Navpreet Singh Sandher of Merced has been named the Veteran of the Year for the 21st Assembly District.
The 24-year-old was honored by Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, at a luncheon in Sacramento.
Sandher served in the U.S. Marine Corps, including a seven-month tour in Afghanistan in 2011. He joined the military in 2009 at 17, after graduating from Merced’s Golden Valley High School, according to Gray’s office.
“Navpreet Sandher served our nation with distinction during his time in the U.S. Marine Corps,” Gray said in a news release. “He has spent years dedicating himself to the community of Merced. It is my distinct honor to recognize his efforts as a veteran leader in our community.”
Sandher was honorably discharged in 2013, holding the rank of corporal. He is a member of the Merced College Veterans Club. He also belongs to the South Asian Veterans of America, which aims to create community among South Asian veterans and address mental health issues.
“I just take it as is,” Sandher said about being named Veteran of the Year. “Now I’m just a civilian and a student.”
Sandher said the biggest takeaway from the luncheon was getting a tour of the state Capitol. He said he attended the ceremony only briefly because he had to rush back to class.
Upon discharge, Sandher became a yoga instructor through Yoga Alliance. He teaches classes in Merced, and will attend the University of Hawaii at Manoa in the fall to finish his undergraduate study in kinesiology.
He also plans to enroll in an educational research program to pursue his graduate degree.