Milwaukee Area Toyota Dealers Association
The “Salute to Veterans” contest is carried live by media sponsor WITI-FOX6 during the region’s annual auto show.
“We wanted to do something with the community in conjunction with our annual auto show,” says Pat Donahue, the elected representative of the Milwaukee Area Toyota Dealers Association. “We decided we’d invite the community to nominate military veterans with a narrative of why they are deserving to win a new Toyota from the Milwaukee Area Toyota Dealers.”
The thousands of nominations over the years — 339 this year — have been nothing short of inspirational.
“The nominations have all been incredible stories of sacrifice, courage, hardship and overcoming challenges; they have been really heartfelt,” Donahue says.
A panel of independent judges named by FOX6 whittles the nominees to six finalists whose stories are aired on TV.
“Reading all the nomination essays we receive during the contest is inspiring,” says Chuck Steinmetz, president and general manager of WITI-FOX6. “It is hard to fathom just how much veterans and their families have sacrificed over the years, and it is truly our privilege to get to know them and show them how much they matter.”
This year’s winner was Norman Gillette of Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, nominated by his wife. He served as a Marine for 20 years. In 2010, he became a provincial reconstruction team advisor and spent 14 months in Afghanistan.
The Toyota Chicago Region, the Milwaukee Area Toyota Dealers Association and WITI-FOX6 also made a simultaneous, sizable donation to the Milwaukee Police Association's Fallen Heroes Fund in the memory of Matthew Rittner, 35, a Milwaukee police officer who was shot and killed in February while serving a search warrant. Rittner, a Marine, served two tours of duty in Iraq.