Military man is Rotary Club of Mt. Pleasant's Citizen of the Year
By A.J. Panian
Published: Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, 9:01 p.m.
In 2013, Ret. U.S. Army Lt. Col. William “Bill” Lozier led the James E. Zundell American Legion Post 446 Honor Guard in the provision of full military salutes at the funerals of 55 area veterans.
So far this year, Lozier — who served two tours in the Vietnam War — and the other members of the guard have conducted the ceremonies at the burials of four more, he said.
“We feel that, if people have served, if they are veterans, they have earned the right to have military honors conducted at their funerals,” said Lozier, 81.
After religious officiants complete their addresses at the funerals, Lozier and the other guard members fire a three-round volley, followed by the playing of taps by a bugler, prior to the ceremony's final step.
“We then fold the American flag, and present it to the next of kin,” Lozier said. “That's a very emotional exercise. We've done a lot of them.”
Such dedication to honoring those who, like him, served America with bravery and selflessness in the face of enemy fire recently helped make Lozier the unanimous choice as the Rotary Club of Mt. Pleasant's Citizen of the Year for 2013.
“Bill stood out. He is just an outstanding gentleman, and his work with the veterans of the American Legion and beyond with the post's Honor Guard ... he just gives so much to the veterans of the community,” said Doug Hauser, a Rotarian and a member of the club's selection committee.
Hauser was joined on the committee by fellow Rotarians Dale Walker, the committee's chairman, George Wood, Mark DePalma, Tom Forsythe and club President Kathleen Comini.
“There were a number of people considered, and there were no shortage of worthy candidates, but Bill was our unanimous choice,” Hauser said.
Based on his well-known, unassuming demeanor, Lozier — who is also the post's finance officer — was predictably humbled in his response to the honor, Hauser said.
“Bill said ‘You guys gotta be nuts,'” he quipped.
Lozier offered his own, more solemn assessment.
“That's the last thing in the world I would have expected ... I don't know, it was a surprise. I certainly appreciate it,” he said.
Club's selection takes a military-themed turn
With his selection, Lozier became the first military veteran tabbed for the honor since the club began carrying on the annual tradition started by the Mt. Pleasant chapter of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, Lodge No. 868.
The Mt. Pleasant Elks disbanded in 2009.
Hauser, along with Walker, Wood and DePalma, were former members of the local Elks chapter who wanted to carry on the annual tradition.
Walker said he was particularly pleased to tab a veteran of foreign war and military advocate like Lozier for the honor.
“It's been a while that someone has been honored for simply doing things that are military-oriented,” he said. “As a lieutenant colonel, for Bill to come back and get so involved with the community, and in supporting his fellow veterans, you don't really see that too often.”
Borough native attends West Point
Lozier was born and raised in Mt. Pleasant, and the 1950 graduate of Ramsay High School set out for Penn State University as a young man.
After one year spent there, he received an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where he spent the next four years.
Eventually, Lozier served his tours of duty in Vietnam in 1967-1968 and 1971-1972 with the 4th Infantry Division in the Central Highlands.
He was an adviser to the Vietnamese 3rd Infantry Division in the demilitarized zone.
“Then I went out as a senior adviser to the second regiment in that region, and that's where it got down to working with the Vietnamese,” Lozier said. “We lived with them, and I have the utmost respect for the Vietnamese soldiers.”
Local volunteer serves surrounding region
In addition to providing military honors at funerals, Lozier and the other Post 446 Honor Guard members have dedicated a great deal of time to “We Honor Veterans,” an awareness campaign conducted by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs.
In 2011, Scottdale-based Amedisys Hospice began conducting the program locally.
The agency soon joined forces with Lozier and the rest of the Post 446 Honor Guard in an effort to carry out the tributes more effectively.
The initiative is designed to empower hospice professionals to meet the unique needs of veterans nearing the ends of their lives.
The program teaches respectful inquiry, compassionate listening and grateful acknowledgement to comfort patients with a history of military service and possibly physical or psychological trauma, according to wehonorveterans.org.
During the ceremonies, veterans receive an official presentment of an American flag, after which time Laura Scripp, R.N., director of operations at Amedisys Hospice, personally sings the national anthem prior to a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.
The veterans are then shown a two-DVD set titled “Before You Go,” which reflects on what their service, particularly in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, has meant to America.
They are then presented a certificate of recognition.
Denise Maley, volunteer coordinator for Amedisys Hospice, said she is thrilled by word of Lozier's recent honor considering his contributions to the “We Honor Veterans” campaign.
“That man is so special. I can't even begin to express our gratitude for what he does. He has been a part of honoring close to 400 veterans in Fayette and Westmoreland Counties,” Maley said. “He is untiring, every time I contact him, he is so busy, but he always drops everything to help us. He so deserving of this honor. He is a dynamo.”
VA Pittsburgh lauds impact of continual giver
Lozier also shared information about the “We Honor Veterans” campaign with the hospice unit of H.J. Heinz Division of VA Pittsburgh Voluntary Services, whose officials have since adopted aspects of it.
He has coordinated multiple donations to the organization's Domiciliary for Homeless Veterans, including clothing, food and personal care products, according to Maria K. Gibb, voluntary service specialist of VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System.
He also has stood at the bedsides of veterans so they are not alone at the times of their passing, Gibb said.
“Mr. Lozier exemplifies true devotion and dedication to our nation's veterans,” Gibb said. “I am not sure what motivates Mr. Lozier, it could because he himself is a veteran, or because he has some innate drive to provide for those in need ... whatever it is ... he continues to offer selfless contributions to the veterans at the Heinz Division of VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System through volunteering and donations.”
Doug Walker, a 30-year Legion Post 446 and a six-time past commander there, also expressed enthusiasm regarding Lozier's recognition.
“That's wonderful,” he said. “I'm glad that Bill is getting recognition for the work that he does in the community. He is an officer and a gentleman by choice. He knows who he is and he carries himself that way.”
A banquet will be held at a to-be-determined time, date and location where Lozier will be formally presented with the award.
A.J. Panian is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-547-5722 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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