Veterans Day Observance Filled with Emotion


Executive Director John Bankert has seen many memorable moments during his 37 years with the Hall of Fame. He told a crowd of about 200 people on Saturday morning, that none of those were more emotional than what he had just experienced.

Dante Lavelli
Hall of Famer Dante Lavelli reflects on his military service in Europe during World War II.

Bankert made his comments during a ceremony on the front steps of the museum kicking off the Hall of Fame's Salute to Veterans observance on Saturday. Hall of Famer Dante Lavelli, a veteran of World II, also made comments during the ceremony emceed by Cleveland's WKYC news anchor Tim White, a military veteran and current Brigadier General in the Air Force Reserve.

Then, the family of Don Steinbrunner, came to the podium. Steinbrunner, who played for the Cleveland Browns in 1953, bypassed a career in pro football to pursue a profession in the military. In 1966, he was called to serve in Vietnam. Not long after his arrival, he was shot in the knee during an aerial mission. Due to his injury, he was offered an opportunity to accept a less dangerous assignment, but declined preferring to return to his unit. It was a decision that cost him his life. On July 20, 1967, Steinbrunner’s plane was shot down over Kontum, South Vietnam. There were no survivors. Steinbrunner was awarded posthumously the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

On Saturday morning, Don's son David presented his father's Browns jacket to the Hall of Fame. He was then joined at the podium by his sister Diane Barron who presented Bankert with her father's Purple Heart. Joined on stage by both of their sons, David and Diane thanked the Hall of Fame for remembering and honoring their father.

The crowd of veterans, football fans, and kids quickly rose to their feet to applaud the Steinbrunners in an emotional finish to the day's program.

Diane Steinbrunner Barron donates her father's Purple Heart to Executive Director John Bankert.

Canton's Central Catholic High School band band put the finishing touches on the ceremony with a rendition of "God Bless America."

For more on Don Steinbrunner, click here.

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