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Jacksonville combat veteran to receive Presidential Citizens Medal

8:47 PM, Feb 12, 2013   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A local veteran has been selected to receive the second highest civilian award in the United States. On Friday, President Barack Obama will award Jacksonville's Adam Burke the 2012 Presidential Citizens Medal.

"For me it's a true blessing, hard work paying off. But I can't take the credit, I have to give the credit to everybody that's been a part of our team," said Burke.

Burke is the CEO and founder of Veterans Farm. Since 2011, he's put veterans back to work through a six-month fellowship program, one that helps integrate them back into society.

"This is a therapeutic environment where these guys are not only learning a new job skill, entrepreneurial skills, but they are also receiving therapy for their post-traumatic stress disorders and the traumatic brain injuries and all the other things that come with that," said Burke.

Burke said he had to go through his own therapy when he was injured in a mortar attack while serving in Iraq in 2004 and it led it to the farm life.

"Coming back, I saw that there was a lack of reintegration programs for our veterans and I saw a lot of guys on the streets and guys going hungry and really the thought was, you can put two things, you can put three things together; education, the guys can provide financial means for their families, and they can grow fresh produce for our local communities," said Burke.

Burke is leaving for Washington on Thursday. He will be receiving the award Friday afternoon at a ceremony at the White House. He is one of thirteen recipients and was among almost 6,000 that were nominated. The award recognizes individuals who have performed an exemplary service for their country and fellow citizens.

"I'm proud of Adam, if anybody deserves it, I think he does," said Adam Ennis, a veteran working on the farm for six months.  

Part of Burke's impact has been showing veterans that work on the farm that there is a world outside of combat.

"Adam has showed me since I've been out on the farm that you can reintegrate into society and do it successfully," said Ennis.

Each blueberry plant at the farm has a dog tag with a veteran's name dedicated to it. Some are veterans who have worked on the farm, some are fallen veterans, but each one is a part of the growing process.

"This is a shared medal, this is for everyone. This is for Jacksonville as a whole and I just want to share this honor with everybody that's been involved with this," added Burke.

Learn more about the Veterans Farm on Facebook.

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