Veterans honored for civilian service
By RAYMOND L. SMITH
COLUMBUS – Three Mahoning Valley residents are being inducted into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame today in a ceremony being held at the Franklin County Veterans Memorial.
Roger H. Gardner of Warren, Alexander Kish of Newton Falls and Joseph K. Vrabel of Poland, who is deceased, are all being honored primarily for their work after they left the military.
Prior to today’s ceremony, 12 Trumbull County residents and 10 Mahoning County residents had been inducted in the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame.
Gardner served in the U.S. Army and the Ohio Army National Guard. He served during both the Korean and Vietnam war eras.
Since 1957, Gardner has been a member of the American Legion Post 540 Honor Guard in Cortland, serving as as it commander and captain since 2000.
Under his leadership, the Honor Guard has participated in 2,281 funerals. He participates in both Memorial Day and Veterans Day events each year, including placing flags on veteran graves at six Trumbull county cemeteries.
He was instrumental in the construction of several veterans’ memorials, most notably the Korean War Monument in Trumbull’s Veteran’s Park.
He also is a member of the Veteran Administration’s volunteer service and volunteers for the Warren Community based Outpatient Clinic, where he has logged more than 2,300 volunteer hours. He also spent nearly 6,000 hours at the Youngstown VA clinic.
Gardner shares his military experience with students in six local school districts.
He recently was named Mahoning county United Veterans Council Veteran of the Year. He also was named a Warren Tribune Chronicle Community Star.
Kish, a U.S. Army veteran, served during the Korean War.
Kish was instrumental in bringing the Western Reserve National Cemetery to Rittman to provide a final resting place for Ohio Veterans. He organized an honor guard whose membership rotate between several veterans’ organizations to provide full military honors during burials at the national cemetery.
He has helped to raise money to provide more than 400 phone cards to veterans at the Brecksville VA Hospital, as well as to active duty soldiers at Fort Drum, N.Y.
He arranged for transportation, hotel reservations and admission tickets for local World War II veterans and their families to the dedication ceremonies of the World War II Memorial in Washington.
Kish assisted in organizing a fundraiser with the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 120 to provide a summer camp experience for the underprivileged children of Trumbull county. He also serves as vice president of an organization that provides transportation to medical appointments and shopping for senior citizens and helping to establish a community block watch in Newton Falls. He is past commander of AMVETS Post 112, American Legion Post 236 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3332.
Vrabel served in the U.S. Army during the Korean war.
He joined the Veterans of Foreign Wars in 1956, later becoming its post commander. He became a life member of the American Legion Mahoning Valley Post 15, where he served five years as post commander.
He served as its Mahoning county commander, dynamic ninth district commander, and during 2003-04, served as the American Legion Department of Ohio Commander.
Vrabel was a supporter of the American Legion’s Buckeye Boys State. He secured several local sponsorships, as well as providing his own personal donations to allow youth in his area to get first-hand experience in state government.
He was active in the Gifts for the Yanks program, where he raised funds to continue the mission of providing gifts for hospitalized veterans at Christmas. He helped to obtain a van to transport veterans from Youngstown to the Cleveland VA hospitals and clinics.
Vrabel also served as Post 15 Sons of the American Legion Advisor for 15 years and was a former Ninth District adviser. He spent countless hours as a Mahoning Valley Post 15’s Honor Guard and and Color Guard.
Vrabel was an active member of eight veterans organizations. He sponsored numerous bowling, golf and other teams as the owner of the Hillcrest Tavern, and he and his family sponsored youth softball teams in his hometown of Poland.
A total 15 Ohioans being inducted into the hall today.
Other honorees are Anna K. Beall of Montgomery County, Stephen J. Butcher of Licking County, Robert E. Deer of Clermont County, Harry A. Donovan of Summit County, Carlos M. Easterday of Noble County, David R. Hinds of Delaware County, John F. Kuffner, deceased, of Auglaize County, Harry A. Seifert Jr. of Montgomery County, Ronald J. Seman of Cuyahoga County, Sharon A. R. Stanley of Pickaway County and Carl W. Swisher of Franklin County.