A strong voice for NI Veterans

The first Veterans Awards for Northern Ireland celebrate success and progress

In January of this year, the Northern Ireland Veterans Commissioner Danny Kinahan, met with Jason Gilliard, a veteran and organiser of the first Northern Irish veterans Awards; following in the footsteps of the Scottish, English and Welsh Veteran awards that are already established annual events.

Jason Gilliard promotes the NI Veterans Awards at a recent Veterans Information Roadshow

Jason’s infectious enthusiasm, ‘can do’ attitude and self belief that such an awards ceremony could take place in Northern Ireland, is testament to his vision and to the success of the night. Through the many hurdles, doubters, and people who told him “it couldn’t happen”, he proved them wrong and brought to the forefront, the achievements and very best of veterans that Northern Ireland has to offer.

Over 250 people were present to celebrate the achievements of veterans across Northern Ireland. Twelve categories designed to be inclusive of all aspects of our community, including Role Model of the Year, Inspiration of the Year, Community Award and Employer of the Year, to name but a few. Each category was sponsored by an array of supportive organisations who recognise and promote the valuable contributions that veterans and a life of service bring to our society.

The awards ceremony was fortunate to have the Rt Hon Johnny Mercer (Minister for Veterans Affairs) in attendance to help champion and promote the value of veterans in Northern Ireland. His presence, (less than 24 hrs after reappointment) demonstrated recognition, empathy and support to all veterans living in Northern Ireland and that his continued support is not hampered by geography.

Northern Ireland Veterans Commissioner Danny Kinahan with Rt Hon Johnny Mercer MP (Minister for Veterans Affairs)

Our office was privileged to sponsor the Role Model of the year award which was won by worthy recipient Ryan Gray of K9 Search and Rescue NI. Ryan owns and runs this important search and recovery company and is actively involved in helping emergency services both north and south of the border in their operations. K9 Search and Rescue are instrumental in the recovery of persons in emergency situations, most recently being involved in the search and rescue operation at the Creeslough petrol station in Donegal. This service brings hope to the families of missing persons and to those who are found, an important and often life saving capability.

Presenting K9 search and Rescue with the Role Model of the Year Award
sponsored by the Northern Ireland Veteran Commissioners Office

A full list of winners is detailed below:

Role Model of the YearRyan Gray
Community AwardBryan Philips
Contribution to the NI Fitness IndustryGordan Elliot
Health & WellbeingAndrew Harney
Reservist of the yearRyan McCready
EntrepreneurGordan Elliot
Inspiration of the YearBryan Philips
Employer of the yearBT
Life time AchievementGeorge Black
Veteran Owned Business of the YearMM Printing & Framing
Volunteer of the YearRichard McGaffin
Business leader of the yearMartian Mancini

As the first year of the Northern Ireland Veterans Awards has drawn to a close, it has only served as a reminder to the valuable contributions that our veterans and ex service personnel bring to society. It is promising and reassuring that we as a Northern Ireland society can celebrate the achievements of veterans openly, and respect that it has not always been easy to do so.

I would like to say thank you to Jason as the driving force in making these awards happen, to the sponsors, assisting organisers, nominees, winners and to all those who attended, supported and made this event such a great success. Things don’t come easy and don’t just happen, so thank you to everyone involved in this positive reflection on what it means to be a veteran living in Northern Ireland today.

Inspirational people, doing inspirational things.

A strong voice for NI Veterans