Courage, devotion, patriotism and sacrifice – all words that describe our nation’s veterans.
In honor of men and women who have served in the U.S. military, the Conemaugh Valley Veterans and Greater Johnstown School District held their 15th annual free Veterans Day breakfast Thursday at East Side Elementary School.
“Our sole purpose for the breakfast is to pay tribute to veterans who have served our country and we’re proud to be able to do this,” said Ed Wojnaroski, chairman of the Conemaugh Valley Veterans. “Nothing grabs you more than seeing kids thanking veterans for their service; it’s an overwhelming and emotional experience.”
Over 250 veterans of all ages from the five military branches – Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard – were in attendance.
The veterans were treated to a performance by East Side pupils who wore patriotic costumes and spoke on the history of each military branch in a salute to the armed forces.
Pupils also led the audience in reciting the pledge of allegiance and singing of the national anthem.
Korean War veteran Lowell Shaffer of Davidsville said he’s been attending the breakfast for many years.
“It’s a great time,” he said. “You walked in and the students shook your hand and recognized you and you feel appreciated.”
World War II Navy veteran John Adams, who served as a fighter pilot, was at the breakfast for the first time and said the event was wonderful.
“It’s really nice to see the kids helping out to do this and saying thank you to vets,” the 92-year-old Johnstown resident said.
The program came to a close with the playing of taps.
Across town, The Atrium on Main Street held its first Veterans Day celebration Thursday to recognize residents and members of the community for their service.
“We want to honor veterans for everything they have done for us and their commitment to the country,” said Sherry Fleegle, director of resident care services at The Atrium.
Seventeen veterans, who make their home at The Atrium, and over a dozen veterans from the community took part in the program.
The Forest Hills High School Brass Ensemble opened the program by playing the “Star-Spangled Banner” and other patriotic songs.
U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus, R-Sewickley, and state Rep. Bryan Barbin, D-Johnstown, were on hand to speak to the veterans and took part in a pinning ceremony.
“November is a special month because there is a date set aside for us to thank veterans and it’s good to see so many of you in this room,” Rothfus said. “It is our responsibility to stand with you now because you stood for us.”
Barbin told those in attendance that we wouldn’t have the freedoms we enjoy today without sacrifice.
“To have freedom people will need to sacrifice, so today we say thank you to those who have sacrificed so much and we need to take care of those who have,” he said.
The ceremony concluded with acknowledging veterans from each branch of the military and singing of the national anthem.
Kelly Urban is a reporter with The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/KellyUrban25.