Chorale singing patriotic songs, the traveling Vietnam Wall, the Quilt of Tears, and many other exhibits as well as a featured speaker to speak about the Centennial of Veterans Day since WW l.”
Dudley believes that knowledge is power and says, “The rewards of this position are assisting veterans in meeting the challenges of getting the care they are entitled to, educating youth groups in the community about veteran’s service, and creating an awareness in our community about those who have served our country.”
“St. Johns County is a veteran-friendly county, and the city and county commissioners are extremely supportive,” says Dudley. “Locals contribute to many of the veteran’s programs in a very benevolent way. I am honored to give back to all those who have served our country and worn the cloth of our nation.”