Lt. Colonel Jim Cragg, commander of American Legion Post 283, was honored on November 13 as the Veteran of the Year during the UCLA Football Military Appreciation Game at the Rose Bowl. This 2020 award was presented in person this year after the pandemic restrictions last year.
Annually, UCLA Athletics presents its Veteran of the Year Award to a military Veteran with roots in Southern California, and more specifically the greater Los Angeles community, for his/her distinguished military career and service to our community.
Cragg was invited to a UCLA ROTC Zoom call as a representative of Post 283, and “when I tuned in, they surprised me with an announcer congratulating me,” he told Circling the News.
The presenter told Cragg that he was selected because “of your lengthy service, your focus on rehabilitation at the VA Hospital, and for the 200,000 face coverings you helped make for first responders. We owe you a debt of gratitude.”
“I didn’t expect this,” Cragg replied. “Thank you very much. I appreciate everything that UCLA has done for Vets, for the ROTC and for its work in the community and on environmental and athletic programs.”
Cragg’s award noted his exemplary service for 25 years in Army Special Operations and Military Intelligence, his founding of GreenVetsLA Vocational Rehab Program, and for his leadership manufacturing more than 200,000 facemasks in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
A 1988 grad of El Camino Real High School in Woodland Hills, Cragg served in an Army Special Ops unit in Afghanistan. He returned home in 1997 and opened a sewing company called S.O. Tech — Special Operations Technologies — to make protective military gear.
He joined the American Legion Ronald Reagan Post 283 in 2014.
When Covid hit, Cragg, who has 11 patents on military medical equipment, sought to manufacture masks. With help from fellow Post 283 Legionnaire Peng Vang, an Operation Iraqi Freedom Army veteran, who works as a nurse at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, they designed a mask with military ripstock uniform material that was durable and dries quickly.
In an April 2020 L.A. Daily News story (“How Three Battle-tested Veterans Declared War on Coronavirus”), Cragg said, “We were looking to change the paradigm of mask production, which is lightweight throwaway masks to something that would be durable, long-lasting and reusable. We also devised a way to drop in reusable filters. The filters can be washed. The mask can be washed. These are designed to last for months.”
The article noted that “S.O. Tech Tactical had a batch of masks to Vang within two days. Cragg has teamed up with other sewing manufacturers to produce 3,000-5,000 masks a day.”
A resident of Pacific Palisades, Cragg and Dr. Susan Marusak have a daughter, Charley.
To watch the award presentation, visit: –https://youtu.be/pXScDL8s8iE