War College instructor highlights Apollo event
The seventh annual Apollo Salute to the Armed Forces program is expected to draw more than 1,000 Armstrong County residents to Owens Field on July 4to commemorate past, present and future military personnel.
Delivering the keynote address at the Independence Day celebration this year is Army Col. Robert Mundell, a faculty instructor at the Army War College in Carlisle.
Program Chairman Vince Mazzon, 46, said the colonel's speech will focus on the relationship between the U.S. military and the society it serves. His speech will be preceded by those given by 1st Lt. Gary Karns of the Civil Air Patrol and Col. Mariana Eder, an artillery officer in the Brazilian army.
William Kerr, the Norwin School District superintendent who is actively involved in the Apollo Salute, said Eder arrived in Carlisle in mid-June to study in the Army War College's defense and strategic leadership program. With U.S.-Brazilian military ties growing warmer, the South American colonel will remain in country with his wife and two children for about a year under Mundell's mentorship.
“It's going to be really special and unprecedented having two colonels from different countries present and speaking at the ceremony,” Kerr said.
Kerr recruited Mundell to serve as the ceremony's keynote speaker when the two met this year at a Pennsylvania Education Leadership Program outing in Gettysburg.
Mundell will also serve as master of ceremonies and assist with the Gold Star Mothers award presentation following his speech.
The presentation will honor the mothers of five Apollo servicemen who were killed in the line of duty in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Each year, the mothers of the deceased are presented with a personalized gift in memory of their sons.
“It's always a pretty touching ceremony,” Mazzon said. “It's a way of showing them some appreciation for what they've been through for this country. Their sons gave the ultimate sacrifice for us.”
The chronological order of the Apollo servicemen who were killed in action is as follows: Army Staff Sgt. Stevon Booker, Army Spc. William Sturges Jr., Army Spc. Joshua Henry, Marine Sgt. Lonny Wells Jr. and Army 2nd Lt. Michael Girdano.
“Every year, I hope and pray that the group doesn't grow anymore,” Mazzon said. “Fortunately, it hasn't in five years. You grow up with strong connections to these guys and it's devastating when they're taken from us.”
The Armstrong County American Legion Honor Guard will honor each of the fallen warriors with a 21-gun salute.
The ceremony will culminate with a barrage of fireworks that can be seen “from all over town,” according to Mazzon.
A significant portion of ceremony attendees each year, the program chairman said, arrive at Owens Field around 10 p.m. solely for the fireworks display. The spectators clamorously pile into the bleachers and surrounding areas during the Gold Star Mothers award presentation.
He's hoping more people arrive earlier this year to witness the ceremony.
“It really upsets me to see people coming in during the middle of the ceremony and talking over it because they just want to see the fireworks,” Mazzon said. “If it bothers me, I can't imagine how the mothers feel. They're the same people their sons fought and died for.”
Mazzon said a great deal of the program is dedicated to recognizing individual veterans and active military personnel present in the crowd.
“People come up to me and thank me every year for putting it together,” he said. “They shouldn't thank me. They should thank our service members.”
Braden Ashe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4673 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Frazer police receive state funding for more undercover patrols at Mills
- Vandergrift cuts back on park spending to fix pool leak
- Upper Burrell officials consider changing public comment rules
- New Kensington council looks ahead to summer projects
- Alle-Kiski Valley businesses profit from jump in tourism
- Highlands students fired up about NYC trip
- Teenage suspect in Leechburg killing held for trial
- Snow sculptors have a ball with Iceburgh, Einstein
- Vermont Baptist Church warmly welcomed in New Kensington
- Leechburg man charged with molesting girls, watching child pornography
- 3 charged with selling heroin that killed Lower Burrell woman