Burns: Tradition of honoring military veterans continues

Three bridge-naming bills include inaugural first responder honoree

EBENSBURG, Feb. 8 – Teeing things up for continuation of his longstanding tradition of honoring military veterans, three bridge-naming bills sponsored by state Rep. Frank Burns have moved out of committee, barreling them forward to a full House vote.

In addition to two World War II veterans killed in action, the latest effort includes Burns’ first-ever attempt to name a bridge in honor of a first responder who died while performing her duties.

Burns, D-Cambria, who has had great success in getting such legislation passed over the past several years, said passage by the House Transportation Committee clears an important hurdle for ultimate legislative success.

“While this is not the final word, I feel confident in believing that we are well on our way to getting three more Cambria County bridges named, in honor of two heroic veterans and a deserving first responder,” Burns said. “I look forward to the day when their names will forever be enshrined in the 72nd Legislative District.”

The Burns bills that moved unanimously through committee are:

  • House Bill 150, which would designate a bridge on PA Route 53 over Laurel Run in Dean Township as the Seaman 2nd Class Louis J. Benzie WWII Memorial Bridge.
  • House Bill 152, which would designate a bridge on State Route 3041 in Jackson Township as the Technical Sergeant Mike Capelli Memorial Bridge.
  • House Bill 153, which would designate a bridge on U.S. Route 219 over PA Route 53 in Croyle Township as the Janice Keen-Livingston First Responders' Memorial Bridge.

Benzie, a native of Dysart, served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Assigned to the destroyer U.S.S. Maddox, he became a member of Task Force 81, the assault force for the invasion of Sicily, Italy.

On July 10, 1943, Benzie’s ship was attacked by a German dive bomber while on anti-submarine patrol 16 miles off the shore of Sicily – taking a direct hit, rolling over and sinking within two minutes. Benzie was killed in action at 18, his body was never recovered, and he was declared dead on July 11, 1944. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart.

Capelli, a native of Nanty Glo, served in the U.S. Army during World War II. He was wounded many times and performed many acts of heroism for which he was decorated during his tours in Italy, Germany and France. His awards included the Silver Star with Oak Leaf Cluster, Bronze Star, and Purple Heart with two Oak Leaf Clusters.

On Jan. 8, 1945, in Wildenguth, France, Capelli was shot and killed while organizing his men during an attack by a reinforced band of German SS troopers.

Keen-Livingston, a native of Johnstown, served as a paramedic, supervisor and training officer for the West End Ambulance Service. She also served as a part-time paramedic for the Hilltop Ambulance Association, Menoher Heights Volunteer Fire Co. and the Conemaugh Township EMS, and as a CPR instructor and member of the Lower Yoder Volunteer Fire Co.

On March 2, 2015, at age 38, Keen-Livingston was struck and killed by a truck while responding at the scene of a motor vehicle accident on Route 271 in Upper Yoder Township.