Dwight Radcliff, a Marina del Rey resident and U.S. Air Force veteran who fought for veterans’ rights as president and CEO of the U.S. Veterans Initiative (U.S. VETS), has died. He was 55.

Radcliff, who served in the Air Force from 1971 to 1974, died of a heart attack at Marina Del Rey Hospital near his home Saturday, July 31, according to U.S. VETS.

“There are truly no words that I can use to describe Dwight Radcliff. He was the most caring, sensitive, practical man I have ever met,” said Keith Ellis, U.S.VETS chairman of the board. “I had the honor to serve as his mentor while he was serving as mine; he has taught me what giving back really means.

“The U.S.VETS Board of Directors and staff are committed to serving veterans 365 days of the year, although Dwight will not be here to lead us, we will move forward in his name and continue his legacy.”

Following a successful career at the Veterans Administration, Radcliff joined U.S. VETS in 1997 after serving as the original VA social work associate for the inaugural U.S. VETS site in Inglewood. In 1997 he developed and implemented the signature program “Veterans In Progress,” which has now been implemented at all U.S. VETS locations across the nation.

He received numerous awards for his service to veterans, including the VA Special Contribution Award, the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans “Unsung Hero” Award, U. S. VETS’ Employee of the Year Award, and commendations from Congresswoman Maxine Waters and other civic leaders.

Radcliff was appointed by the U.S. VETS Board of Directors as president and CEO in December 2008. In that position, he led the organization through one of its most difficult and most successful periods, according to U.S. VETS.

A husband, father and grandfather, Radcliff played bass with a jazz combo primarily composed of fellow veterans.

Funeral services are pending.