PITTSBURGH – Jack Wagner, a Marine Corps veteran who earned the Purple Heart in Vietnam, was named the 2024 Pittsburgh Veteran of the Year for his lifetime of advocacy and service to fellow veterans, residents of the Pittsburgh region, and citizens of Pennsylvania.
Wagner was presented the award Sunday by Military Friendly® during a fundraising party at the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum in Oakland. The event benefited Folds of Honor, Toys for Tots, Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum Trust, and Gunny’s Ridge. The award is presented to one of the region’s outstanding veterans who demonstrates leadership, teamwork, and a commitment to serving others.
After returning from Vietnam and earning a college degree, Wagner devoted 28 years to public service, including eight years as Pennsylvania’s Auditor General, 10 years as a Pennsylvania State Senator, and 10 years on Pittsburgh City Council. He later founded and currently serves as Chairman of the Board for Pittsburgh Hires Veterans, a nonprofit organization that provides free one-on-one employment support to veterans and spouses.
Wagner also serves as the Regional Development Director for Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, which rescues, raises, trains, and donates life-saving service dogs to veterans and first responders. He has led the organization in acquiring land and permits for construction, selecting and guiding the contracted architectural firm, and raising funds for a 102-acre training facility a few miles from Pittsburgh International Airport. Wagner also serves with the Sharing and Caring Organization to support hospitalized veterans.
“I cherish the Pittsburgh Veteran of the Year award first and foremost in honor of the Marines I served with in Vietnam that made the ultimate sacrifice,” Wagner said. “In addition, the award brings positive recognition to the veterans that we serve through Pittsburgh Hires Veterans, Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, and Sharing & Caring Inc. These are all nonprofits that help veterans in different meaningful ways, including finding quality jobs, receiving a medical service dog, or a day of entertainment on the Gateway Clipper—all services at no cost. These three nonprofits and many others in the Pittsburgh region, along with the Veterans Administration and other government agencies, play a major role in making sure we are not leaving our brothers and sisters behind.”
While Wagner has largely separated himself from politics, he recently began working to change the primary electoral system in Pennsylvania that prohibits those registered as Independents from voting for a Republican or Democrat candidate. This rule prevents those who identify as Independents, a group that includes many veterans, from the primary electoral system.
“Through his remarkable service and commitment, Jack has not only shaped the narrative of veteran support but has also left an enduring mark on the hearts of those he has served. This accolade is a testament to his legacy, reminding us all of the profound impact one dedicated individual can have on the many lives he has touched. Well deserved, Jack, and thank you for your unwavering commitment to our veterans and military community,” said Kayla Lopez, senior director of Military Partnerships for Military Friendly, a VIQTORY company.
Four other veterans were honored Sunday as 2024 Pittsburgh Veteran of the Year finalists for their dedication to serving the military and veteran community:
- Dr. Ben Stahl, a US Navy veteran who serves as Chief Executive Officer for the Veterans Leadership Program, a nonprofit organization that provides holistic services to veterans in 30 counties in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York.
- Jonathan Bliss, a US Air Force veteran who is an Operational Risk Officer for PNC Bank and serves as the Executive Committee Vice Chair of Veterans Leadership Program’s Board of Directors.
- Cameron Culliver, a Master Sergeant with the US Space Force who also serves as President of the Sto-Rox School District Board of Directors.
- Jody Steinberger, Client Solutions Specialist for PNC Bank who chairs the PNC Mutt Strut and volunteers with Folds of Honor and Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs.
You can read their full bios at MilitaryFriendly.com/2024PGHVOY