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Monessen recognizes sacrifice by vets

| Monday, Nov. 11, 2013, 12:41 a.m.
By Chris Buckley/The Valley Independent
Gus August, a Korean Conflict veteran and member of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1190 in Monesen, plays taps during Veterans Day services held at Monessen High Schoo,l Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013.

Nearly a century after Armistice Day marked the end of World War I, Veterans Day marks the sacrifices made by those who have served America.

And that dedication was never better illustrated than in the service of national guardsmen and woman waging the war on terrorism worldwide today, Maj. Charles Kerns said.

Kerns is commander of the Civil Engineering Squadron, 171st Air Refueling Wing, at Pittsburgh International Airport.

He spoke at a Veterans Day service Sunday afternoon in the Monessen High School auditorium.

The Kentucky native has served 24 years in the U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard.

Armistice Day originally marked the end of World War I, when the guns of “The Great War” were silenced on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.

“That silence punctuates the air and focuses everyone's attention to the service of our veterans across the country and in locations around the world,” Kerns said. “And those veterans encompass many different kinds of people who serve our country in many diverse ways. They represent the best of America.”

Kerns praised the efforts of “citizen soldiers and citizen airmen,” members of the National Guard.

“While the National Guard is not a full-time occupation, it absolutely is a full-time devotion,” Kerns said.

Kerns called Veterans Day “a day when nations around the world pause in silence with solemn pride in remembrance of the heroism of those who served, those who are currently serving and those who died in our country's service.”

“We don't mark this day each year as a celebration of victory, but rather, as a celebration of those who made victory possible,” Kerns said.

Kerns said services such as the one Sunday in Monessen “keep the story of their sacrifice and dedication alive.”

“They chose to serve the cause that is greater than self, many even after they knew they'd be sent into harm's way,” Kerns said. “And in this time of persistent conflict for the better part of a decade, they have endured tour after tour in distant and difficult places.

“They have protected us from danger, and they have given others the opportunity for a better life.”

Kerns said the National Guard answers the call during disasters and for deployment around the world.

“Today, the National Guard finds itself at a strategic inflection point,” Kerns said. “In the years ahead, we must transition from combat operations, adjust to new fiscal realities, and prepare to face a new and challenging security environment both at home and abroad.

“Taken together, these are no small tasks. Successfully adapting for the future will be important, not just for the Guard but also for our nation.”

Kerns called on veterans at the event to stand and be recognized. He then led a moment of silence for all fallen veterans.

Remembering the sacrifice of veterans was a theme for others who spoke at the service.

Monessen Mayor Mary Jo Smith said veterans serve to keep us free.

“Thank them for their dedication and service,” Smith said.

Monessen High School students Dominic Zboyovsky and Tyler Shash each praised veterans.

Zboyovsky said he has the utmost respect for veterans and is pursuing a military career.

“No other job could carry as much honor to the U.S. as serving in the military,” Zboyovsky said.

Shash said he makes a point of thanking any serviceman or woman he sees in uniform. He said veterans' “actions speak louder than any words I speak.”

“What would America be without them,” Shash said. “Every American owes their lives to these vets.”

State Rep. R. Ted Harhai, D-Monessen, said “This is my 17th year coming here, and it doesn't get old. I want to show my thanks to the veterans for their service.”

American Legion Post 28 Adjutant Wayne Vlasic read the names of 126 Monessen residents who have died in service to America.

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