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Ligonier JROTC honors local veterans

| Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012, 9:58 p.m.
Peter Turcik
Ligonier Valley High School Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets pay tribute to veterans from every branch of the U.S. military. First row (fron left) are Color Guard members Sydney Beaufort, Jared Bloom, John Beard and Caitlin Michaels display the American and Pennsylvania flag; Second row, Cadets displaying the flags of the military branches are Ryan Fitzgibbon - Army, Luke Smetak - Marine Corps, Taylor Ankey - Navy, Rebecca Krummel - Coast Guard, and Zoe Bergman - Air Force. Peter Turcik | For the Ligonier Echo

The Ligonier Valley High School Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps held it's annual Veterans Day program, recognizing local members of the community who have served their country in the Armed Forces. The evening included a slideshow of cadets' relatives who have served and continue to serve, a POW/MIA Hat Ceremony, and a performance by the Hands of Flight sign language team.

“We take great pride in welcoming our distinguished visitors; the military veterans and their families from our local area,” said co-master of ceremonies Hannah Yeskey. “Individual appearances may change through the years, but the sense of pride and honor continues.”

In addition to normal customs and traditions, the cadets acknowledged three special guests; John Gross, Eugene Jones and James Ross, all World War II Veterans from the Ligonier Valley.

“These men, along with all other men and women who have served have made sacrifices for us so that we may live a life of freedom in this great nation. For that we thank them,” said co-master of ceremonies Daniel Palmiscino.”

John Gross served in the U.S. Navy, achieving the rank of Seaman 1st Class. He received the American Theater Ribbon, Philippine Liberation Ribbon, Pacific Theater Ribbon and the Victory Medal.

Private First Class Eugene Jones served as an Army medic, treating wounded soldiers in North Africa, Italy and France.

James Ross served as a boilermaker in the engine room of the U.S.S. Wisconsin, reaching the rank of Fireman 2nd Class.

The program included a POW/MIA hat ceremony, which honors service personnel who have not returned. Cadets laid the uniform hats of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force, remembering four local veterans from each branch, who are all still unaccounted for.

“We wish to pay tribute to those who cannot be with us today in person but are with us in spirit,” said Cadet Michaela Long, who led the ceremony and explained each of the symbols of the memorial.

The first of four veterans honored was U.S. Army Capt. Paul Bates from Mt. Pleasant, who has been missing since Aug. 10, 1971 in South Vietnam. The second was U.S. Navy Commander Thomas Dunlap from New Florence, who has been missing since April 6, 1972 in North Vietnam. From the Marine Corps was Lance Cpl. Gerald King from Derry. King has been missing since May 10, 1968 in South Vietnam. And lastly, the cadets recognized Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Edwin E. Morgan of Ligonier. Morgan has been missing in action since March 13, 1966 in South Vietnam. A playing of “Taps” followed this ceremony.

The cadets then honored each branch of the military, presenting their flags and playing their anthems. Members of each branch stood along with their families as the cadets carried the flags to the stage. After closing with a presentation of the American and Pennsylvania flags, the Hands of Flight sign language team performed “God Bless the U.S.A.”

“On behalf of all the members of the Pride of Ligonier Valley Air Force Junior ROTC, the entire student body and school staff, we thank all the veterans and their families for their service and sacrifice. We are here because of you, and we will never forget your contribution to keep America free,” Palmiscino said.

Peter Turcik is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.