MUNISING, Mich. (WJMN) – Munising is tucked away in the middle of Alger County and surrounded by Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The area is famous for its boat tours, waterfalls, and a few other things, but recently the veterans of Alger County have become the stars.

“I’m expecting to see a guy that’s really happy. He’ll probably tear up like i am right now. But it’s an award the other veterans will really appreciate,” said Jack Hetherington.

Friday night in front of 200 veterans and their families, Sonny Putvin was presented with the first ever Alger County Veteran of the Year Community Service Award.

“We really wanted to highlight a veteran who has come home from their military service and given back to their community,” said Alger County Veteran’s Service Officer, Becky Burns.

It’s a secret his friends and fellow service members have kept quiet about for weeks.

“He’s probably going to string me up because i led him on last night. He said to me, i hope i don’t get it. So yea, he’ll probably string me up,” said Rocky Van Dorn, Commander of the Munising American Legion.

“He’s extremely humble. He’ll probably think someone else is deserving of the award. He certainly deserves to be named Veteran of the Year for his community service,” added Burns.

Just as Putvin was nominated and awarded by his peers for service to the community, Becky Burns has been recognized by the State of Michigan for how she helps veterans in Alger County.

“Becky is outgoing and listens to what you have to say. Then she takes it and does the work to get the guys their benefits or getting their teeth cleaned or whatever, a ride to town for an appointment,” said Hetherington.

In a Facebook post, Burns thanked the community for the nomination and award:

Thank you for all the warm wishes and congratulations on being named Veteran Service Provider of the Year for State of Michigan.

This has been a team effort and started in 2019 when County Commissioners Jerry Doucette & Mickey Rondeau set out to expand veteran benefits within Alger County.

The Alger County Veterans Affairs Committee that gathers monthly continually assessing the needs of veterans as we strive to serve our community better.

Shout out to the four veteran organization AL, MCL, VFW & VVA within Alger. Their leadership and input have been instrumental in utilizing the Michigan Veterans Affairs grant to serve you.

Lastly, without veterans and family members coming into the office this accolade would not be possible. Thank you for trusting me with the details of service and lives to assist in obtaining benefits you earned. This isn’t my award; this is Alger County’s. Extremely humbled and honored to serve YOU!

As veteran service provider of the year, Burns took a part time opportunity and transformed it into a full-time commitment to the veterans of Munising and the surrounding area.

“Often above the bridge, I feel like we are the forgotten counties. So, it’s a huge honor. Really, it’s the local veterans who got together from the four veteran organizations and made a nomination to the state. I’m extremely humbled and honored. I had no idea Alger County would win. It’s a huge honor to be recognized through the state.”

Together, Alger county is showing the rest of the state how veterans care for the community, and how a community can return the favor.