Ohio Department of Veterans Services



James Albright
James F. Albright
Pickaway County
United States Army Veteran
Vietnam War
James F. Albright, 69, of Commercial Point, Pickaway County is a veteran of the U.S. Army who served in the Vietnam War. He has since actively served his community. Jim wrote a number of stories about World War II veterans that he contributed to the Circleville Herald and other local papers. He then published these stories in a book that he distributed to 400 veterans, families, and libraries. He organized a family readiness group for a deployed local Ohio National Guard unit, which earned him the Patrick Henry Award from the National Guard Association in 2010, the highest honor a civilian can receive. Among other groups, Jim is Treasurer of the Commercial Point Men’s Foundation, which supports local sports, scouts, schools, churches, and 4-H. He serves on the board of the Commercial Point Racing Committee, which manages an annual go-kart race. He also speaks frequently about his wartime experiences to many different audiences. Jim was inducted into the Teays Valley High School Wall of Fame in 2012.
John Bankowitz
John F. Bankowitz
Miami County
United States Marine Corps and United States Air Force Veteran
Vietnam War/Operation Desert Shield/Operation Enduring Freedom
John Bankowitz
John F. Bankowitz, 60, of Tipp City, Miami County served in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam War and deployed in the Air Force Reserves to Operations Desert Storm and Enduring Freedom. John is a life member of the Marine Corps League and the Veterans of Foreign Wars where he has held many positions. He is an Air Force Junior ROTC Instructor and Commanding Officer of the Miami Valley Young Marines. John has logged over 7,100 hours of community service. Among other endeavours, he has participated in monthly bingo at the Dayton VA Medical Center, Toys for Tots, flag ceremonies at schools, and community ceremonies honoring veterans. He organizes a color guard to greet Honor Flight Dayton-area veterans returning each month from Washington DC. He also served as a a Scout Leader. John’s many civic awards include the Marine Corps League Marine of the Year for the Dayton Detachment 271, the Presidents Volunteer Service Award, and the Angel Award for Outstanding Volunteerism at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
Michael Bennett
Michael J. Bennett
Shelby County
United States Army Veteran
Operation Desert Storm/Operation Iraqi Freedom
Michael J. Bennett, 65, of Anna, Shelby County is a retired Colonel, U.S. Army Reserves, who was on active duty during the Desert Storm era, and deployed to Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom and to Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. He chairs the Shelby County Vets to DC, which provides free trips by ground transport for veterans to visit their memorials in the capital. Mike expanded eligibility for the program from World War II veterans to Korea, Vietnam, and Vietnam-era veterans as well as those from surrounding counties. Under his leadership, the group established a sponsorship program, raised over $270,000, and dedicated more than 19,000 volunteer hours, enabling more than 330 veterans to make the trip. He serves as Post Commander of VFW Post 4239 in Sidney, where he initiated a series of day trips for members and established the post’s first-ever web site. Other civic work includes serving as training officer for the Shelby County Amateur Radio Emergency Services, which augments the county EMA as emergency communicators.
James Bowes
James P. Bowes
Fairfield County
United States Army Veteran
Vietnam War
James P. Bowes, 65 of Lancaster, served in the Vietnam War in the U.S. Army. Today he serves veterans and the greater community. Jim has chaired the American Legion’s Buckeye Boys State program in Fairfield County since 2006. He is the current Finance Officer, a Past Commander, and has held several other positions at American Legion Post 11 in Lancaster. He established a scholarship program in 2000 for children of veterans that helped over 80 local students attend college. Each month, Jim provides breakfast for residents of the Art Keiffer House, a local shelter for homeless veterans, and also helps find them work. He serves on the Charity Newsies board as their Chief Investigator and oversees providing clothes for over 900 children annually. He is a board member and current president of Information and Referral 211, which helps residents find aid from county and local agencies. Jim is also a life member of many veterans’ and civic organizations, and is a past volunteer at the Lancaster Music Festival.
David Cooper
David R. Cooper
Franklin County
United States Air Force Veteran
Vietnam War
David R. Cooper, 69, of Westerville, Franklin County served in the Vietnam War in the U.S. Air Force. He is a local business owner and civic and veteran advocate. Dave bought a struggling Columbus print shop, the Ink Well, in 1998 and built it up to be recognized in 2007 as Northland Business of the Year. He is serving his second term as President of the Northland Area Business Association, where he successfully obtained grants for area beautification. In 1985 Dave was a founding member of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7883 in Westerville, and served in several leadership positions. He worked with local schools to identify students eligible for a President’s National Service Challenge scholarship for 100 annual hours of volunteer service. His VFW post has twice been selected as a National Community Service Post and All-American Post, and Dave was named an All-American Post Commander. The YMCA of Central Ohio honored him in 2007 with the Silver Club Award for his many community achievements.
Louis DeLoss
Louis J. DeLoss
Medina County
United States Air Force Veteran
Vietnam War
Louis DeLoss
Louis J. DeLoss, 70, of Medina, Medina County is a Vietnam War veteran who served in the U.S. Air Force. He has served veterans and his greater community in the years since. Lou volunteers for “We Honor Veterans,” a national program carried out locally by Hospice of Medina County, which provides a ceremony, certificate of thanks for service, and a recognition pin to veterans in hospice care. To date, he has pinned over 250 veterans. Lou volunteers weekly at the hospice as a companion to sit and listen to the stories of their service, often told for the first time to anyone. He also is an active recruiter of other veteran volunteers for this program. As a board member for the Medina County Drug Abuse Commission, Lou is valued for his input in making the best use of the commission’s resources among its various agencies. Lou also serves on the Citizen’s Advisory Board of the Medina County Juvenile Detention Center, and provides detailed feedback to its leadership to help the facility effectively fulfill its mission.
Richard Gandarillas
Richard Gandarillas
Franklin County
United States Navy Veteran
Richard Gandarillas, 58, of Gahanna, Franklin County is a veteran of the U.S. Navy who is active in many civic causes. He has volunteered 28 years with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Ohio, earning him National Big Brother of the Year in 2003 and a Jefferson Award this year from his employer, Nationwide Insurance. He is a tenured Board member of the Central Ohio agency and has been a national Big Brothers Big Sisters advisor. He led their efforts to hire more Hispanic employees and implemented a Latino emphasis at their camp, Camp Oty Okwa. He helped organize local awareness of the petition to honor the all-Puerto Rican 65th Infantry Regiment, the Borinqueneers, with a Congressional Gold Medal, awarded this year. Rich was twice president of the Kiwanis Club of Gahanna and served as Lt. Governor of the 10S Kiwanis Division. He is involved in many service and fund raising projects, to include Honor Flight and a war memorial at Gahanna Lincoln High School. Rich has been on or helped fund several mission trips as a member and president of the St. Luke Lutheran church council.
Ruby Gilliam
Ruby C. Gilliam
Carroll County
United States Navy Veteran
World War II
Ruby Gilliam
Ruby C. Gilliam, 91, of Minerva, Carroll County taught school in Kentucky for four years and joined the WAVES during World War II, after learning her husband had been killed in action in Belgium. She has since lived a life of service to the greater community. She was a leader with Girl Scouts and a Den Mother for Boy Scouts. Ruby was also a member of the Parent Teacher Organization until her children graduated. She is a member of WAVES, where she was President and Vice President of North Coast Unit 21 and regional representative to the national organization. Ruby has been a member of American Legion Post 357 for 30 years and VFW Post 4120 for 20 years. She was a member of a funeral honor guard until 2013, and continues to serve at indoor funerals. Community activities include serving as mentor to mentally disabled people at St. John’s Villa, where she arranged luncheons with elected officials to promote opportunities for residents. Ruby also served as Director of the Carroll County Board of Elections for several years and was a poll worker for decades.
Lewis Gottfried
Lewis J. Gottfried
Wyandot County
United States Navy Veteran
World War II
Lewis J. “Lew” Gottfried, 92, of Upper Sandusky, Wyandot County is a World War II veteran of the U.S. Navy. He has since lived a life of service at home and abroad. Lew took over the family farm and built a successful dairy farm that raised and trained the All-American Aged Cow. He organized the International Foreign Youth Exchange Program with 22 families from the Netherlands and Denmark. At age 50, he and his wife Fran entered the Peace Corps and served in the Dominican Republic. Lew was an agricultural advisor who was instrumental in starting the Fonda Quisqueya, aid program. Returning home, Lew was elected county treasurer. He held the post for 10 years and sent out the first county electronic tax bills. He also served on the Salem Township school board for 12 years. Among other activities, he belongs to the American Legion and VFW, and served on the Honor Guard for veterans’ funerals, presenting the flag to families. Lew has also written a book about Wyandot County combat veterans which has been placed in the Library of Congress.
Mary Gruber
Mary L. Gruber
Cuyahoga County
United States Marine Corps Veteran
World War II
Mary Gruber
Mary Louise Gruber, 91, of Bay Village, Cuyahoga County is a veteran of service in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II. Throughout her life she has been an active volunteer for veterans and civic causes. Initially she facilitated programs and revenues for arts and crafts groups and bound books as a school volunteer. Among other efforts, she raises funds for the Cleveland VA Hospital and for college scholarships through a local club. Mary has held numerous officer positions in her local Marine Corps League, including Commandant, as well as several state and local positions in the league’s subsidiary organization the Devil Dogs. She was an organizer of the first Women Marines Association chapter in Cleveland, has held every chapter office and remains active. Mary has volunteered at the Cleveland VA hospital for 32 years and with Toys for Tots for 42 years. Her work has earned Mary numerous awards, including the Marine Corps League Distinguished Service Award and the Legion of Honor Award presented by the Chapel of the Four Chaplains.
Herbert Heilbrun
Herbert M. Heilbrun
Hamilton County
United States Army Air Force Veteran
World War II
Herbert M. Heilbrun, 94, of Cincinnati, Hamilton County is a World War II veteran of the U.S. Army Air Force. Today he is an advocate for racial diversity. Herb grew up in the same neighborhood with John Leahr, an African-American, but segregation kept them from knowing each other. In the war, Herb flew a B-17 bomber and John a P-51 fighter, but segregation again kept them apart. In 1997, Herb attended a Cincinnati reunion of Tuskegee Airmen, who had flown cover for his squadron, finally met John and discovered their common backgrounds. The two became friends, and they spent 15 years presenting talks to large and small audiences on the need for diversity. Herb continues the talks today. Their story has been featured on “60 Minutes,” several documentaries, and in a book. Herb has received the Harvard Foundation Medal among other recognition. He also serves on the board of Chalies ¾ House for recovering alcoholics. Herb is now presenting talks to the Hamilton County Veterans’ Court.
Elaine Herrick
Elaine Tisdel Herrick
Montgomery County
United States Air Force Veteran
Vietnam War Era
Elaine Herrick
Elaine M. Tisdel Herrick, 65, of Clayton, Montgomery County is a Vietnam era veteran of the U.S. Air Force and an advocate for veterans on many levels. Elaine’s achievements include a leadership role in her county in establishing a Veterans Court to provide rehabilitation and peer mentoring in lieu of incarceration for veterans involved in the justice system because of substance abuse, mental health issues or trauma. Learning of 60 interments at the Dayton National Cemetery where no friends or family were present, Elaine created the Final Salute Society. She partnered with local veteran and family groups to provide representation, a prayer and firing party at burials so that no veteran is ever buried alone. Elaine led a local campaign in 2012 to make military service members aware of their right to vote that led to over 30,000 absentee ballot forms being sent overseas. She is also the Dayton area coordinator for the Missing In America Project, where she helps locate, identify, and inter the unclaimed cremated remains of our American veterans.
Brian Jarvis
Brian V. Jarvis
Greene County
United States Air Force Veteran
Brian V. Jarvis, 59, of Beavercreek, Greene County is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force. He currently serves as the Mayor of Beavercreek and has been an advocate for the military and his community in many other positions. Brian was first appointed to Beavercreek City Council in 2009, was elected to two full terms, and is serving the first two years of his current term as Mayor. He prioritizes cooperation with Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and supports activities on the installation. Brian has served on a number of regional boards, including the Miami Valley Regional Planning Committee and the Greene County Family and Children First Council, and sits on the Greene County Law Library Resources Board. His many memberships include the Beavercreek Chamber of Commerce, the Beavercreek Rotary Club, Greene County Optimist Club, Air Force Association, and VFW Post 8312, and is an active participant in local ceremonies honoring veterans. Brian is also active in the Miami Valley Military Affairs Association, which educates the public about the critical role played by the U.S. military.
Robert Kincses
Robert A. Kincses
Montgomery County
United States Marine Corps Veteran
Vietnam War Era
Robert Kincses
Robert A. Kincses, 67, of Centerville, Montgomery County is a Vietnam era veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. He has since been an active volunteer on behalf of veterans and his community. He performed volunteer work at the Dayton VA Medical Center and became involved with the American Veterans Heritage Center (AVHC), which preserves the history of the VA medical campus. Robert initiated and raised funds for the Patriot Freedom Festival the weekend before Memorial Day, a key event for AVHC that draws over 6,000 each year. He worked with music and recreational therapy staff at the VA to bring concerts by local and regional artists to the campus. He partnered with the Ohio State Extension Service to restore the medical center’s Grotto and Gardens, along with establishing and raising funds for a Memorial Tree Program where each tree planted is dedicated in a veteran’s name. Robert has also given his time to civic activities including the Other Place homeless shelter, Habitat for Humanity, and environmental causes.
James Leach
James J. Leach (deceased)
Pickaway County
United States Navy Veteran
World War II
James J. Leach served in the U.S. Navy in World War II and lived in Summit County for many years before retiring and moving to Orient, in Pickaway County. He became a successful car dealership owner in Akron and hired the best talent (often women and minorities) in sales and in service. Jim served other Navy veterans in the Ohio LST/AMPHIBS Association, as a board member, vice president and chapter president for four years. He doubled the association’s membership to nearly 1,100, making Ohio the largest state chapter. Jim also raised funds to place an LST Memorial at three locations: the riverbank at Marietta, the Ohio Veterans Home in Sandusky, and the Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery at Rittman. He also spoke to students at Westland High School, Galloway, Ohio about growing up during the Depression and serving in WWII. As a Kiwanis member, Jim volunteered at the annual Soap Box Derby. Working with his Methodist church in Stow, Jim anonymously donated cars to working single moms in need. Jim continued his charitable work after retiring.
Ruben Lemons
Ruben J. Lemons
Medina County
United States Air Force Veteran
Vietnam War Era
Rube nLemons
Ruben J. “Jerry” Lemons, 77, of Brunswick, Medina County is a Vietnam era veteran of the U.S. Air Force. Today he serves other veterans and his church community. Jerry is currently Chaplain of American Legion Post 234 in Brunswick, where he is also a Past Commander and held every elected office in the post. He is active as well in VFW Post 9520, VFW District 7, and the Medina County Military Veterans Coalition. Jerry has given many hours to the Legion’s Gifts for Yanks and the VFW’s Buddy Poppy programs. He is a member of the joint Legion/VFW funeral honor guard. Jerry is also a long-time volunteer at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center and with Honor Flight. As an active member of St. Ambrose Church, he regularly serves communion to the homebound and nursing home residents. Jerry is also active in Knights of Columbus, in which he had held a number of offices and is a past Grand Knight. In addition to other activities, Jerry teaches a class on flag etiquette in local schools.
Charles Lococo
Charles A. Lococo
Erie County
United States Navy Veteran
Charles A. Lococo, 79, of Sandusky, Erie County is a veteran of the U.S. Navy. He has since served his hometown in business and as a volunteer in youth and veteran activities. Chuck worked in his family’s business and was also a local business owner. He coached 8th grade football and established the St. Mary’s Catholic Youth Organization for 5th- and 6th-graders. Chuck served as Trustee of the AMVETS Baseball Little League. He was a member of the Sandusky Parks and Recreation Board. He has served several organizations in many different positions. Chuck is the St. Mary’s Central Catholic Junior High Athletic Director, a non-paid position and has volunteered at St. Mary’s Central Catholic school system for 55 years. The City of Sandusky proclaimed April 13, 2009 as “Chuck Lococo Day” in his honor. That year he received the Mac Morrison Award from the Ohio High School Athletic Association Northwest District. Among his other awards, in 2012, the St. Mary’s football complex was named “Charles A. Lococo Athletic Fieldhouse” for his years of service.
Howard Osterkamp
Howard W. Osterkamp
Hamilton County
United States Army Veteran
Korean War
Howard Osterkamp
Howard W. Osterkamp, 85, of Cincinnati, Hamilton County served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He has since been a veterans’ advocate, community volunteer, and speaker at many veteran-themed events. Howard served as Chapter Commander of Chapter 3620, Military Order of the Purple Heart, from 2003 to 2005, and was largely responsible for a growth in membership from 26 in 2003 to 103 in 2005. His chapter has been presented the Order’s National Americanism award, given for achievement in helping veterans, more than any other chapter in the U.S. He also held every statewide office in the organization. Howard has coached youth sports and served as President of Our Lady of Victory Athletic Association. Today he collects clothing for homeless veterans, volunteers at the Cincinnati VA hospital and continues a long-held tradition of being a speaker at school and community programs that honor veterans. Howard balances these activities with serving as the primary caregiver for his wife Mary Ann.
Jose Rodriguez
Jose R. Rodriguez
Greene County
United States Air Force Veteran
Gulf War/Operation Enduring Freedom Era
Jose “Rafi” Rodriguez, 59, of Beavercreek, Greene County is a retired Colonel, U.S. Air Force who serves the greater Dayton community. A small business owner, Senior Consultant for the Center for Hispanic Leadership, and Past-President of the Ohio Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, he is an advocate with state and local leaders for the economic and workforce development of Hispanic businesses. As President of the Dayton Hispanic Chamber, he instituted a scholarship program for Hispanic students with matching funds through the League of United American Citizens. As current President of the Dayton Chapter of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, Rafi established a mentoring program for college students interested in financial services, and routinely provides financial literacy lectures for veterans statewide. His many activities include serving on the boards of United Way of Greater Dayton and Antioch University Midwest. As a founding member of the Kiwanis Club of Beavercreek, he is involved in the “Feed the Creek” food bank project which provides meals to 300 Beavercreek school district children.
DeFord Schwall
DeFord R. Schwall
Fulton County
United States Army Veteran
World War II
DeFord Schwall
DeFord R. Schwall, 93, of Wauseon, Fulton County is a U.S. Army veteran of World War II who has served his community in many ways. He was elected to Wauseon City Council and served on the Wauseon Homecoming Committee, was past president Wauseon Chamber of Commerce, Master of Wauseon Masonic Lodge, and past president of Fulton County Inter-Church Laymen’s Association. A 60-year member of American Legion Post 265, he was Americanism Chairman for 30 years during which time he planned all Memorial Day programs and implemented Americanism high school government tests. DeFord created a Celebrate America event to honor the U.S. flag and military, which included a parachute jump with the flag as well as displays, music, and fireworks. He also established a committee that videotaped the military history of local WWII veterans, with copies given to the public and school libraries and museum. DeFord is Past Commander of Post 265, and also a member of the VFW and DAV. His community honored him as Wauseon Citizen of the Year in 1993.
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