The 40th President of the United States, Ronald Reagan, once said, “Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world. But, the Marines don’t have that problem.” This popular quote holds especially true for Marine and WWII veteran Samuel E. Lanza.
During the December dedication ceremony in Warren, Ohio, the new $1.5 million dollar Samuel E. Lanza Veterans Resource Center was officially named in his honor, a tribute to his dedication to fellow veterans.
Lanza joined the Marine Corps in 1944, a month after his 18th birthday, and was wounded by a satchel charge in Okinawa, Japan on April 22, 1945. After 17 months in and out of hospitals and separating from the service, Lanza became a life member of DAV in 1951 and dedicated his life to serving veterans.
“My dad has been so dedicated to advocating for veterans he missed my college graduation,” said his daughter, Elaine Lanza with a laugh.
Trumbull County Commissioner Mauro Cantalamessa described Lanza as a man who had dug deep in his own pocket and provided his own time to make sure veterans can make appointments, whether they are around the county or over an hour away at the Carl Stokes Veterans Clinic in Cleveland.
“He takes veterans to shop, gives them work clothes, gives them money for their families, makes sure they make medical appointments,” said Cantalamessa. “He has done that for years and years and years. He never draws attention to himself.”
“You’re my hero,” Cantalamessa added, addressing Lanza. “It is wonderful this building was named for you.”
Lanza was the Trumbull County Veteran Service Commissioner for 18 years until he retired in 2013, and could be seen during the ceremony wiping tears away while individual after individual expressed their appreciation for his help.
“I do not believe this could possibly happen to one person,” said Lanza. “I don’t know how to explain it. It is just too much. This is just fantastic.”
The resource center itself provides help to veterans who need to apply for benefits, offers financial assistance during times of need, provides flags for veterans’ graves on Memorial Day, as well as offers daily transportation to the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers in Cleveland.
“The Samuel E. Lanza Veterans Resource Center will continue to make veteran resources readily available for those who need them,” said DAV National Membership Director, Doug Wells. “I cannot think of a better way to honor Mr. Lanza, after fighting for veterans for over 60 years. He has a building with his name on it, and a building that will continue his mission for many, many more years.”
Lanza served many years as the adjutant at DAV Chapter 11 in Warren, Ohio and said he just tries to do what is right at the time.
“I can’t live up to the expectations of what people think,” Lanza said. “It’s so unbelievable to me. I do things that we all should be doing.”
Despite the hardships Lanza endured after being wounded during the Battle of Okinawa, his attitude has remained remarkably upbeat and positive.
“I’ve been blessed,” he said. “I realize everyday how many friends I have. I mean real friends. I am very happy. I have loved the Marine Corps my entire life. I got what I wanted and I am a happy fat camper.
After the single-story 7,300-square-foot-building was dedicated, Lanza jokingly explained why he was so taken back by the honor and the ceremony
“It made me feel 10-feet tall,” he said. “Who has ever heard of a building being named after a corporal?”