Public Notice: City of Long Beach Now Accepting Nominations for Veterans Banner Program (3.8.24)

The City of Long Beach is accepting nominations for the first-ever “Long Beach Honors” Veterans Banners Program. As part of the City’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget, $10,000 was allocated for a pilot Veterans Banners Program to be administrated by the City of Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Veterans Support and the Long Beach Veterans Commission. This funding will support the installation of up to 25 banners to be displayed in the City of Long Beach for one year, beginning in May 2024.

Veteran honorees will be selected by a subcommittee comprising members of the Long Beach Veterans Commission in April and the banners will be installed in time for Memorial Day, which falls on May 27, 2024.

Meet Our 2024 Honored Veterans

  • Val Lerch


    Val Lerch was a dedicated public servant in the US Coast Guard from 1969-2012. He made Long Beach his home throughout his 30 years serving in the Coast Guard Reserves, marrying and raising two children in North Long Beach. Mr. Lerch’s commitment to the Long Beach community extended beyond his official duties and included serving on City Council, being elected Vice Mayor, championing veteran-focused initiatives, and participating in various community organizations until his passing in 2021.

  • John Oppenheim


    A Long Beach resident since 1985, John Oppenheim began his journey in San Francisco, serving as a medic in the Air Force from 1958-1962. Following his military service and career in the business software industry, he established the non-profit Long Beach Area Veterans Collaborative. Mr. Oppenheim continues to serve veterans in the Long Beach community through the mission of the Long Beach Area Veterans Collaborative: connecting the necessary and essential services to veterans and their families efficiently and effectively with the least amount of hassle through a collaboration of a network of resources. 
  • Smoky Northcutt


    Born at the USN Hospital in Long Beach (now The Long Beach VA Hospital), Smoky Northcutt’s deep roots in the community shaped his lifelong dedication to service. Mr. Northcut was inspired by his father's Pearl Harbor service, and he enlisted in the Navy – serving in Vietnam aboard the USS Everett Larson DD 830. His commitment to veterans continued post-service as he joined Rock For Vets, using music to uplift and heal fellow veterans throughout the community. 

  • Walter McHugh


    Walter McHugh was born in Mississippi and originally moved to Long Beach with his family after the 1933 earthquake. After Mr. McHugh’s family moved back to Mississippi he enlisted in the Air Force in 1943, at the height of World War II, serving the nation until his honorable discharge. Mr. McHugh then went on to earn his college degree through the GI bill. In 1949, he was hired at North American Air Co. in Los Angeles and moved back to the West Coast, where he married his wife in 1952 (spending their honeymoon at Long Beach’s own Villa Riviera), raised his family, and has become a grandfather and great-grandfather. 

  • James Silva


    Born and raised in North Long Beach, James Silva enlisted in the Marine Corps at 19, serving over 21 years with nine combat tours across Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq from 1992-2013. Retiring as a Gunnery Sergeant, he upholds Marine Corps standards and gives back by training service dogs for veterans with PTSD, assisting approximately 160 individuals over four years. His dedication, compassion, and commitment to service exemplify the core value of Semper Fi, leaving a lasting impact on his community and fellow veterans. 

  • Joseluis G. Flores


    Joseluis G. Flores served in the United States Navy from 2010 to 2014, undertaking two deployments aboard the USS San Jacinto CG56 in various roles including Deck Supervisor and Training Petty Officer. During his service, he earned several awards and medals, including the National Service Medal and Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal. Mr. Flores is a Long Beach native, attended school in the Long Beach Unified School District, and began his civilian career working at the VA Long Beach Healthcare System in 2020. He continues to serve the community in his position there as Training Instructor for the Environmental Management Services, and additionally by participating in I-DEA focus groups and committees, volunteering in the VIPS LBUSD program, and volunteering in church outreach programs.  

  • Mike Metal


    Mike Metal is a Navy veteran and Long Beach native, graduating from Long Beach Poly in 1997 and later attending Long Beach City College. Mr. Metal served in the Navy from 2002-2007 where he was a part of the Navy Counter Piracy Task Force 151 and was a team leader of his Special Forces Unit. As CEO and General Counsel of Veterans Solidaritya 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to providing shelter, education, medical care, and support for homeless individuals, Mr. Metal draws on his experience in the Navyand his commitment to service while working to address issues related to homelessness in the Long Beach community 

  • Larry Muszynski


    Larry Muszynski is a retired veteran and Long Beach native who served in the U.S. Navy from 1983-2011. Mr. Muszynski attended school in the Long Beach Unified School District before pursuing higher education at Long Beach City College and California State University, Long Beach. He was stationed at the Long Beach Naval Station, Reserve Center, and was Officer in Charge of the Military Sealift Command Office in Long Beach. Mr. Muszynski was recalled to Active Duty during the first Gulf War and retired as a Commander from the U.S. Navy. Throughout his life, he has demonstrated unwavering dedication to Long Beach and the nation, evidenced by his distinguished military service and subsequent role in Long Beach Airport's Emergency Preparedness. 

  • Jack C. Carlson


    Jack Carlyle Carlson completed his education within the Long Beach Unified School District, graduating from Poly High School, before pursuing higher education at UCSB and CSULB. Following the events of Pearl Harbor in December 1941Mr. Carlson enlisted in the Navy and served on Oahu during his enlistment. Mr. Carlson maintainedhis service as a Naval Reservist until the age of 60, while raising two daughters with his wife in Long Beach and serving as an Elementary Principal in the Downey Unified School DistrictA dedicated patriot who embodies a steadfast commitment to his community and country, he advocated for the renaming of the stadium in Long Beach to "Veterans Stadium," an effort recognized by the Long Beach Press Telegram. 

  • Jim Dolan


    During the Vietnam War, Jim Dolan volunteered for Active Duty in the United States Marine Corps. Mr. Dolan served as a Recon Marine and sustained injuries in combat for which he was awarded the Purple Heart. Following his recovery, he returned to Vietnam to fulfill his tour (1968-1972) before transitioning to the Presidential Honor Guard in Washington, DC. Upon leaving the Marine Corps, Mr. Dolan relocated to Long Beach where he started a family and continued to serve his community in the Los Angeles City Fire Department, retiring as a Captain in 2008.  

  • Thomas M. Poyer


    Born and raised in Westwood, CA as the eldest of 14 children, Thomas M. Poyer discovered his affection for Long Beach while stationed at Naval Air Station (NAS), Los Alamitos. Serving as a Yeoman, 2nd Class, he displayed exceptional dedication during three years of active duty and three years of reserve duty (1967-1972), notably during the "Pueblo Incident." After marrying and settling in Carroll Park, he became a pivotal figure in the Long Beach community. As one of the founding members of the Carroll Park Association, he, along with others, played a key role in securing historic district status for the neighborhood. Mr. Poyer regularly attended Long Beach Municipal Band concerts every summer and held LBSO Pops season tickets for over 40 years. Mr. Poyer’s entrepreneurial spirit led him to establish a successful business serving the City of Long Beach, while his passion for music and family remained constants in his life.

  • Frank J. King


    Frank J. King was born in 1925 in Long Beach, grew up in the Hellman Street neighborhood, and graduated from Long Beach Polytechnic High School in 1943 before joining the United States Navy during WWII (1943). Serving as a landing craft operator/motor mechanic aboard the USS John Land, he participated in the Island Hopping Campaign in the Pacific, enduring hostile fire on multiple islands. Upon returning home, he continued his service at Long Beach Naval Station and NAS Las Alamitos before retiring as a Petty Officer First Class in 1964. Mr. King married his high school sweetheart and raised three children in Long Beach and Lakewood, where he remained an active member of the community and participating in organizations like the American Legion Post 496 and the LB Rod and Gun Club

  • Walter Frank Hoffland


    Walter Frank Hoffland enlisted in the US Navy in 1938, serving for over 20 years and retiring as a Lieutenant Commander and Executive Officer of the Destroyer USS Lyman K. Swenson stationed at Terminal Island in Long Beach. Initially serving as a Seaman 2nd Class on the USS Arizona in Long Beach, he was later stationed at Pearl Harbor on the staff of Admiral Husband E. Kimmel during the December 7, 1941 attack, where his exceptional skills as a Radioman 1st Class saved his life. Despite the tragic loss of many comrades during the attack, he continued to serve in the Navy for over two decades (1938-1958), residing in Long Beach during 1938-1949 and again from 1956 until his passing in 1983.  

  • Stephanie M. Thomas


    Stephanie M. Thomas is a veteran of the United States Air Force (2012-2016) who is deeply committed to inspiring Long Beach youth to achieve their dreams by drawing from her own experiences as a product of the city's educational system. Ms. Thomas attended Franklin M.S, Wilson HS, LBCC, and CSULB and was a Long Beach Search and Rescue Explorer. Starting her journey in banking at 16 through the LBROP program, she later served as a Nuclear Officer in the United States Air Force, earning MA and MBA degrees. Her family's relocation to Long Beach for better opportunities mirrors her dedication to the city, where she now runs a financial services business focused on community impact. As a proud mom, wife, and veteran, she continues to serve Long Beach, expressing gratitude to mentors and the community for shaping her leadership and inspiring positive change. 

  • Hideto Nelson Tanaka


    Hideto Nelson Tanaka was born in 1922 and lived in Guadalupe California until WWII. Despite his family being separated and placed in internment camps, Mr. Tanaka joined the US Army and fought bravely for his country as part of the 100th Battalion in the 442nd regiment. Mr. Tanaka earned several military honors alongside his highly decorated fellow service members in the 442nd regiment. After the war, Mr. Tanaka relocated to Long Beach where he and his wife raised four children.  

  • Tibor Rubin


    Tibor Rubin was born in Hungary in 1929 to Jewish parents as one of six children. In 1944, at the young age of 15, Mr. Rubin was captured and was sent to Mauthausen concentration camp where he survived until he was liberated in 1945 by the US Army. Mr. Rubin immigrated to the United States in 1948, determined to serve the country which saved him, and joined the US Army in 1949. Mr. Rubin fought for the US Army in the Korean War beginning in 1950, endured imprisonment as a prisoner of war for two and a half years, saved the lives of many fellow service members, and was later awarded a Medal of Honor. Mr. Rubin resided in Long Beach for many years and his dedication to service extended through his involvement in various community endeavors, including volunteering at the Long Beach VA Hospital for over 45 years. In recognition of his contributions, the VA Hospital in Long Beach bears his name, commemorating his service as a veteran, a hero, and a pillar of the community. 

  • Peter Dey


    Peter Dey’s life story weaves a tale of courage, compassion, and camaraderie, starting with his dedicated service to the US Navy aboard the USS Higbee in 1965, where he exemplified valor and dedication in the Anti-Submarine section while stationed in Japan. In 1967, Mr. Dey volunteered as a medic on the USS Higbee during the Vietnam War, further underscoring his commitment to fellow servicemen. Transitioning to civilian life, Mr. Dey pursued diverse passions, including work in the airline industry, acting, and community service. His selflessness extended beyond military service, which is evident in his contributions to Long Beach since the 1990s, including his involvement with Rock For Vets since 2013. Mr. Dey passed away in late March 2024, just as the Veterans banner candidates were being selected. His resilience shines, reminding us of his enduring spirit and the impact of his kindness and service on countless lives. 

  • Malcolm Harvey


    Malcolm Harvey served in the US Navy from 1980-1990, and has lived in Long Beach for 11 years, drawn to its people, food, and diverse culture. His connection to Long Beach dates back tohis childhood, when a trip to the Queen Mary inspired him to join the US Navy. Mr. Harvey served his country with loyalty, dignity, and respect and faced several hardships after his honorable discharge. Mr. Harveysuffered from PTSD after his service and experienced homelessness for several years before finding support through U.S. VETS. Mr. Harvey became a speaker for the organization, sharing his experience, fundraising, and continuing outreach to help other veterans. Heearned a Masters in Social Work at CSULB and continues to support veterans and other vulnerable populations as an Associate Director of Programs with PATH. Mr. Harvey’sperseverance, service, and dedication to others serves asan inspiration for veteransand highlights the importance of support for those who serve their country. 

  • Josh "Smitty" Smith


    Josh “Smitty” Smith joined the US Army Reserves after high school to assist with college expenses. He trained as a line of sight radio operator (31R) and was stationed at B.T. Collins Army Reserve Center in Sacramento. He was activated for Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, serving initially at Ft. Bliss, TX, then to Camp Victory Kuwait in 2004, where he learned and transitioned into a new role as network administrator. After being reassigned to Camp Udari Kuwait, he returned to the US in 2005 and was honorably discharged in 2007. He has since dedicated himself to serving veterans, working as a Healthcare Educational Specialist with the VA for 14 years, serving on the City's Veterans Affairs Commission for 8 years, and holding leadership positions with the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association and VFW. Mr. Smith continues to serve others and fulfill his mission to support veterans in his community by fundraising, providing assistance, and offering comfort to veterans and their families in need. 

  • Rodrigo Hernández


    Rodrigo Hernández immigrated to the US as a young adult and joined the military in 1979 to honor the country that provided him with opportunities to escape poverty. He served honorably for 22 years in the US Army, leading and training soldiers for combat operations. He served in various roles, including assembling optical instruments for combat operations, acting as the NCOIC for the NBC chamberand concluded his career as an interrogator in military intelligence. Mr. Hernándezlater continued his service for 23 years as a Customs and Border Protection Officer where he participated in honoring fallen military members and fighting against the illegal trafficking of drugs.Mr. Hernández has resided in Long Beach since 2006 with his family and is now retired, living a quiet and humble life, and instilling values of gratitude for service members in his children 

  • Hal Gosling


    Hal Gosling arrived in Long Beach from Canada in 1964 and received his education at Wilson High and LBCC. Mr. Gosling learned to fly at Long Beach Airport and entered service during the Vietnam War Era, completing 8 years of active duty in the US Air Force (1973-1981) and 14 years in the Reserve (1981-1995)He continued serving in a volunteer capacity with the USAF Auxiliary (Civil Air Patrol), providing emergency services for the communityand also served on the Long Beach Airport Advisory Commission for 8 years, including a term as Chairman. Mr. Gosling was an accomplished aviator and aircraft owner, introducing youth to aviation through programs like the Experimental Aircraft Association's Young Eagles, and eventually retiring from the Boeing Company as a C-17 Avionics Instructor who trained USAF Flight Test Personnel and Foreign Military maintainersMr. Goslingresides in Long Beach with his spouse after servinghonorably for 22 years in the Air Force and Air Force Reservesand continues to advocatfor youth to consider military careers. 

  • Randall Laster


    Randall Laster served in the US Army from 1971-1974 as a Specialist 4, primarily as an Army Medic and Operating Room Technician and stationed in Ethiopia, Belgium, and Germany. After his honorable discharge, he returned to Long Beach, where he worked as a Nursing Assistant at the Long Beach Naval Hospital, continuing to serve military families. Mr. Laster was recognized with the National Defense Service Medal and Good Conduct Medal for his service. Mr. Laster, who passed away in 2020, is remembered as a devoted veteran and Long Beach native and resident who deserves posthumous recognition for his commitment to both his country and his city. 

  • Scott B. Flanigan


    Scott B. Flanigan served with distinction in Iraq as part of the 2nd Infantry Division 12th brigade combat team during "The Surge" in 2006-2007, leading the "Dead Rabbits" of Baker Company. He recounts their experiences in Dora, Baghdad in a published work titled "Dead Rabbits" and hopes to publish a second edition in 2025. Committed to honoring fallen comrades after serving in the US Army from 2005-2009Mr. Flanigan organizes an annual reunion and memorial walk for Baker Company veterans. Since 2016, he has resided in Long Beach, where he supports fellow veterans as a member and volunteer at American Legion Post 716, reflecting his ongoing dedication to service and camaraderie.

  • Gilbert Dodson


    Gilbert Dodson, a Long Beach resident for 18 years, served with valor in Vietnam, earning the Bronze Star. Following his service in the US Army from 1966-1988 and his retirement 27 years ago, he founded a thriving recycling business in the city. He contributed significantly to Long Beach community initiatives, serving on the Long Beach Memorial Hospital Foundation Board, sponsoring events like Big Bang on the Bay, and donating bicycles to charity. Additionally, Mr. Dodson’s recycling company has been a prominent supporter of The Children's Hospital Golf tournament for the past 5 years. Starting as a private, he retired from the Army with the rank of Major, embodying a lifelong commitment to service. 

  • Russell Zawalick


    Russell Zawalick enlisted in the Marine Corps after high school in 1986 and showed exceptional leadership skills, eventually serving as an infantry officer. Mr. Zawalick received numerous commendations for his leadership during drills and inspectionsand was awarded the Bronze Star with Combat V for valor in combat. After transitioning to the reconnaissance community, Mr. Zawalick concluded his military career as a reservist until 2002 before settling down in Long Beach with his family. Mr. Zawalick and his wife have been residents of Long Beach for over a decade, with their children attending school and his wife working in the city, while continuing to support veterans and active-duty members regularly.