Mike Stoyonovich Has Quite the Collection of Awards, But Helping Other Vet Families Remains His Focus
Darren Doyle, story:
Brownsville resident and local veteran Mike Stoyonovich, Army First SGT. Ret., was inducted in the the Kentucky Veteran Hall of Fame on August 27, 2022.
The ceremony, which was held in Lexington on Saturday, featured the induction of 29 Kentucky military veterans from 16 counties, the largest class in its history.
While Stoyonovich has only been an Edmonson County resident for around 8 years, his impact on the local veteran community has made it as though he's been here a lifetime. Stoyonovich, a Vietnam vet, retired from the U.S. Army and soon joined a Disabled Veterans of America in Russell Springs, KY in 2009. Upon moving to Edmonson County, he joined local Chapter 32 but soon realized there was more needed from him than simply being a member.
"I guess you could say I had an epiphany," he said. "There was just something about the people here that was so unselfish. Everybody here was a neighbor, and they helped each other. That's when I saw that I had been pretty selfish with my time. They encouraged me to volunteer as opportunities came up. Now it seems like I can't say no."
He was named DAV Junior Vice Commander in 2015 and became Adjutant in 2016, where he handled all the administrative duties in the chapter. In 2018 he was encouraged to run for Junior Vice Commander of the State Executive Council and he won. In that same year, he was also appointed as State Service Officer for the KY State DAV.
He was honored as Disabled Veteran of the Year in 2019 by the KY DAV and in 2020, was named Service Officer of the Year.
Inductees were first celebrated Friday night, escorted into a Grand Gala dinner by the Lexington Police Honor Guard and bagpipe ensemble. After their military service was briefly summarized, inductees were escorted to their tables by members of Pershing Rifle Company C-1 from the University of Kentucky.
Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear addressed the near-record crowd: "Veterans put country and people first," he said.
Stoyonovich said the induction was truly an honor.
"To have my name associated with the best veteran advocates is unbelievable," he said. "It was a first class ceremony and I was just in awe the whole time."
While he has complied an impressive amount of hardware over the years, it isn't the plaques, trophies, or shadowboxes that keep him going; his role as a local service officer in the DAV, which helps provide benefits for veterans and their families, is what it's all about.
"Since I've been working with vets here in Edmonson County, we've been able to help 2500 local veteran families and secure over $2 Million in income for them, and that's a blessing," he said. "One example is from the case of a widow woman who was 83 years old. Her husband, who had died, had retired from the Army full time but she was left without any benefits or insurance. She was living on $300 a month and had been given a place to stay by a neighbor. We were able to get her about another $1500 a month in a pension. I remember her telling me, 'you changed my life,' and she baked two cakes and brought them to us. That's why I do this."
In addition to his military service and serving others through the local DAV and VFW Chapters, Stoyonovich also joined the Edmonson County Planning Commission in 2015, where he now serves as Chairman, he is also a board member of the Edmonson County Chamber of Commerce, the BRADD Steering Committee, a Chamber representative on the County Rec Tax Committee, and he was named a "Citizen of the Year" in 2021 by the Edmonson County Chamber of Commerce.
During the induction ceremony, a KVHOF medal was presented to each veteran as their community service was narrated. They were also given an American flag flown over the U.S. Capitol. Framed medals were presented to stand-ins for deceased inductees. Afterwards, Judge Lindsey Hughes Thurston formally swore the class into the Kentucky Veterans Hall of Fame. The class plaque was unveiled, a replica of one now permanently displayed with earlier class plaques in the Kentucky Capitol building. Names will eventually be added to regional KVHOF monuments planned for installation around Kentucky.