State ceremony recognizes veterans

State ceremony recognizes veterans
Nevada Lt. Gov. Stavros Anthony, right, congratulates Merlene Merck of Spring Creek, center, on being named on Feb. 28 Veteran of the Month for March. Michael Musgrove, left, is chairman of the state’s Veterans Services Commission. Steven Ranson / NNG

CARSON CITY — Nevada’s newest veterans of the month and military supporters were recognized on Feb. 28 in a ceremony at the Nevada State Library and Archives in Carson City.

Lt. Gov. Stavros Anthony and Nevada Department of Veterans Services acting director Lisa Maciel honored four veterans—two each from Reno and Elko County—for November and December, 2023 and March and May, 2024. The Veterans Supporter of the Month is for April.

Separate ceremonies are conducted for southern Nevada honorees.

Anthony, a retired law enforcement officer in Clark County, knows the meaning of sacrifice. He said it’s an honor for him and Gov. Joe Lombardo to recognize the veterans and how they make others feel uplifted and spirited due to their lasting positive impact.

“Our Veterans of the Month and Veteran Supporters of the Month should send a strong, powerful message that your volunteer efforts matter,” Anthony said. “One of the greatest things a person can do is to serve others. It’s heartwarming to know the men and women being honored today have made a positive difference in the lives of many.”

Anthony said it’s important for the state to show its appreciation.

Sean Laycox of Reno is the Veteran of the Month for December. He served in the U.S. Army and Nevada Army National Guard for 29 years. He deployed on a humanitarian mission to Panama in 1990-1991 flying the CH-47 Chinook helicopter and flew reconnaissance airplanes over El Salvador’s civil war from 1991-1993.

Nevada Lt. Gov. Stavros Anthony, right, congratulates Katherine “Kat” Miller, center, on being named Veteran of the Month for March. Michael Musgrove, left, is chairman of the state’s Veterans Services Commission. Steven Ranson / NNG

In 2005, Laycox and Soldier Company D, 113th Aviation in Reno, deployed to Afghanistan. During his time in Afghanistan, a Chinook with the call sign of Mustang-22 was shot down in September 2005, killing all five crewmen.

Laycox is a founding member of the Mustang 22 Memorial and serves on the board of the non-profit organization. The goal of the nonprofit is to raise money for scholarships to the children of the deceased crewman, and the foundation has also adopted additional families who fall under similar circumstances.

In addition to the Mustang 22 Memorial, Laycox serves as a volunteer at the Northern Nevada State Veterans Home and also with the Veterans Service Committee and the Vietnam Helicopter Museum.

Kathrine “Kat” Miller of Reno, the Veteran of the Month for March, retired from the U.S. Army as a colonel after a 34-year career. She began her military career as an enlisted soldier and ended her military service as an officer with assignments as a military police brigade commander serving both in the United States and in Afghanistan and as the commander of the Department of Defense’s largest correctional organization.

Miller also served as both deputy and director of the NDVS for 10 years, retiring in 2022. Since retiring from the NDVS, Miller has been involved with the Truckee Meadows Dog Training Club as the veterans program manager. Miller’s focus has been on the Veterans K9 Corps, a seven-week course that teaches a veteran’s dog to behave appropriately.

During the year, Miller has been supportive of the Nevada National Guard’s mental health guidance for its members. As a combat veteran, Miller understands the toll of declining health. Miller has also been instrumental for the Veterans Art Gardens at the state veterans home in Sparks. The garden is beneficial for both the residents of the home and their families. 

A four-year veteran of the U.S. Navy, Jim Sutherland of Elko is the state’s Veteran of the Month for May.

Sutherland’s volunteerism includes providing Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners to those with disabilities and shut-in veterans in Elko County. He arranges for the meals and assists with the delivery of the dinners. Other projects in which Sutherland participates are receiving, sorting and distributing clothes, shoes and personal hygiene items to the county’s veterans and assisting his Veterans of Foreign Wars post with the Easter egg hunt, where he and his chapter members boil and color 5,500 eggs.

Sutherland has been a member of the post’s honor/color guards, and during the previous Christmas, he was one of the driving forces to take the VFW train to Wells, which transported the children around a neighborhood while they waited to give Santa their list.

During the year, Sutherland helps volunteers with Elko’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering with transportation, volunteers with the Boys and Girls clubs and assists with the Cookies with Santa event. In December, he helps the Wreaths Across America program by placing wreaths on veterans’ graves in the Elko City Cemetery.

A veteran of the U.S. Air Force for 24 years, Merlene Merck of Spring Creek is a veterans’ advocate and has worked with women veterans in both her community and around the state. 

For the past four years, Merck has been vice chair of the annual Veterans Ball, co-chair of the Veterans Day dinner and director of the Veterans Day parade and Parade of Lights. She also assists with suicide prevention and joining veterans with both the VFW and Nevada National Guard.

As a member of the Women Veterans Alliance, Merck coordinates the donations given by Walmart, and through this venture, she supplies clothes, toys, holiday decorations and Halloween costumes to Elko’s Head Start program. She also donates clothes, shoes, toys and holiday decorations to the Boys and Girls Club of both Elko and Spring Creek.

Merck participates as a woman veteran in a teenage mothers’ workshop with the Elko Resource Center, works with suicide awareness in Carlin as a veteran and was a driving force setting up and soliciting for the Veterans Food Pantry at VFW Post 2350 in Elko. 

The Veterans Supporter of the Month for April is the Assistance League of Reno-Sparks.

As supporters of veterans for years in the Reno-Sparks area, the volunteers participate in a number of ventures. Among their activities are providing about $500 worth of food, water and hygiene supplies monthly for the homeless veterans served by the VA Capital Hill Clinic; collecting more than 300 warm winter coats every September; and providing a fishing trip at Lake Tahoe for 20 disabled combat veterans.

Volunteers provide support to the Community Living Center, which assists veterans. The Assistance League of Reno-Sparks also honors veterans with an appreciation ceremony. During the holidays, the volunteers organize and provide a holiday party, and recently, they began art classes.

Throughout the year, the Assistance League of Reno-Sparks keeps the CLC supplied with books, puzzles, wheelchair gloves, sunglasses, extra sweats, underwear and t-shirts.

Other projects in which the league participates are providing items requested in holiday wish lists, package more than 40 care packages for women veterans at the VA hospital and assist with the stocking and maintaining of a closet at the VA hospital with sweats, socks, underwear and tennis shoes.