ERIE – Seven decorated Pennsylvania veterans were inducted into the Pennsylvania Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home Hall of Fame today during a ceremony at the home in Erie.
“It is an honor to recognize a group of veterans whose collective accomplishments are staggering in both their diversity and longevity,” said Nancy Stevenson, commandant of the home. “Collectively, they fought abroad in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. When their service was done, they distinguished themselves further as several of the inductees advocated on behalf of veterans. We are proud to induct them into our Hall of Fame.”
The inductees are Daniel D. Barry, Raymond J. Chambers, Andrew A. Kistler, Leonard J. Pallis, the late James C. Richardson, former Pennsylvania Governor Thomas J. Ridge and Elmer C. Smith Jr.
Barry, of Pittsburgh, was an Army sergeant who served in Vietnam from 1969 to 1971 with the 101st Airborne Division, Company D, 2nd Battalion of the 506th Infantry. He was wounded in action when a land mine tripped, resulting in partial amputations of both legs and blindness in one eye. Among Barry’s many accomplishments after his return to civilian life was being named the Disabled American Veterans’ “Amputee of the Year” in 1987-88. He was also the top recruiter for the Disabled American Vets, Department of Pennsylvania, from 1990-2000.
Chambers, Erie, served as a sergeant in the Marine Corps from 1970 to 1978. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Award Bronze, the Distinguished Service Award Silver and the Distinguished Service Award/Meritorious Individual Commendation. He is a life member of the Lake Erie Detachment of the Marine Corps League, where he has served in a multitude of elected and appointed positions, including commandant of the Pennsylvania Department. He has been honored as the “Lake Erie Marine Detachment Marine of the Year.”
Kistler, of Franklin, was an Army sergeant during the Korean War. While assigned to the 45th Division Signal Company during the frigid Korean winter of 1952, Kistler was severely wounded by a land mine, resulting in the amputation of both legs below the knee. In 1977, he joined the Disabled American Veterans and helped to found the Franklin, Pa., chapter in Venango County. He continued to be active in many veterans’ organizations and was elected national commander of the million-member Disabled American Veterans in 1998. He was named Pennsylvania’s Disabled Veteran of the Year for 1993-94.
Pallis, a native of Wilkes-Barre, served as a Navy officer in World War II from 1943 to 1945. Following his naval service, he began a lengthy career serving veterans’ organizations, working for 20 years at the Veterans Administration Building in Wilkes-Barre and for eight years as director of veteran’s affairs for Wyoming County, retiring at the age of 83. He also served as president for eight years and vice president for three years on the Pennsylvania Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home Advisory Board.
Richardson, a native of Monongahela, began his 37-year military career with his enlistment in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard in 1928. During World War II, he was commanding officer of five prisoner-of-war compounds in New Mexico and Texas. In 1950, he was recalled to active duty in the Korean War as a member of the 5th Regimental Combat Team. From 1951 to 1958, he served with the 11th Infantry Training Regiment, 5th Infantry Division, Fort Indiantown Gap. Richardson retired in 1965 after serving as the missile maintenance supervisor at Fort Clayton, Canal Zone.
Ridge, governor of Pennsylvania from 1995 to 2001, was a staff sergeant with Company B, 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry, 11th Infantry Brigade, and was deployed to Vietnam from 1969 to 1970. In 1982, he became the first enlisted Vietnam combat veteran elected to the U.S. Congress. He was later elected governor of Pennsylvania and is credited with numerous initiatives that benefited veterans. In fall 2001, he accepted an appointment from President Bush to be the first director of the Office of Homeland Security. He became a cabinet member in 2003 when his title was upgraded to Secretary of Homeland Security. He resigned his post in 2005.
Smith Jr., Erie, joined the U.S. Navy in February 1966 and served in Vietnam until 1968. He completed counterinsurgency warfare training and weapons training at Camp Pendleton, Bridgeport, Calif. He is a recipient of the Vietnam Service Medal, the Vietnam Campaign Medal, the National Defense Medal, the Naval Unit Commendation, the Purple Heart and the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry. He was awarded the Vietnam Veterans Outreach Award by the Disabled American Veterans and was has been honored as the Disabled Veteran of the Year by the Mercer County chapter of the Disabled American Veterans.
Each of the state’s six veterans’ homes, operated by the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, has a Hall of Fame to recognize and honor the military achievements of outstanding veterans who have completed honorable, active-duty military service and who reside or have resided in the region served by the veterans’ home.
The Pa. Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home, set on a 26-acre campus, currently has 175 beds for nursing and domiciliary care. It opened in February 1886 and is located at 560 E. Third St., Erie.
For more information, visit the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs Web site at www.dmva.state.pa.us.