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Proud to be a vet

Heritage Manor presents online pinning ceremony

Staff photo / R. Michael Semple Veterans Erwin Schwartz, a World War II veteran, and Richard Ornelas, who served in the U.S. Navy, are residents at Heritage Manor in Youngstown. They talked about their time in the service. Heritage Manor normally has a big event for its veterans on Veterans Day, but the pandemic forced organizers to host a virtual pinning ceremony online. The pair were among 20 honored on Wednesday.

YOUNGSTOWN — Usually on Veterans Day, Heritage Manor hosts a big event to honor all the veteran residents.

This year, because of the coronavirus pandemic, the event had to be modified by Heritage Manor Adult Day Services, Levy Gardens Assisted Living and Heritage Manor Rehabilitation and Retirement Community to an online pinning event.

Each veteran was individually recognized in the multipurpose room. Heritage Manor and Hospice of the Valley teamed up so each veteran was presented a special certificate along with pins.

Among the 20 veterans honored were Erwin Schwartz, 96, and Richard Ornelas, 58, both residents of Heritage Manor and both Youngstown natives.

Schwartz served in the Navy from 1942 to 1945 during World War II, where he worked in the engine room on ships making fresh water from the salt water by purifying and removing the salt.

“They did an excellent job of recognizing the veterans. It was a very nice surprise,” he said.

Schwartz said he particularly remembers one battle with German aircraft in the Mediterranean Sea.

Ornelas served in the U.S. Navy from 1982 to 1984, working on helicopter engines when they went bad or were damaged.

“It was nice to be recognized for serving,” he said.

Shane Baldwin, Heritage Manor director of operations, said the veterans were gathered in the activities room and the pinning ceremony was shown on a large screen. To view the ceremony, visit heritagemanor.org and click on the Zoom link.

“I went around to each veteran with an iPad and recorded them on the screen. Usually this is a very big event where a lot of people’s families attend, and there is hardly any room to sit. This year, we had to do it this way, but it is very important to recognize the veterans,” Baldwin said.

“We did the best we could considering the circumstances we are facing,” noted Tina Davis, Heritage manor’s executive secretary.

Local schools also honored more than 70 veterans Wednesday in different ways to show appreciation for their service to the country.

The annual veteran ceremony at West Branch schools had to go outdoors. For two hours, the school hosted a “thank you drive-thru” as veterans drove by and were given a bag filled with treats, inspirational notes and pictures. Staff also put together a video honoring local veterans.

In Southington schools, high school students held thank you signs and waved to veterans as they were driven by.

Superintendent Rocco Nero said more than 25 cars were driven past the school and veterans were handed a meal to go.

“We wanted to show our appreciation to the veterans. The students had signs and handed out meals,” Nero said.

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