Champion Christian School honors local vets

| Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, 12:46 a.m.

About 20 veterans and servicemen of wars ranging from the Korean War to a soldier who recently returned from the Middle East were honored at a special Veterans Day celebration Friday at the Champion Christian School's Donegal Campus.

The program began with the presentation of colors by the Donegal Veterans of Foreign Wars Post Number 6743 Honor Guard.

The veterans, their families, and students joined together in prayer at the beginning of the program led by retired United States Navy officer David Adams of Ligonier and closed with a prayer by Pastor Ron Dugan.

Students recited readings and poems. There was a performance of “It's a Grand Old Flag” by fifth- and sixth-grade students.

Keynote speaker was Master Sgt. Deborah Smallwood of Pittsburgh.

Smallwood entered the United States Army in 1986 and served as an administrative clerk, a recording noncommissioned officer and an information-technology specialist.

After 27 years of service, she retired from the Army in September.

“Now that I'm retired I feel like I am part of a club and I am so honored to be part of it,” she said. “I am very thankful I was given the opportunity to serve in the Army. It was a privilege and an honor.”

She told the audience of how prayer helped her when she was away from her family for long periods and helped her deal with some of the conditions she had to endure while serving in the Middle East.

Smallwood told the audience that there are still 20 of the Army's Internet technology soldiers who served under her in Kuwait right now. She provided everyone in the audience with a black sheet of paper to write a Thanksgiving message to those soldiers.

The program paused while the entire audience wrote individual messages to those soldiers.

The winners of patriotic themed essay contests sponsored by the Donegal Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6743 and Donegal American Legion Number 941 were also named and presented with their awards.

After the program, students broke into three different classrooms.

“This allows for the students to hear the speakers in a more intimate setting,” said event organizer Clyn Black.

Each room had a speaker, Smallwood, Adams and Jill Sharlock of Bear Rocks, whose deceased father served for 28 years in the Air Force. Each spoke about their individual experiences associated with the service.

Linda Harkcom is a contributing writer.

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