JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — As a child, Harry Muncert often proudly wore the Navy Dixie Cup hat that belonged to his father, a World War I veteran.
“I was destined to be a sailor,” Muncert said fondly.
Muncert eventually joined the Navy, starting in 1943 as World War II raged. His longtime friend, Ed Wojnaroski, spent time in the military during the Vietnam War.
Although their time in the service is long gone, both remain strong supporters of the local veteran community.
On Monday, they were honored for their contributions at the Veteran Community Initiatives Salute to Veterans dinner at the University of Pittsburgh at the Living-Learning Center in Johnstown.
Muncert was recognized as Veteran of the Year by VCI.
His work has included involvement with VCI, the Sandyvale Memorial Gardens and Conservancy projects, the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Conemaugh Valley Veterans. He received the honor of the Chapel of the Four Chapelains.
“I love it and hope to continue for years to come,” said Muncert, who recently turned 98.
Wojnaroski, a former state representative, received the organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award. His contributions include founding Conemaugh Valley Veterans and leading efforts to bring back Johnstown’s Veterans Day Parade.
Wojnaroski recently resigned from VCI’s board of directors after 25 years, most of them as chairman.
“I had a wonderful time. … It’s time for me to leave VCI,” Wojnaroski said. “I think it’s a wonderful thing because I really appreciate all the wonderful people who are part of this organization. and what they mean not only to themselves, but to the public.”
Two former local congressmen — Mark Critz, a Democrat, and Keith Rothfus, a Republican — honored local veterans with keynote speeches.
“If we’re talking about our military, talking about our veterans, those are generally issues that no matter what part of the political spectrum you’re on, you want to make sure you support them,” Critz said. “It’s really a common denominator that Keith and I have.”
Rothfus expressed similar sentiments, saying, “Most of the time when you’re working on veterans’ issues, you’re bipartisan — even nonpartisan. Everyone recognizes the contributions of veterans, and there are great organizations, like VCI here in Johnstown, that are doing the work to fill in the gaps that need to be filled.
Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5056. Follow him on Twitter @Dave_Sutor.