Washington, D.C.–U.S. Senator for Idaho Mike Crapo recognized 16 Idahoans with the 2023 Spirit of Freedom: Idaho Veterans Service Award. Senator Crapo created the award in 2002 to recognize Idaho veterans and volunteers for their outstanding service to our country and its veterans. Since the award’s creation 21 years ago, 387 Spirit of Freedom Awards have been bestowed.
“Many Idahoans dedicate their time, efforts and resources to supporting and caring for our nation’s heroes once they return to civilian life,” said Crapo. “I thank this year’s award recipients for their caring hearts and devotion to serving the Idaho veterans community. We must continue to show our gratitude to the men and women who bravely served our country.”
Submissions for the 2024 Spirit of Freedom Service Award can be made by contacting Courtney Lehosit in Crapo’s Boise office. The following biographies for each of the recipients highlight their significant contributions to our country and its veterans.
- Bruce Schofield, Boise: Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 4000 in Meridian nominated Schofield, a 26-year veteran of the United States Air Force. Born in Marlborough, Massachusetts, Schofield reached the rank of Senior Master Sergeant, having served at Itazuke Air Base in Japan; Nha Trang, Vietnam; and Royal Air Force Lakenheath. For his service, he received a number of awards and medals, including Good Conduct Medals, a Presidential Unit Citation and a Vietnam Service Medal, among others. Schofield retired from the Air Force in 1979, moving to Idaho shortly thereafter. He worked in communications and navigation for the National Interagency Fire Center and later repaired weather stations for a total of 21 years. Schofield loves to volunteer and was recently recognized by St. Luke’s Treasure Valley for his 8,000 hours of volunteer service in shuttling patients to and from the hospital to their vehicles, as well as ensuring an abundance of supplies for patients in pool therapy. He spends many hours visiting veterans through Keystone Hospice. Schofield has one son and two grandsons.
- Frank Ellsbury, Caldwell: “When there is a need, Frank is always the first to volunteer and last to leave,” wrote Ned Barker of the Idaho Military Order of the Purple Heart, the nominating organization for Frank Ellsbury. Ellsbury served as a Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps and carried out two tours in Vietnam. During his service, he received a Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal, among other awards and recognitions. Following his service, Ellsbury worked for the Centennial Job Corps, taught pain management at the Boise U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VA) and spent 50 years as a Veterans Court mentor coordinator. Ellsbury volunteers with Chapter 509 of the Military Order of the Purple Heart and with the Caldwell Veterans Garden. Ellsbury and his wife, Judy, have two daughters.
- James Peterson, Twin Falls: American Legion Post 47 nominated James Peterson. Born in Arcata, California, Peterson served in the United States Air Force from December 1960 to May 1964 on the special weapons team at the Itazuke Air Force Base in Japan, rising to the rank of E-3 Airman Second Class. He received the Air Force Good Conduct Medal during his tenure. Peterson has been a member of the Filer American Legion Post 47 for 30 continuous years, having served in various leadership positions including Sergeant at Arms and Commander. He is also a life member of the Twin Falls VFW and long-time member of the Fraternal Order of Eagles. Peterson has been actively involved with his community in assisting those in need by providing and delivering meals through the Meals on Wheels Program with the Filer Senior Center. After military service, Peterson worked for Pacific Bell telephone company for 28 years. He was a certified Civilian Pilot and has an extensive collection of World War I and World War II military weapons. Peterson has been married to his wife, Rita, for over 57 years. They have two daughters, eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
- Jon Osburn, Boise: Nominated by the Idaho Veterans Assistance League, Jon Osburn is a veteran of the Army National Guard and the U.S. Navy. He served as a hospital corpsman. Following his military service, Osburn was a Paramedic for 17 years and a driver for Mayflower Transit for 20 years, as well as a driver for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. The TravelCenters of America truck stop in Boise is named in his honor. He met his wife, Vicki, on a blind date, saying it was love at first sight.
- Leonard A. Crosby III, Post Falls: Nominated by the Idaho Military Order of the Purple Heart, Leonard A. Crosby III was born in Morganfield, Kentucky. He served from 1964 through 1970 as a Captain in the United States Army. He served as an Infantry Platoon Leader with the 4th Infantry Division and as Infantry Company Commander with the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army. He also served in the 5th Army Headquarters. Crosby received numerous medals and awards for his service. They include the Silver Star, two Bronze Stars for Valor, two Purple Hearts, an Army Commendation Medal, Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Palm, Ranger Tab, Air Assault Badge and Combat Medic’s Badge. After his military service, he worked more than 45 years in real estate development and commercial banking, having served in a number of leadership positions with national and international companies. Crosby is actively involved in his local Idaho community as a member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, the Military Officers Association of America, Idaho Veterans Assistance League, American Legion Honor Guard, Kootenai County Veterans Commission, American Legion Post 154, Disabled American Veterans, as well as a number of others. He and his wife, Mary, have two sons and two grandchildren.
- Richard LeMaster, Lewiston: The Idaho State Veterans Home – Lewiston nominated U.S. Navy Veteran Richard LeMaster. A native of San Diego, California, LeMaster served in the U.S. Navy from 1965 to 1973, rising to the rank of E-6, Petty Officer First Class. He was a submarine sonar technician during the Vietnam War, having been stationed in San Diego, Pearl Harbor, Japan and the Philippine Islands. Throughout his service, LeMaster received a Good Conduct Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medial, National Defense Service Medal and a Vietnam Service Medal with two Bronze Stars. Following his military service, LeMaster learned to weld in Seattle, Washington, and put his new skill to work in Tacoma, working for Martinac Shipbuilding manufacturing tuna boats. He also taught welding night courses at Tacoma Community College until his retirement. Living in close quarters on submarines shaped LeMaster into who he is today and taught him “to be tolerant and happy above all else,” and “to focus on what is important and to make the best of any situation.” He recently celebrated his 52nd anniversary with his wife, Shirley. They have three children, four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
- Thor Gunderson, Pocatello: Born in San Diego, California, Thor Gunderson served in the U.S. Navy from 1974 to 1994, retiring as an E-8 Senior Chief Petty Officer. He served in the Explosion Ordinance Disposal Mobile Unit 1 at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. For his service, Gunderson received a Sea Service Ribbon, Navy “E” Ribbon, Navy Expeditionary Medal, Navy Achievement Medal, Master EOD Badge, Joint Service Commendation Medal, and five Good Conduct Medals. Following his military service, he worked for UXB and Union Pacific Railroad. He was married to his wife, Bobbie, for 41 years before she passed away in 2018. They have two daughters, whose husbands also served in the military. Gunderson was nominated by Bannock County Veteran Services.
- Tim Stovall, Meridian: Nominated by the Idaho State Veterans Home – Boise, Tim Stovall, was born in Castro Valley, California, but was raised in Eagle, Idaho, from the age of two. He served in the U.S. Army from 1989 to 1998. He served as a member of the 3rd Battalion 501st Aviation Regiment at Camp Eagle, Korea; and the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. He achieved the rank of Sergeant. He received several recognitions during his service, including a Parachutist Badge, Expert Badge Hand Grenade, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, three Army Achievement Medals, two Army Good Conduct Medals and an Army Servicer Ribbon, among several others. Stovall began working for Micron Technology in 2000, where he continues to work today. He has held many roles for Micron, including Technician Trainer, Field Service Engineer and Engineering Manager. He is also the North American Lead for the Micron Veterans Employee Resource Group, whose mission is to enrich the personal and professional development of veterans through support, mentoring, retention and community engagement to advance diversity and inclusion and drive business. Stovall has coached girls’ soccer for the Meridian Police Athletic League for 22 seasons. Stovall lives in Meridian with his wife and three daughters.
- Robert Isabelle, Buhl: Veteran Robert Isabelle served in the U.S. Navy from 1955 to 1959 aboard the USS Los Angeles and the USS Hamul. He was nominated by the Buhl VFW Post 3604. After his military service, Isabelle studied French and worked part-time for a lab delivering reports and picking up specimens. He has been a life member of the VFW since 1995. Isabelle was the Post Quarter Master from 1999 – 2023. Isabelle has driven for Interlink Caregiver/Volunteers since 2018. Isabelle says he is a devout follower of Jesus Christ.
- William B. Johnson, Eagle: VFW Post 7019 in Kuna nominated Johnson, a retired Marine Corps Colonel with more than 31 years of honorable service. His extensive service to our country included several combat deployments that include his service in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. He earned many awards for meritorious service and valor. His personal decorations include the Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal (2nd Award) and two Air Medals with Combat “V”. Since his retirement from the Marine Corps in 2019, Johnson continues to give generously of his time in service to fellow veterans. As part of Go Team Idaho – Therapy, Airport, and Crisis Dogs, he has dedicated more than 150 hours over the past year and a half visiting veterans at the Boise Veteran Affairs Medical Center and other Treasure Valley care facilities with his chocolate Labrador Retriever, Zelda. He also recently founded Prescribed Pets Animal Assisted Therapy, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to providing veterans and at-risk youth caregivers access to highly trained individual therapy dog teams at no cost. Johnson and his wife Sherrie have two children. Military service is a central value of his family, as his deceased father also served our country as a World War II Naval Officer, and his son is an Ensign in the U.S. Navy.
- Melanie Palmer, Kuna: VFW Post 7019 in Kuna nominated Palmer, a veteran of the U.S. Army and its Reserve component. She is a life member of the VFW Auxiliary, the Disabled American Veterans and the Idaho Women Veterans Organization. Palmer has volunteered in a variety of capacities at the Boise Veterans Home since 2006. Palmer currently works for the Idaho Tax Commission, where she coordinates food drives for the Idaho Food Bank. She also coordinates donations of clothing, personal care items and food items for the veterans’ pantry at the Boise VA Medical Center, and coordinates donations of coffee and bottled water for the Caldwell Community Outpatient Veterans Clinic. Palmer is involved in a number of additional volunteer activities through collecting winter items for veterans, flag placement at the Kuna cemetery, roadside cleanups, Kuna Days and a Veterans Day breakfast. Palmer gains great personal satisfaction serving other veterans, and their families and friends.
- Dana Partridge, Star: American Legion Post 39 nominated Dana Partridge for her dedication to serving veterans and her “passion and tireless commitment to this cause.” Partridge is a Gold Star Daughter of Alan Brian Partridge, an Army Scout Pilot killed in Vietnam on January 31, 1970. Her personal connection to veterans inspired her to serve in their honor. She played a pivotal role in implementing the Veterans Banner Project, an initiative in Star that celebrates and recognizes local veterans by displaying their banners on streetlights throughout the city. She also initiated and organized the City of Star’s first Veterans Day Potato Feed to celebrate and honor over 30 Vietnam Veterans from Star. The event collected 150 pounds of food and monetary donations to the Boise Veterans Affairs Medical Center food center. As described by American Legion Post 39, “Dana’s dedication to building bridges between veterans and the community is commendable and showcases her exceptional commitment to serving those who have served our nation.” Partridge’s volunteer service extends to a number of other services in the Idaho veterans community, including the Memorial Day Program at Star Cemetery, Idaho State Veterans Home – Boise, The Wall that Heals and the American Legion Auxiliary, among others. Partridge worked a 32-year career in finance and enjoys gardening, camping and spending time with her family and rescue dogs.
- Kim McElliott, Twin Falls: American Legion Post 7 nominated Kim McElliott, who has served as a volunteer for the American Legion and its Auxiliary for 66 years. In nominating McElliott for this award, Victor Markell describes her as “a dynamic leader filled with enthusiasm and is very kind to all veterans in our Post.” McElliott comes from a family of veterans–her father, four brothers, two sons and her husband have all served in some capacity. Of her volunteer service, McElliott says, “Some gave their all—I only gave a few hours.” She began her volunteer service at a young age, helping her grandfather, Clarence Smith, distribute poppies in her town. She also volunteers with Quilts of Valor, which awards hand- and machine-sewed patriotic quilts to veterans. She is the Chairperson for Bets for Vets, which is in its second year of raising funds throughout the community for veterans. McElliot and her husband, Larry, have two sons.
- Rosemarie “Daisy” Wimer, Boise: The Idaho State Veterans Home –Boise nominated Daisy Wimer for her 13 years of volunteer service. Wimer has close family ties to the military through her father, a World War II Veteran and Purple Heart recipient, as well as her late first husband, Larry, a Navy Communication Technician Spanish Linguist. She spends her time at the Veterans Home visiting with and playing Pinochle and Cribbage with veterans, volunteering in the library and serving lunch. Recently, she completed a project of repairing over 450 pairs of scrub pants. She first married her high school sweetheart, Larry, who passed away from cancer at the age of 49. She has been married to her husband, Gayle, for twenty years. Wimer dedicates significant time to volunteering at church, the local senior center and at the Veterans Home.
- Terri Brockman, Lewiston: The Idaho State Veterans Home – Lewiston nominated Terri Brockman, noting her 29 years of service to Idaho veterans. Brockman began her career as a Certified Nursing Assistant and later Activity Director at Tri State Health and Rehab. When the Idaho State Veterans Home – Lewiston opened, Brockman assumed the Home’s role as volunteer services/activities coordinator, where she worked for over 27 years. She led and built the Home’s activities program for veterans. In her retirement, she continues to volunteer at the Home, as well as at the Fraternal Order of Eagles Aerie #3936 and the Idaho Veterans Assistance League – Lewiston. She enjoys being a personal shopper for veterans, helping to ensure they get needed items, and offers additional support for the Home’s canteen. According to Larissa Dittman at the Home, Terri’s “volunteer service has proven most valuable especially through the difficulties created by a public health emergency.” Sewing is one of her favorite hobbies. She also enjoys gardening alongside her husband of 37 years, Rick, and spending time with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
- Vicki VanVliet, Boise: The Idaho Veterans Assistance League (IVAL) nominated Vicki VanVliet. She has served as a volunteer for the IVAL canteen since 2016. When the IVAL reopened to volunteers in November 2021 following a pause related to the COVID pandemic, VanVliet returned to help serve veterans meals while they were restricted to their units. She also helped with clean-up. VanVliet comes from a long line of veterans. She volunteers with her husband, Jon Osburn.
The award, established by Crapo in 2002, is a small way to recognize and acknowledge the contributions of Idaho’s veterans and volunteers who support Idaho veterans. Biographies for current and past year recipients are posted on Senator Crapo’s website at: https://www.crapo.senate.gov/about/spirit-of-freedom. Each Spirit of Freedom Award recipient will receive a certificate for their service as well as a United States flag that has been flown over the U.S. Capitol building. The nominations for the Spirit of Freedom Award are made by a number of veterans’ service organizations.