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’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.
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.
A full list of winners is detailed below:
|Role Model of the Year||Ryan Gray|
|Community Award||Bryan Philips|
|Contribution to the NI Fitness Industry||Gordan Elliot|
|Health & Wellbeing||Andrew Harney|
|Reservist of the year||Ryan McCready|
|Inspiration of the Year||Bryan Philips|
|Employer of the year||BT|
|Life time Achievement||George Black|
|Veteran Owned Business of the Year||MM Printing & Framing|
|Volunteer of the Year||Richard McGaffin|
|Business leader of the year||Martian 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.