By John Montgomery
BETTSVILLE - Larry Lanning of Bettsville was named the 2008 Seneca County Veteran of the Year in ceremony Sunday at the Bettsville American Legion.
It's an honor Lanning said he never expected.
"I was lost for words. Tom Evans from the Seneca County Veterans Service Commission called me and I actually lost words. I couldn't believe it," he said.
"I could hardly believe it. I'm still really honored by it," he said. "It's just something I never thought would happen."
The 1964 Bettsville High graduate served in the United States Air Force from May 1966 until May 1970.
Lanning was a part-time student at Findlay College when he enlisted. Since he wasn't a full-time student, he was eligible to be drafted, but a friend told him about another option.
"At that time I had a friend I went to school with, and he was in Air Force and he talked me into enlisting in the Air Force instead of getting drafted into the Army," he said.
Lanning went through basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, and base supply school in Amarillo, Texas.
After a short stint at Pope Air Force Base in Fayetteville, N.C, Lanning was transferred in September 1966 to Pleiku Air Base in the central highlands of Vietnam.
He stayed in Vietnam until he was discharged as an E-4 (sergeant).
When he returned home, Lanning took a few courses at Owens Technical College and then worked for the Sandusky Fire Department for four years.
He left that in 1974 to become a delivery truck driver. Employers changed over the years, but not the career, and Lanning has spent the last 11 years driving for Glass City Food Service in Holland, Ohio.
Lanning has three children - Donald, Meranda and Darl. Darl followed his father into the Air Force in 2000 and is stationed in Albuquerque, N.M.
Lanning has belonged to Legion in Bettsville since 1974. He is also a member of the AMVETS in Fostoria and a life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Fremont.
"He's been very active in funeral details," said Pat Warren, Seneca County Veterans Service Commission benefits counselor. "He's very active over there in the American Legion Post."
Lanning is the 12th veteran to earn the honor.
The first was awarded in 1997 to Clifford Cockie. Robert Booth (1998), Robert Miller (1999), Michael Marley (2000), Ralph Koerper (2001), Fredrick Carter (2002), Frank Kraske (2003), James Kuhn (2004), Vincent Nye (2005), Joseph Steininger (2006), James Paul Martin (2007) and Lanning (2008) followed.
Each has been a worthy recipient, said Seneca County Veterans Service Commission Board President David Young.
"They aren't doing any of this for any recognition, they're just the workers.
They're the ones who show up for the dinners and really support their posts, and they're individuals that really become involved in veterans' activities," he said. "They're advocates and many contribute in their communities."
Lanning received a plaque from the Seneca County Veterans Service Commission, a resolution from the Seneca County Commissioners, a certificate of appreciation from the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 440 and a commemorative jacket from the Bettsville American Legion.
He and the past recipients were also presented with medallions by the Seneca County Veterans Service Commission.