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When North Carolina Legionnaire Mike Dorman got a call from the White House saying he was going to be presented with one of the highest honors a civilian can receive, it came with a condition: keep a lid on it.
“First they call you and tell you that you’ve won, then they tell you that you can’t tell anyone,” Dorman said with a laugh.
But it’s not a secret anymore. In February, Dorman was presented with the Presidential Citizens Medal by President Barack Obama during a visit to the White House. Dorman received the medal – the nation’s second-highest civilian honor – for his efforts as the founder and executive director of Military Missions in Action (MMIA), a North Carolina-based organization that helps veterans with physical and mental disabilities achieve independent living.
“There were a lot of emotions when you get that call,” said Dorman, a member of American Legion Fuquay-Varina Post 116. “You get to meet the president of the United States. I was in the Coast Guard for 20 years and never met the president, and I thought I did some pretty good things while I was in. But with (MMIA), this is something I’m really just doing because it’s the right thing to do in my eyes. I’m not doing anything super. But to be recognized for this, my emotions were super high.”
The President Citizens Medal recognizes “citizens of the United States of America who have performed exemplary deeds of service for their country or their fellow citizens.” Through Dorman’s MMIA, veterans can receive services such as home modification, rehabilitation and family assistance, including providing wheelchair ramps, roll-in showers, new roofs and other repairs. Some 500 people throughout North Carolina volunteer their time for MMIA. Since 2008, the organization has completed more than 100 home-modification projects and shipped thousands of care packages to soldiers.
Dorman was one of 18 recipients of the medal out of 6,000 nominations.
“It means that a lot of people not only believe in what we’re doing, but they believe that the men and women who have served our country deserve to live out their lives at a high quality of life,” Dorman said. “And it means they also believe in all the men and women who volunteer their time for this project, because I couldn’t do this without them. I didn’t deserve this all by myself.”
While in Washington, Dorman was able to spend some time with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. “My grandfather was a (prisoner of war) in World War II,” Dorman said. “So it meant a lot to me to be able to spend some time with Sen. McCain.”
Now 52, Dorman doesn’t seen an end in sight for his work with MMIA. “Someone asked me how long I thought there would be a need for Military Missions in Action,” Dorman said. “As long as there are men and women wearing the uniform of our country, there will be a need for our services. How long can I go on doing this? Hey – we’re just getting started. I may do this until the day I die.”