Veterans honored at Ligonier ceremony
The Ligonier Valley High School marching band led a parade of veterans, boy scouts and Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps cadets to begin Ligonier's annual Veterans Day ceremony Saturday.
In previous years, certain groups of veterans received special recognition, this year the focus was placed on thanking all veterans.
“To me, a veteran is someone who willingly served their country, whether it be a month, a year, five years, 20 years, whatever the case may be,” said Roy Hutchinson, commander of American Legion Byers-Tosh Post 267. “Some served in time of war, some did not, but one thing they have in common is they did what their country asked them to do. It doesn't matter if they are a uniform, or a prior uniform, we recognize all veterans.”
Air Force Lt. Col. William Campbell and Ligonier Valley High School Cadet Jared Bloom gave the keynote speeches for the day. Campbell now heads the JROTC program at the high school. However, one year ago he was deployed to the Persian Gulf. He worked with Central Command at the Air Operation Center, where he helped plan, organize and execute the withdrawal of 130,000 troops from Iraq. In his speech, Campbell stressed the need to support those who served and continue to serve in the Middle East.
“We cannot forget the 4,483 killed in action and more than 33,000 wounded who continue to need our support. The war in Afghanistan has been going for 11 years and will continue for some time. We must also remember the 2,100 that were killed there and the 1,700 and counting that were wounded from that particular conflict. Our gratitude and support is our pledge to our veterans of all wars,” Campbell said.
He said the annual Veterans Day communique released by the Secretary of the Air Force said, “Every veteran, past and present, has a story. Some served in war time, others during moments of peace. Many were volunteers others were called. Some served a matter of days, while others gave their life's worth to the profession of arms. All deserve our deepest gratitude.”
Bloom talked about his family's involvement with the military and what Veterans Day means to him.
“It is a huge honor to speak in front of all these veterans,” Bloom said. “It takes a special type of person to be able to dedicate their life so that people they have never known or met, who wake up every day and know whatever they are going to do throughout the day, they are going to be safe. That is the reason Veterans Day is important to me and why it is so imperative that we all remember our veterans and thank them every time we see them.”
Other speakers for the day included American Legion chaplain Jim Tobias; Marty Jackson, a veteran of the U.S. Navy representing women who have served; Dave Hunter, commander of VFW Post 734; Janet Cairns and Penny Williams, presidents of the American Legion and VFW Ladies Auxiliaries; Rich Griser, 3rd officer of the VFW; and Ligonier Mayor Ormond “Butch” Bellas.
After reading his traditional proclamation, Bellas said, “If it wasn't for these guys and these ladies, our lives would be very different today. Thank you very much.”
The ceremony closed with the playing of “Taps,” followed by “America the Beautiful” and “The Star Spangled Banner,” by the Ligonier Valley High School band, as well as members of the honor guard raised the American flag.
Peter Turcik is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.