Jacksonville, FL — Money is helping put local veterans in Northeast Florida back to work.
Hundreds of people filled the inside of a warehouse at a former Navy base to celebrate a milestone.
It was 20 years ago when the U.S. Navy handed over ownership of Cecil Field Naval Air Station to the city of Jacksonville and the Jacksonville Aviation Authority.
The air station is now being operated by Boeing Global Services.
Friday, Boeing made a $55,000 check presentation to Veterans Florida to help put local veterans back to work.
Samuel Leeca is a Navy veteran and was one of the first people hired by Boeing back in 1999.
“We first only had one aircraft. Then they started filtering in. It was rough at first, but then we started to get it rolling,” said Samuel Leeca.
“When I see the Blue Angels, I don’t even bother anymore because I was sharing with someone that all 6 of them, I’ve physically touched them. I’ve physically put the cell in and taken it out,” Leeca explained.
Boeing Cecil Field site leader Warren Helm says the site is one of the most successful closed bases in the country.
“We have a great mix about 70% veterans on this site. It’s a great mix between people who have been here since day one,” Helm said.
Leeca says after working here for over 20 years, he heads a team of mostly young people who disassemble and repair aircraft.
“I just look at it as, not so much someone has to do it, but someone always did it. We live in a world now where it is so dangerous, I said, ‘I can’t leave them, I have to keep going to help the newer guys keep the jets flying,’” said Leeca.