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Veterans of the Year
Turlockers honored for their service
Wardee Bruce
Supervisor Vito Chiesa honored Wardee “Gunner” Bruce (pictured above opening the Memorial Day ceremony at Turlock Memorial Park in 2018) as part of the inaugural recipients of the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors' Veterans of the Year award (Journal file photo).

Veterans across the country were honored on Veterans Day Friday and the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors made sure to do its part.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday handed out the inaugural Veterans of the Year awards to seven individuals — one from each Supervisor’s district and two at-large recipients — in the board chambers.

Two Turlock residents, Wardee “Gunner” Bruce and Mike Rau, were honored for their service from District 2.

Additionally, William Johnson (U.S. Marines Corps, District 1), John Diaz (U.S. Army, District 3), Richard Edgecomb (U.S. Army, District 4), William Hurst (U.S. Navy, District 5) and Melissa Wanty-Osuna (at-large District 4).

Mike Rau
Supervisor Vito Chiesa honored Mike Rau, of Turlock, as part of the inaugural recipients of the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors' Veterans of the Year award (JOE CORTEZ/The Journal).

“Everyone knows Wardee ‘Gunner’ Bruce,” said District 2 Supervisor Vito Chiesa. “He’s a tireless advocate and you’ll hear that over and over again. He’s constantly in our ear about veterans issues and what we can do to enhance programs to help veterans.”

A native of Kansas City, Mo., Bruce served 30 years in the U.S. Navy — from 1962 to 1992 — with tours of duty in both Vietnam and Desert Storm. He was commander of American Legion Post 88 and of VFW Post 5059. He also served as the senior ROTC instructor at Turlock High School for six years, and has been a member and a past chairman of the Stanislaus County Veterans Advisory Commission for 10 years.

“Thank you very much for the honor,” said Bruce during the ceremony. “I definitely appreciate it.”

Rau, who served in the U.S. Air Force reserves for four years and did a tour in Afghanistan, worked in the air transportation division as an information controller. 

“I tend to do a lot of stuff that’s under the radar,” said Rau, who decided to leave his home in Buffalo, N.Y. in search of better weather and ended up in California. “The uniform comes off, but the spirit of volunteering doesn’t.”

For the inaugural class of honorees, the Board wanted to honor members of its Veterans Advisory Commission. 

“The Supervisors wanted to, on their own, honor vets in their community for their services,” said Ryan Kegley, manager of Stanislaus County’s Veterans Services Office, and a veteran of the U.S. Army. “I’m also a history major, and I think it’s important to know where we came from. Recognition of these veterans is a huge part of that.”