McKeesport ceremony honors vets

| Monday, Nov. 12, 2012, 3:57 a.m.

Veterans, first responders and civic leaders gathered in McKeesport's Memorial Park to honor those who have served in the U.S. military, paying special tribute to three locals who recently died.

“Each service, we've been honoring one person – a fallen veteran,” McKeesport Veterans Activities Association president Jim Calvin said. “This is a sad day today.”

Calvin was referring to the late Harry P. Kucich, who served in the Pacific theater of operations during World War II. He was a member of AMVETS Post 8 and American Legion Post 361.

“He always showed up for the veterans functions, and he isn't here,” Calvin said. “Harry, wherever you're at, we miss you, brother.”

Speakers also reflected on the service of the late Art Nagy of McKeesport and the late Bernard S. Ordos of West Mifflin. They were survivors of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

“We salute and remember two of our hometown Pearl Harbor heroes, who recently passed away,” state Rep. Bill Kortz said. “These two brave Americans fought back against the Japanese, survived the attack at Pearl, went on to fight in the Pacific theater, and they returned home victorious.

“They returned home to raise a family. They shared their story with us. They shared their history with us. God bless them both.”

Clifford W. Flegal Sr. gave a eulogy for Nagy, and Steve Nagy offered his father's flag to fly in Memorial Park until Pearl Harbor Day.

“Art, when he came back, he was one of the most intense and honest veterans that I ever knew,” Flegal recalled. “Over the years, I've been master of ceremonies and chairman for so many veterans events I can't count. Art Nagy was always there for the veterans … I miss him very much.”

Speakers offered a blessing to all veterans, including those serving today in the Middle East and around the globe.

In his invocation, the Rev. Rudy Mayak of Park Baptist Church said that to be called a veteran is a distinct honor, because those distinguished men and women are the best Americans this nation has to offer.

“We want to remember all the fallen heroes of all generations, who willingly gave their lives for the sake of freedom, liberty and justice,” said the Rev. Rudy Mayak of Park Baptist Church. “Also, we want to thank all of those who have served in war and peace, and have returned home to their loving families and grateful nation.”

VFW Post 514 Past Cmdr. Michael J. Melosky, who offered the Veterans Day address, said he holds a special place in his heart for those who were taken prisoner and those who did not return home.

A World War II veteran, Melosky endured Nazi captivity.

“I was a prisoner twice, and I escaped twice,” he said. “I saw Adolf Hitler in person.”

Melosky said he has the deepest sympathy and highest regard for veterans who gather in their communities for events such as McKeesport's.

“As the veterans stand next to each other, many seem to have taken their toll,” Melosky said. “Shoulders are stooped, jackets are frayed, and backs bent. And yet their desire to stand as tall as they can with pride in their eyes to show respect to another veteran – one of their brethren – is unmistakable.”

Melosky said he is humbled to see veterans living with chronic pain due to injuries they suffered while they served. Former Allegheny County commissioner Larry Dunn agreed.

“There are so many (wounded warriors) who need our help,” Dunn said. “They fought the battle. They have terrible wounds. They are trying to get their lives back in order, and it's very difficult for so many of them.”

Speakers encouraged attendees to do all they can to support organizations that aid veterans. They also spoke of the importance of taking time to recognize and simply thank the veterans they encounter.

“I believe this is an appropriate way to honor and recognize the 25 million veterans in the United States who have served proudly in the military and remain as role models to other citizens,” Melosky said.

McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko said he wants children to be knowledgeable of what veterans mean to society and the true role they play.

“As an educator for 12 years, I taught 11- and 12-year-olds, and we would talk about heroes,” he said. “You always hear about your football and basketball players. I always looked forward to the moment to discuss with them that, without our real heroes, we wouldn't have the chance to even know about these professional athletes.”

Cherepko thanked McKeesport Area High School's marching band, which performed the national anthem Saturday and hosted a concert Friday to honor local heroes.

“If you were unable to be there, I strongly recommend you attend it next year,” the mayor said. “They do this each and every year, and it's a first-class, tear-jerking performance.”

Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1956

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