WARREN - Though he is well known in the veteran community, Jan Sallaz said it was time Gary Gutelius received recognition from the general public. A Warren resident, Gutelius is a U.S. Army veteran of the Vietnam War, serving in the 101st Airborne Division. He was wounded in action during the Battle of Hamburger Hill, and remains influenced by his experiences and the friendships made overseas.
Sallaz, who's known Gutelius for more than 20 years, said his nominee has been a longtime star in his eyes because he continues serving in numerous ways.
"He's tireless in efforts to assist veterans and make the community aware of veterans," Sallaz, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, said.
Gutelius first got involved with the veteran community while he and Sallaz worked at Delphi Packard Electric. Gutelius was chairman of IUE Local 717's Veteran Committee, helping needy veterans during the holidays and - along with the Disabled American Veterans Trumbull County chapter 11, Order of the Purple Heart and Trumbull County Vietnam Vets Motorcycle Club - visiting the Ohio Veterans Homes in Sandusky.
He'd also assist and inform veteran employees at Packard of Trumbull County's Veterans Service Commission and its benefits.
"I'd tell them to go down to Veterans Service and see what they're entitled to. I still have people thanking me. They should get something out of being in the services and doing their duty. Some were hurt overseas, and I want to see them get everything," he said.
Today, Gutelius still puts veterans first. He's on the executive board of the DAV, the junior vice commissioner of the Purple Heart, the president of the Trumbull County Memorial Day Federation, and a member of the VFW Post 1090 in Warren.
While Gutelius received the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Air Medal and Vietnamese Campaign Medal, the veteran said he was honored for his recent appointment as commission member and representative of the DAV in Trumbull County's Veterans Service Commission.
"And now I'm a Community Star. It's been some year. It came as a big surprise I'm honored to even have (Jan) think of me for that," he said. "Most Community Star people don't think they deserve it; it's just what they like to do. I do it because I want to. It's nice to be able to honor our veterans."
Gutelius annually shows his support and dedication to servicemen and women by leading groups in placing flags for Memorial and Veterans days on the graves of veterans in the county.
Sallaz said Gutelius does everything from obtaining, sorting and displaying the flags to storing them.
"It takes a lot of volunteers he facilitates the recruitment and the assignment of people to the many tasks to get the job done," Sallaz wrote in his nomination letter. "Over the past year, Gary has arranged for and has had built a storage facility in Oakwood Cemetery. Sadly, it was burglarized shortly after being built."
This year, as a Veterans Service Commission member, Gutelius changed vendors and replaced worn flags and ordered new plastic for any cracked sticks. He even recycles the old flags so Boy Scouts can use them for flag burning ceremonies or to practice folding them.
"Nothing goes to waste," he said.
If that's not enough, Gutelius heads the Memorial Day parade and ceremony, lining up guest speakers and organizing groups and military units. He also helps the Tribune Chronicle with its Veterans Day festivities, arranging speakers and musical entertainment for the day's ceremony.
"Gary is endlessly involved in veteran activities in Warren and Trumbull County," Sallaz wrote. "I recall Memorial Day 2012, Gary had contacted numerous organizations to take part in the wonderful festivities honoring our veterans However, I later got a copy of the program, and his name was not even mentioned When I asked him why, he answered, "It's not important.'"
What's important to Gutelius is educating the community and integrating younger generations in with the many veterans organizations. With the help of Leighann Zigler, secretary of the Trumbull County Memorial Day Federation, the ROTC at the Trumbull Career and Technical Center has been involved in the flag placing at local cemeteries, attending honorary parades and visiting veterans homes.
"It's something I wanted to accomplish, trying to bring young people in," Gutelius said. "We're lucky to have these young men and women in the community. They're just as much as an asset."
Gutelius is still making plans for additions to the memorial in downtown Warren and other ways to continue providing services to veterans in Trumbull County. He said one day he hopes to make the veteran services in Trumbull the best of all 88 counties in the state of Ohio.
"Now after working with the Veteran Services Commission, I have a bigger view of what we have in Trumbull County," he said. "The veterans I've worked with and I know are the best people I have met."