Westside veterans recognized

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By Amanda Ensinger
Staff Writer

Photo courtesy of Richard Hoffman
The 2019 awardees from the Hilltop Historical Society and the Don Gentile Post 532 of the American Legion were honored on Nov. 10 at the American Legion Post. Pictured (left to right) are Dave Dobos, the president of the Hilltop Historical Society, the Hilltop Historical Society awardee PFC Stanton Prior who served in Korea in the Signal Corps, the American Legion awardee Seaman First Class Joe Lavinger, who served on the mine sweeper USS Steady in the Normandy Invasion, the Mediterranean Sea and in the Pacific Theater, and last is Bernie Brogan the Post Commander of Don Gentile Post 532 of the American Legion.

A westside organization that serves local veterans recently partnered with a local historical society to honor individuals who have sacrificed for our country. On Nov. 10, the American Legion Post 532 and the Hilltop Historical Society partnered to recognize two veterans for their service to the country.

World War II Veteran Joe Lavinger and Korean War Veteran Stanton Prior were given the annual award.

“For the past five years we have been giving this award out to veterans that went above and beyond in the line of duty, as well as served veterans and community after their service,” said American Legion Post 532 Commander Bernie Brogan. “We have partnered with the Hilltop Historical Society for this award every year and have been pleased to be able to honor these two veterans this year.”

Each year the American Legion Post 532 picks a person to honor and the Hilltop Historical Society picks someone to honor. This year, the American Legion Post 532 chose Seaman First Class Joe Lavinger and the Hilltop Historical Society chose PFC Santon Prior.

“Joe is 96 years old and we wanted to make sure we recognized him before it was too late,” Brogan said. “Joe has been a member of our post for 43 years and has went above and beyond for our members. He deserves this honor.”

In World War II Lavinger served as a seaman first class on the mine sweeper USS Steady in the Normandy invasion. He also served in the Mediterranean Sea and in the Pacific Theater.

“Joe entered the war in the later part of it, but served in multiple conflicts,” Brogan said. “He had the nerve-wracking job of working on mine sweepers in both the Atlantic and Pacific and called it an honor to have been there.”

A minesweeper is a small naval warship designed to engage in minesweeping. Minesweeping is the practice of removing explosive naval mines. Minesweepers either captured or detonated mines and sometimes the actual ship detonated the mine. The purpose of finding the mines and removing the threat was so waterways were kept clear for safe shipping.

“It was very terrifying at times, you never knew what was going to happen when you were going over those mines and you hoped they were deep enough so we wouldn’t hit them,” said Lavinger in a written statement. “We came close to several of them, but we lucked out.”

Brogan said being able to hear about Lavinger’s experience has been eye opening and he is grateful for the time he has gotten to spend with him.

“When I started at this post 13 years ago, we had 26 or 27 World War II veterans,” Brogan said. “Now, we have three or four. World War II veterans are quickly disappearing, so it is special to be able to speak with them and hear their stories.”

The American Legion Post 532 plans to continue to honor veterans from all conflicts and looks forward to continuing to tell these unique stories of heroism for many years to come.

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