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General from Charleroi honored

| Monday, Nov. 12, 2012, 12:33 a.m.
Gen. Kim Siniscalchi is shown receiving an award from Tom Courey of the Monongahela Veterans Council during the Monongahela Veterans Day luncheon on Nov. 10, 2012. Jim Ference/The Valley Independent

Kim Siniscalchi has been around the world caring for wounded soldiers in the service of her country.

But when she was receiving the unprecedented promotion from colonial to major general in 2008, the Charleroi native was introduced during the ceremonies in Washington D.C. by a Monongahela native, Jeffrey Fawcett.

Fawcett, who served as deputy for the Air Force ceremonies and promotions at the time, said the jump from colonial to two-star general spoke volumes about the character of the people the Mid-Mon Valley produces.

Siniscalchi, though, took it in stride, saying it was “no problem for a girl from Charleroi.”

Speaking Saturday as guest speaker at the Veterans Day luncheon in Monongahela, Siniscalchi honored the Valley's veterans and active service members. Following the event held at American Legion Post 1409, she served as parade marshal for the annual Valley parade held in downtown Monongahela.

“We are truly humbled by your services and your sacrifice,” Siniscalchi said to those veterans and active duty service members who stood to be recognized at the luncheon.

“I'm so proud and thrilled to see this community embrace our veterans. Everywhere from Pittsburgh south – we are a community of hard working Americans who appreciate our community and our country.”

Siniscalchi said members of all branches of the service “make that sacrifice to protect our nation and our American way of life.”

From her humble beginnings growing up on 10th Street in Charleroi to the top nurse in the Air Force, Siniscalchi has served for 33 years.

Her career has taken her to foreign soil, “caring for wounded during the chaos of war,” she said. Siniscalchi recalled the humbling scene of hearing medical staff softly singing “Amazing Grace” as a badly wounded soldier “slowly slipped away.”

She recalled the site of Hero's Highway, the tunnel of tents – draped by American flags – that lead to the Balad Hospital in Iraq. Wounded soldiers being air flighted to the hospital could see the comforting view of the American flags welcoming them as they approached the hospital.

“If they made it to ‘Hero's Highway,' they had a 99 percent chance of survival,” Siniscalchi said.

Siniscalchi encouraged the veterans to continue to tell their stories of service because they encourage a new generation of service members.

“We are a nation at war,” Siniscalchi said. “We have been globally engaged for 20 years and counting.”

Those conflicts have left countless wounded – both physically and mentally, she said.

“If you ever have a bad day, go to Walter Reed (Army Hospital),” Siniscalchi said.

Siniscalchi told the story of a boy named Jeremy who, despite having Down's Syndrome, wanted to serve.

He did so by volunteering for a Vietnam Veterans organization in Beaver County.

President Obama, after being informed of the boy's action, said of Jeremy, “The 9/11 generation will play a role in rebuilding our nation.”

“On this Veterans Day, let us remember all of our Armed Forces personnel who serve and continue to serve today,” she said.

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or cbuckley@tribweb.com.

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