What they all have in common is the fact that they are recipients of the "Kentucky Colonel" award, the highest honor bestowed by the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
Commissions as Kentucky colonels are presented for contributions to the community, state or nation, and for special achievements of all kinds. With your commission as a Kentucky colonel, the Governor of Kentucky recognizes your service and accomplishments on behalf of others.
Vega's relationship with Kentucky, other than the fact that he competed against their universities as a track star at the University of Tennessee, came through the Democratic National Convention. For several conventions in a row, the Kentucky and New Jersey delegations have been located side by side and have developed camaraderie. Kentucky State Representative Brent Yonts and Vega became friends and Yonts sponsored Vega for the award.
The current governor of Kentucky, Ernie Fletcher, who bestowed the honor on Vega, should be familiar to Hudson County residents as the governor who recently flew his private airplane into Washington D.C. airspace and inadvertently exposed the nation's air defense weakness around the nation's capitol.
The tradition of the honor began with Kentucky's first governor, Issac Shelby, who gave his son-in-law the title of Colonel of his staff. Shelby later issued commissions to all who enlisted in his regiment in the War of 1812. Later Kentucky governors commissioned colonels to act as their protective guard. They wore uniforms and were present as most official functions.
The "Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels" was founded in 1932 by Gov. Ruby Laffoon and has since been officially incorporated as a charitable organization, contributing thousands of dollars to worthy causes. Once a year, Kentucky Colonels from all over the world gather for a celebration of fellowship in the spirit of Kentucky hospitality.
In addition to his latest honor, Vega is also the precedent-making six-term Chairman of the Hudson County Board of Chosen Freeholders and on the National Association of Counties (NACO) Human Services and Education Steering Committee.