The Minnesota Humanities Center has begun an awards program to recognize veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The center is taking nominations for veterans who have returned to civilian life and are thriving and contributing to their communities.

The center plans to host a “25 Veterans’ Voices” celebration on Sept. 11, 2013. The idea is to recognize vets 40 years old and under, what they went through during their military service and what they have been doing since coming home.

“The highest rates of suicide and unemployment are among veterans under 40, and we want Minnesota to celebrate all the great accomplishments and contributions that these veterans bring to their communities,” said Trista Matascastillo, one of the leaders of the initiative.

Minnesota is home to over 381,000 veterans, with 60,000 veterans returning since Sept. 11. The nominations can be made by community leaders, individuals or military personnel. A nomination of up to 500 words should describe the veteran’s background and accomplishments in business, health care, public safety, education, the arts, government or any other endeavor.

The selection criteria for nomination includes:

• Currently serving, honorable discharge from military service or eligible for upgrade.

• Actively involved in the community.

• Must have made a significant difference to advance society in public or private sector.

• Be 40 or under.

Nominations can be submitted to the Minnesota Humanities Center website,, or to the Minnesota Humanities Center, 987 Ivy Av. E., St. Paul, MN 55106. Attention: “25 Veterans’ Voices.”

The deadline is June 3.

“We want to very publicly recognize our veterans so we can continue to strengthen ties between our communities and our veterans in order to bring our veterans all of the way home,” said Ted Daley, another organizer of the event.