GFA 2018 Veteran of the Year Award

Meet the Nominees


View this year's award winners


Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson

Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson served as one of the first African American combat pilots in U.S. history. Jefferson began flight training in 1943 at Tuskegee Army Air Field. In 1944 Jefferson went to Ramitelli Air Base in Italy where he flew eighteen missions prior to being shot down on August 12, 1944. He was captured and placed in the POW camp at Stalag Luft III, where he remained for eight months, until he was freed on April 29, 1945. He went on to pursue a teaching certificate from Wayne State University in 1947. In 1954, Jefferson received his M.A. degree in Education, and began teaching elementary school science for the Detroit Public School System. In 1995 Jefferson made it into the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame. In 2001, he received the Purple Heart Award, and then in 2007 he was given the Congressional Gold Medal.


Kate Melcher

Kate MelcherKate Melcher began her career in a research and speechwriting position with the Supreme Court of the United States. She went on to serve in senior staff positions in the US Senate, in line company leadership, as an AH-64D Apache Longbow pilot, and as an Army Legislative Liaison Officer for the US Army National Guard. Ms. Melcher is a seasoned military, non-profit, and private sector professional, with a passion for public service. Today, she continues her service to her military family as she leads the Buddy-to-Buddy Volunteer Veteran Program at the University of Michigan. In this capacity, she oversees all aspects of the program, including building and maintaining relationships with National Guard leadership, working with community and private sector partners, and supporting the volunteer corps. She also serves as Executive Director Emeritus of Fisher House Michigan. In this role, she and the FHM Board of Directors are responsible for raising funds and awareness to bring the first Fisher House to Michigan.


Fred Winter

Fred Winter joined the Navy in 1933. He served on the battleship Mississippi for four years. Four years later he was called back to duty at the age of twenty-six, and he was ranked as a Yeoman Second Class. In 1945, he landed on the island of Okinawa and was tasked with securing areas behind the front line so that a naval operations center could be built. Winter left the Navy with the rank of Chief Yeoman in 1975. He was awarded a Master of Education degree from Creighton University in 1953 and he taught courses at Holland High School until 1984. Today, Winter is a health nut and sticks to a strict workout regimen. He looks forward to participating in the 2018 National Senior Olympics, where he will run the 100 meter, compete in discus, shop-put, javelin, and hammer throw.