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Carnegie to remember local veterans with flag services

| Wednesday, June 12, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Carnegie will bring back its Veteran's Flag Services next month as a way to honor local fallen servicemen and women.

As a way to honor those veterans, the Carnegie VFW Post 331 Honor Guard flies the veteran's casket flag at the borough building for two weeks. At the end of two weeks, the honor guard lowers the flag and presents it to the family in a special ceremony.

“It's unbelievably moving and meaningful,” said Carnegie mayor Jack Kobistek. “We owe a debt of gratitude to these individuals.”

The first flag has been flying over the borough building since June 1, and the first ceremony is June 15 to coincide with Flag Day. It will honor a man killed in action in Vietnam.

Thomas Story Jester was just 19 years old when he was mortally wounded during battle in Long An Province in South Vietnam on Sept. 20, 1968. He died the next day.

“He was a typical teenager,” said Jester's sister, Sue Mack. “And he loved to dance. We danced all the time.”

An infantryman, Jester was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and four Purple Hearts for his actions during battle that saved the lives of many of his fellow infantrymen. Mack said a fellow soldier from her brother's platoon came to their house after he returned from his tour to tell them Jester saved his life.

“He saved him,” Mack said. “And he wanted my parents to know that.”

Friends of Jester's came from as far away as Washington state to see his casket flag raised June 1.

Mack said she is just happy that the community is getting a chance to remember her brother.

“He finally came back to Carnegie,” she said. “He's rocking this town.”

The idea to hold such a service in Carnegie last year came from Kobistek's vacation travels with his family, he said. In Cape May, local veterans' organizations fly a deceased veteran's casket flag each day during the summer. In the evening, they hold a service to honor the veteran and present the flag to the family.

“Some of these veterans, they've had a life after their service and have contributed in a lot of other ways,” he said.

VFW member Bill Gall said that while the services act as community events, they are an important way to remember those who gave their service.

“We're trying to do community activities, but above and beyond that, it's a really nice thing to do,” he said.

The borough will take applications from veterans' families throughout the summer. Applications are available in the municipal building, at the VFW or on the borough website. Kobistek said families should not worry about weather-wear to the flag, as a local cleaner will clean the flag for free once it is lowered.

Megan Guza is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5810.

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