MEDINA — Dozens of military veterans, along with their family members and friends, attended the seventh annual Medina County All-Veterans Military Banquet on Saturday at Williams on the Lake.
About 125 people attended to honor Jack Forster, a Vietnam War veteran, as 2019 Medina County Veteran of the Year. Also, Mayor Dennis Hanwell was named 2019 Medina County Veterans Advocate of the Year.
Both men were recognized by the Joint Veterans Coalition of Medina County, which organized Saturday’s banquet, for their support of veterans’ organizations, causes, fundraisers and projects over the years.
“It was unexpected,” Forster said. “Those who have served in the military are all embedded with the idea to serve and protect. So many veterans are out there helping other veterans and the community in general. I’m just happy to do my part.”
The evening came with a couple of surprises. Also honored Saturday, unexpectedly, were Medina resident Jerry Clapper, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served in Vietnam, and Wadsworth resident Stan Wolczyk, who fought with the U.S. Army in World War II.
The coalition gave Clapper a mahogany plaque for saving a veteran’s life. It happened earlier this year when Clapper, a driver for the Medina County Veterans Services Office, was transporting a group of veterans to medical appointments.
“One of the patients suffered a heart attack in the van,” said Coalition Vice President Phill Grassa. “Jerry performed CPR and drove the van to paramedics, who took the patient to Medina Hospital.”
Wolczyk is 101 years old. He was shot in the back during the Battle of Attu against the Japanese in 1943. He received a Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
Today Wolczyk walks without walker or cane. His story is in the book, “The Capture of Attu: A World War II Battle as Told by the Men who Fought There.” Grassa said Wolczyk is a member of the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.
As for Forster, the U.S. Marine Corps veteran was commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5137 in Medina for three years. In that role he led several fundraisers to help wounded veterans.
Also, Forster was asked to serve on the Fisher House Foundation in Rockville, Maryland, helping to raise more than $100,000 so that veterans’ families can have a place to stay while visiting their loved ones at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
Hanwell backed Medina Rotary Club’s effort to build a countywide 9/11 Memorial next to Medina Fire Station 1 on West Reagan Parkway and North Huntington Street. He has participated in the Medina American Legion Post 202’s annual Four Chaplains ceremony, which chronicles the sacrifice of four U.S. Army chaplains who died serving others during World War II.
Hanwell also supported the modernization of Medina County Veterans Memorial Hall in Medina.