Veterans Day program features JROTC speakers
The Byers-Tosh American Legion Post 267 and Fort Ligonier Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 734 will conduct a Veterans Day ceremony 11 a.m. Saturday morning.
The Ligonier Valley Honor Guard will lead a small parade from the VFW on East Main Street to the Diamond beginning at 10:45 a.m.
This year's theme is “Honor All Veterans.”
“In past years, we honored World War II, Vietnam and Gulf War veterans,” said Roy Hutchinson, commander of the Byers Tosh Post 267 American Legion. “This year we are going to honor all veterans.”
Representing the American Legion, Second Officer Larry Stephens will serve as master of ceremonies. Commander Hutchinson and VFW Commander Dave Hunter will speak briefly.
Guest speakers this year are Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. William L. Campbell, who is the Senior Aerospace Science instructor at Ligonier Valley High School and First Lt. Jared Bloom, a member of the Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps.
“This year we decided to invite the new JROTC instruction at the high school to speak,” said Hutchinson. “It will be a nice way to welcome him to the community.”
Campbell received his commission from the U.S. Air Force Academy and entered active duty in May 1980. During his Air Force career, he held various positions including wing evaluator pilot, squadron operations officer and deputy group commander. As a command pilot he has more than 4,800 flight hours in rotary-wing aircraft and has flown combat and combat support missions in both Iraq and Bosnia.
Campbell retired from active duty in 2005. He was voluntarily recalled to active duty in 2009, serving in Stuttgart, Germany and Hurlburt Field, Fla., as Senior Duty Officer, 623rd Air and Space Operations Center. Campbell retired from the Air Force Oct. 1.
Campbell has received numerous major awards and decorations including the Meritorious Service Medal with four oak leaf clusters. He is originally from Indiana and now resides in Ligonier with his wife Faith. The couple has five children.
He said he is looking forward to working with the cadets at Ligonier Valley High School.
“The school has a strong program and is in a beautiful area,” he said. “I have been teaching for many years. It is what I enjoy doing – teaching.”
Campbell's topic as guest speaker on Saturday will be the winding down of the U.S. military operations in Iraq. During his last assignment, he said he controlled the air- lift departing Iraq and helped move personnel out of the country. He will also talk about the planned draw down and exit from Afghanistan and what troops are currently doing in that arena as well.
Bloom, 16, of Bolivar said he will talk about the importance of honoring the nation's veterans by attending Veterans Day services. He is the son of Neil Gonda of Bolivar.
Hutchinson said this is the first time a JROTC cadet will speak at the service.
“We have never done this before,” he said. “I think it is time we heard from one of the cadets who will possibly go on to join the military. They are our future.”
Hutchinson said it will be interesting to to see what they have to say.
“My step dad was in the Navy and so was his father and grandfather,” said Bloom. “If they didn't do what they did, in any branch of the military, who we are now could be different.”
Bloom is responsible for the drill team, color guard and competition teams at Ligonier Valley. He will command the drill team for the march to the Diamond on Saturday.
Flowers will be placed at the memorial marker on the Diamond by Penny Williams, president of the Fort Ligonier Post 734 VFW Auxiliary as both commanders read “In Flanders Fields.” The American Legion and VFW commanders will place flags at the marker. Jim Tobias, firing squad commander will lead a gun salute followed by the playing of Taps and the raising of the flag.
Refreshments will be served at the American Legion following the service.
Deborah A. Brehun is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-238-2111 or firstname.lastname@example.org.