The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

November 24, 2012

Holiday party thanks military

Patrick Buchnowski

JOHNSTOWN — When local military men and women fight overseas, they know their families back home are cared for.

Members of the Greater Johnstown/Cambria County Chamber of Commerce and the military support group Heroes Helpers organized a holiday party on Saturday for the Pennsylvania National Guard’s 1-104 Attack Reconnaissance Battalion and their families.

The battalion, which is stationed at the John Murtha Johnstown/Cambria County Airport in Richland Township, is preparing for an overseas mission.

More than 50 people attended the holiday celebration at Moxham Lutheran Church, 500 Park Ave. in Johnstown.    

“I’m blown away by people’s generosity,” said Maj. Pete Peters, who attended with his wife and two children.

“It’s hard to put into words, but we’re extremely grateful,” he said.

Peters, who served 10 years on active duty, has lived around the country. He is most at home in Johnstown.

“Most of the towns that we lived in outside of bases there was – if not open animosity – just indifference toward the military,” he said. “This event and events like it are unbelievable.”

Saturdays celebration included refreshments, crafts for the children, free family portraits and a visit from Santa.

Organizers gave children “Battle Buddies” – military dolls featuring the photograph of a service member.

Phillip Peters, 10, cradled his “Battle Buddy” bearing his father’s photograph.

“It’s to remember Dad,” he said.

Six members of the chamber’s John B. Gunter Leadership Program’s Class of 2013 teamed with Heroes Helpers to bring together military families who have loved ones overseas.

Former members of the Gunter leadership group founded Heroes Helpers.  

“It’s really hard on kids whose moms and dads are deployed,” said Joanna Martyak, a member of this year’s leadership group.

“It tries to bring the local families closer together so they have somebody to go to in times of need,” said Martyak, whose husband served in Iraq.

Jessie Anderson, president of the local chapter of the Family Readiness Group, welcomed the holiday event.

“It means a lot that they’ve acknowledged not only the service members but the family members as well and the sacrifices that we all make together,” said Anderson, a former service member whose husband is in the military.

“The kids have to do without their parents,” she said. “These local businesses want to lighten the load. The fact that they’ve come together to do this is absolutely phenomenal.”

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