A Warren man is being honored for his passion for helping other vets.
WARREN — The state will recognize a city man for his commanding role in helping local veterans.
Today, Samuel Lanza will be inducted into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame for his long-standing involvement in more than a dozen veteran assistance and memorial services.
But Lanza, now 82, said he has always found satisfaction in what he calls his duty: helping veterans.
“It was all the horror stories I used to hear,” Lanza said of the struggles veterans faced once they returned home. He said he became unnerved following tale after tale of veterans with wounds and disabilities who were made to feel helpless by a range of bureaucratic obstacles to recovery.
He said he has never considered his own story so tragic.
After joining the Marines in 1944, a 19-year-old Lanza was quickly shipped to the South Pacific during World War II. In Okinawa, Japan, he suffered injuries to much of the right side of his body after being hit by a homemade bomb.
“I guess I was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Lanza said.
After recuperating at hospitals around the country for about 16 months, he returned home to Warren. His lengthy rehabilitation encouraged him to support the Disabled American Veterans, an organization dedicated to bettering the lives of wounded veterans. He joined the DAV in 1948.
Since then, Lanza has played a part in most regional veteran affairs groups and programs.
He’s a member of the DAV, Military Order of the Purple Heart, VFW Local 1090, Marine Corps League, American Legion and the Trumbull County Veterans Service Commission. He’s the past State Commander for the Disabled American Veterans, helps transport men and women to VA hospitals, plans the DAV Christmas Party at the Sandusky Veterans Home and has helped organize the local Memorial Day parade for the last 45 years.
And the list of charity goes on. But he sees the work as an extension of his service.
“I believe I’m an advocate for the veterans,” Lanza said. “That’s all I do and that’s all I want to do.”
To his seven children, neighbors and veterans throughout Northeast Ohio, that’s what he’s known for.
“Well, he eats, drinks and lives veterans,” joked his daughter, Marilyn Porec, 53, of Warren.
“It’s not a job; it’s just part of who he is.”
Porec said she can’t recall her father ever missing a local VA meeting, even when they lived in Pennsylvania. She said her mother, who died in 2003, was also an advocate for veterans. That bond between her parents, she explained, helped reaffirm her father’s passion.
“He enjoys what he does and believes very strongly in it — he doesn’t take no for an answer.”
David Baudo, a friend and colleague of Lanza’s for more than 25 years, nominated him for the Hall of Fame for his selfless dedication to aiding ailing war veterans. He said the number of contributions Lanza has made to area veterans escapes him, but recognized that the list is nearly endless.
“Some of the things he does sound minor,” Baudo admitted, “But to me they’re extremely important.”
And like Porec, he said Lanza is particularly reliable.
“Everybody knows he will get things done.”
Alongside some of his family, colleagues, friends and fellow veterans, Lanza will be inducted into the Hall of Fame and honored by Gov. Ted Strickland for his service to the community and nation at the Franklin County Veterans Memorial in Columbus.
Helping at home, as abroad, Lanza said, is a responsibility of everyone.
“It wasn’t a matter of if you wanted to or not,” he said.
“It’s an obligation and it’s something we have to do.”