The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

June 21, 2010

Memorial originator, 4 others to be honored

JOHNSTOWN — Four men and a woman will be honored when Veteran Community Initiatives holds a Chapel of Four Chaplains Awards Ceremony later this year.

The honorees are Jan C. Scruggs, Ed Cernic Sr., Rory A. Cooper, Joseph Latch and Jean Solarczyk.

Each will receive Legion of Honor awards from the Chapel of Four

Chaplains, headquartered in Philadelphia.

The honor is given for community service above the norm that exemplifies the selfless actions of four Army chaplains who gave their life jackets to others when the troopship Dorchester was torpedoed and sank off the coast of Greenland on Feb. 3, 1943.

Of the 902 men aboard, 672 died, including the four chaplains.

Scruggs, of Washington, D.C., also will receive The Bronze Medallion, which is given by the chapel in recognition of selfless service on the part of a person contributing to the well-being of others at the national or world level along with a spirit of interfaith cooperation.

It was Scruggs’ idea to build the Vietnam Veterans Memorial – or simply The Wall – which is the most visited memorial in Washington today.

The awards ceremony will be held Oct. 11 at the Mirage Banquet Room, 800 Scalp Ave., Richland Township.

There will be a social hour at 5 p.m. followed by presentation of the awards at 6. A reception will follow.

Honorary chairwoman of the ceremony is Joyce Murtha, widow of the late congressman John Murtha. Both are previous Legion of Honor recipients.

Veteran Community Initiatives has offices at Hiram G. Andrews Center, 727 Goucher St., Upper Yoder Township.

Jan C. Scruggs

Scruggs is a wounded and decorated Army veteran of the Vietnam War.

He is the founder and president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.

The fund is the nonprofit organization set up to build and maintain the memorial, which contains the names of the more than 58,000 U.S. troops killed in the Vietnam War.

Funding of the memorial started with $2,800 of Scruggs’ own money.

His effort raised $8.4 million. The memorial was dedicated Nov. 13, 1982, during a week-long national salute to Vietnam veterans in the nation’s capital.

Ed Cernic Sr.

Cernic, of West Taylor Township, was named for being an effective business, political and community leader.

He is active with many civic, veterans and fraternal organizations.

During the 1977 Johnstown flood, he was one of the most recognized individuals in recovery efforts.

An Army veteran and also a veteran of the Navy Reserve, he is a member of the state Transportation Commission.

Rory A. Cooper

Cooper is director of the Paralyzed Veterans of America Research Foundation. He is an Army veteran with a spinal cord injury.

He is recognized as an expert in the fields of rehabilitation and bioengineering. As a Veterans Administration senior research career scientist and a distinguished professor of rehabilitation science and technology, Cooper is recognized for significant contributions to the well-being of many disabled and wheelchair-bound veterans in western Pennsylvania and the nation.

He resides in Gibsonia, Allegheny County.

Joseph Latch

Latch is a World War II veteran who participated in the D-Day Invasion on Omaha Beach as well as campaigns in northern France, the Rhineland and central Europe. He earned the Korean Service Medal.

He began his military career as a private in the Army in January 1943 and rose to the rank of sergeant in December 1945.

He was promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1973 in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard and served as commander of the 1st Battalion 103rd Armor until 1979.

He was promoted to colonel in the Retired Reserve in 1979.

Latch served as director of the state Department of Revenue’s Johnstown office from 1979 to 1987. He was Johnstown’s public works director from 1988 to 1992. He is a member of numerous veterans organizations and resides in Johnstown.

Jean Solarczyk

Solarczyk, a Lilly resident, is a volunteer for many local veterans organizations, civic groups and nonprofit agencies.

She is respected for her ability to get the job done in a professional and effective manner and is knowledgeable about community initiatives and events. Her interest in many areas, along with her marketing and public relations skills, led her to the forefront of many volunteer efforts.

She has been with Wessel & Co., 215 Main St., Johnstown, for

23 years as an administrative assistant, supervisor of the administrative staff and, for the past 10 years, as marketing director.

Community service salute

What: The Chapel of Four Chaplains Awards Ceremony.

When: 6 p.m. Oct. 11; social hour begins at 5.

Where: Mirage Banquet Room, 800 Scalp Ave.

Honorees: Jan Scruggs, Ed Cernic Sr., Rory Cooper, Joseph Latch and Jean Solarczyk.

Information: Veteran Community Initiatives Inc., 255-7209.

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