Rotary Club of Mt. Pleasant salutes its Citizen of the Year
On a night when so many gathered to recognize one man's life spent honoring his fellow military veterans, a tale detailing Ret. U.S. Army Lt. Col. William “Bill” Lozier's own past service drew the most ardent applause.
During the Vietnam War's Easter Invasion of the Quang Tri Province of South Vietnam in 1972, Lozier and 31 other soldiers were briefly hunkered down in an old French fort as enemy fire rained down around them, according to Doug Hauser, a member of the Rotary Club of Mt. Pleasant.
At the time, Lozier was serving his second tour in the war with the 4th Infantry Division in the Central Highlands as an adviser to the Vietnamese 3rd Infantry Division in the demilitarized zone.
Because Lozier and his men were training the South Vietnamese troops, they represented a dwindling number of Americans still serving in the DMZ when People's Army of North Vietnam forces attacked.
“They were surrounded and under heavy siege and bombardment,” Hauser said. “But all 32 of them eventually got out alive.”
Upon telling that story, and reading a long list of Lozier's military honors, Hauser was quick to pivot regarding the reasons why he and his fellow Rotarians deemed Lozier fit for selection as the club's Citizen of the Year for 2013.
“The club is honoring Bill because he's active in our community of Mt. Pleasant,” said Hauser, before a crowd of roughly 120 people Sunday at the Tadeusz Kosciuszko Club in the borough.
“I know what kind of man he is, I know his character, and I know his dedication to veterans. The work that he does through the (James E. Zundell) American Legion (Post 446) Honor Guard is just tremendous,” he said.
Such efforts led to Lozier's unanimous selection for the honor.
“I thank you for coming here tonight, I feel honored, but humbled,” said Lozier, 81, a Mt. Pleasant native and Unity resident who graduated from U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
In full dress uniform, Lozier embraced the recognition out of respect for:
• Soldiers who have served in the past, present and the future
• The veterans' organizations with which he volunteers his time
• His family for supporting him in doing so for so long.
“He makes me feel so humble. I can't be nearly as generous as he is,” said Joanne Lozier, Bill's wife and his 1950s-era Ramsay High School sweetheart. They will celebrate 59 years of marriage on June 7.
Myriad dignitaries took to the podium to praise Lozier's work, which along with his fellow honor guardsmen, includes the ceaseless provision of full military salutes at the funerals of area veterans.
“I've worked with Bill at the legion for more than 10 years, and I've never worked with a person who works more tirelessly and ceaselessly to support our veterans,” said Joseph Zeman, the post's commander.
Borough Mayor Gerald Lucia said Lozier, who helped establish the borough's Veterans Wall, “shows what Americanism is all about,” while borough council President Joe Bauer lauded the rare selection of a military man for the distinction.
“I think Bill should also be credited with the fact that he helped save the American Legion post in Mt. Pleasant with all he's done,” Bauer said. State Sen. Kim Ward, R-Hempfield, was on hand to personally present Lozier with a certificate documenting his good deeds.
“Mr. Lozier clearly reflects the true spirit and mission of this commonwealth,” she said.
But, most notably, throughout this region, according to Mary Connell, American Legion Auxiliary representative for the H. John Heinz III Progressive Care Center.
“That man is a gentleman and a scholar, and I'm honored I know him,” Connell said, her voice quivering.
“If it wasn't for Bill and his post, we'd have veterans walking around without clothes. It's just unbelievable what they do. Bill, we love you,” she said.
Also on hand at Lozier's request were nurse Laura Scripp, director of operations at Scottdale-based Amedisys Hospice, and Denise Maley, a volunteer coordinator there, with whom he helps administer the “We Honor Veterans” campaign.
The initiative teaches respectful inquiry, compassionate listening and grateful acknowledgement to comfort late-in-life patients with a history of military service and possibly physical or psychological trauma, according to the organization's web site — wehonorveterans.org.
In attendance also was Greater Latrobe Senior High School history teacher Brad Wetzel and wife, Jennifer.
Since 2012, Lozier and Wetzel, along with fellow Vietnam veteran Charles “Pappy” Patchin, 69, of Latrobe, a retired Army special forces lieutenant colonel, have annually traveled with students to Washington D.C. to see the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
“When those kids were down there, they were silent and very respectful,” Lozier said.
Awarded since 1969, the Rotary Club's citizen of the year honor denotes that Lozier's photo be placed on a plaque containing the engraved names of past recipients which is kept at Nino's Restaurant in Laurelville, the club's meeting place.
“As is apparent, Bill is certainly a deserving recipient of this award,” said Rotarian Dale Walker, chairman of the club's selection committee.
Lozier was also presented the Paul Harris Fellowship by Rotarian George Wood.
“You exemplify the humanitarian objectives our club tries to uphold,” Wood said.
“We thank you for your contributions to this community.”
Others presenting Lozier with certificates of recognition were Jack Rutkowski, chairman of Mt. Pleasant Township's board of supervisors, and Deborah Salopek, manager of the Laurel Highlands Chapter of the Westmoreland Chamber of Commerce.
Additional members of Bill and Joanne Lozier's family in attendance included Bill's brother, Jim Lozier; son Bill Lozier, his wife, Rose, and daughter, Katie; son David Lozier, his wife, Beth, and their daughter, Becca; and daughter Marianne Sowell.
Daughters Linda Lozier of Maryland and Amy Lozier of Kansas could not attend.
A.J. Panian is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-547-5722 or firstname.lastname@example.org.