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Cal U honors veterans at campus ceremony

| Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, 9:03 p.m.
Standing by his banner on the California University of Pennsylvania campus is Korean War veteran Robert Vertacnik of Rostraver Township.
Cadet Josh Wolfe and Pfc. Zach Graybill of the Pennsylvania National Guard hold up the banner site map at the ceremony at California University of Pennsylvania.

“I think this is a great idea. I'm honored by this,” Korean War veteran sergeant and California alumni Robert Vertacnik, 83, of Rostraver said of his military banner that was unveiled and hung at a special ceremony held on the campus grounds of California University of Pennsylvania on Monday. “I really approve of this idea.”

Vertacnik's banner was one of 33 that were part of the dedication ceremony on the campus to launch a new program that was initiated by California University director of Veterans Affairs Capt. Robert Prah.

Prah's banner program invited students, alumni and faculty to purchase the special banners in honor of or in memory of a veteran.

“I felt that this was very well-received,” Prah said of the program. “I did some research, and I could not locate any other campus that had a program like this, so I really wasn't sure what to expect. I didn't know if I'd get 10 or 20 or what we would get, so I feel that 33 is pretty good.”

At the dedication ceremony, a map indicting the sites of the banners was presented and passed out, and guides were on hand to walk people to their banners or steer them in the right direction. The banners are now located throughout the campus.

“I think that this is a great idea,” Staff Sgt. Jesse Maund said of the banner project. “I think it's awesome to be able to walk around and see your friend, alumni or other veterans banners hanging for all to see. It's great.”

The banners will hang on the campus grounds through the end of November, when they will be removed and stored.

The banners will be brought out again at the beginning of November 2014 to be hung with the additional banners that will be part of the program.

“We got a little bit of a late start this year,” Prah said. “We are going to start up again in January (6) so people will them have plenty of time to contact us about the banners for next year.”

Vertacnik, a highly decorated veteran who was awarded three Purple Hearts and two Bronze Stars for his service time in Korea, said that he was thrilled to see his banner hung in a lovely wooded area in the heart of the campus.

“I look a little different now than I did then,” laughed the veteran as he pointed to his military photo that is part of the banner. “I can't say how much I appreciate this. It's a nice way to be recognized, and I appreciate it.”

For information contact the Office of Veterans Affairs at California University at 724-938-4076 or visit their website at

Marilyn Forbes is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.