Veterans Day is the official federal holiday to honor anyone who has served or is currently serving in the United States Armed Forces. First announced as “Armistice Day” in 1919 by President Woodrow Wilson to honor veterans who served their country during World War I, the holiday was expanded in the U.S. by Congress in 1954 to celebrate and appreciate the service of any and all military veterans. This Veterans Day, #DTJaxSalutes two of our Downtown Ambassadors who served their country for more than 47 years combined.
Bill Wimmer has been Downtown Vision’s Ambassador Program Manager for more than seven years. He leads and manages the 17-strong Ambassador team that works to keep Downtown clean, safe and friendly. Managing people and programs is something that comes naturally to Bill, a retired Operations Specialist Senior Chief Petty Officer who served 23 ½ years in the Navy. “You know we like to clean in the Navy, and the attention to detail in our work — it’s not far off,” he chuckles, referencing the Clean and Safe Ambassador Program that provides cleaning, pressure washing, trash and graffiti removal, in addition to security escorts and nuisance response services Downtown.
Bill likes being a member of a relatively small team since he spent his career serving on a few of the Navy’s smaller warships: Knox-class frigate USS Garcia (FF-1040), Leahy-class guided-missile cruiser USS Richmond K. Turner (CG-20), and Belknap-class guided missile cruiser USS William H. Standley (CG-32). “Small ships foster camaraderie and personal connections. I enjoy that aspect of this work very much.”
For his final duty station, Bill worked at the Fleet Area Control and Surveillance Facility Jacksonville (FACSFACJAX), which provides oversight and management of the airspace, seaspace, and subseaspace used by United States federal and civilian agencies. The official reason for staying in Jacksonville after retiring is that his children had changed high schools three times over the previous four years, but Bill adds that he and his family, “fell in love with everything the city had to offer.”
One of Bill’s team leaders also served in the Navy. Retired Chief Petty Officer Lionel Roberts served as both a Gunners Mate and an Aviation Storekeeper. Lionel served 24 years, 17 of which he spent on sea duty to guided missile ships like the USS Richard L. Page (FFG-5), a Brooke-class frigate. One of his favorite duty stations was when he was sent to Naval Base Subic Bay in the Philippines to run the base armory and train the security personnel in the proper use of weapons and firearms. This included the Presidential Security Group, the agency tasked with the protection of the President of the Philippines, as well as the Vice President of the Philippines and their families.
Lionel currently works as the Downtown Ambassador Safety Team Supervisor, and can usually be found riding a bicycle around the city, continuing to provide safety and security to his community, though in a much more friendly and casual fashion. “I like to mingle with different people and have different challenges every day,” he says of his job riding the streets and interacting with the residents, workers, and visitors of Downtown. His love of challenges and new experiences is reflected in his Navy career: Lionel’s first ship was homeported out of Souda Bay Naval Base in Crete, Greece. He deployed on a world cruise with stops in just about every country along the way and even played on the All-Navy Basketball team — twice. “My Navy career was more of an adventure than anything, and I loved it.”
After more than two decades of adventuring around the world, meeting hundreds of people from countless backgrounds Lionel was stationed at Naval Air Station Cecil Field (now Cecil Airport). He enjoyed it because it was, “a nice base, laid back, not too fast, not too slow. It reminded me of Mobile, Alabama, where I grew up.” Jacksonville was the best combination of familiar and exciting, and he looks forward to continuing to serve the city as a Downtown Ambassador, meeting new people every day.
Happy Veterans Day, Senior Chief Wimmer and Chief Roberts. From all of us at Downtown Vision: thank you for your service. It has been our sincerest pleasure to know and work with you both.
For more information on the Downtown Vision Ambassador Program, click here!