Connellsville Area High School Patriots program honors nation's veterans
The Connellsville Area High School Patriots, an organization started in 2003 by Linda Shearer, a high school English teacher, held a special event on Saturday to honor veterans who put their lives on the line in service of their nation.
More than 200 attended the ceremony at the Pennsylvania National Guard Readiness Center on Petersburg Road in Connellsville Township, including veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the past and present conflicts in the Middle East.
Shearer reminded those in attendance that just 1 percent of the population puts their lives on the line to protect 100 percent of the citizens.
In greeting those attending, Mark Bageant, a member of the CAHS Patriots Board of Directors, said the veterans recognition luncheon was held “to honor our veterans and to thank the many people who had a part in bringing the (4-ton piece of the World Trade Center) to Connellsville.”
Army Lt. Col. Shane Ousey, keynote speaker, told of his relationship with the CAHS Patriots, which began approximately nine years ago while he was deployed in Iraq.
Although he has no ties to the Connellsville area, Ousey said he became involved with the CAHS Patriots after finding a note with an email address. He sent off an email message and began corresponding with Shearer. At that time, he said, he had no idea where Connellsville, Pa., was located.
“And that turned out to be a nine-year connection,” Ousey said.
He praised Shearer for “the love in her heart” for him and his soldiers.
He related an experience that occurred after a midtour leave. He said he got a call from the mailroom.
“‘Sir, please come down and pick up your stuff,'” Ousey related. The person also suggested he bring a truck. He said he thought there would be a few packages.
“When I got down there, there was this huge stack, probably over 200 boxes,” he said.
As Ousey was leaving, he saw a young female soldier leaning against the wall. She appeared sad and lonely, he said.
“I grabbed one of the boxes, and I walked over to her and said, ‘Here, have a merry Christmas.' ”
He said she “grabbed that box like it was the most precious gift she'd ever gotten.”
Ousey said he even gave one of the packages to the commanding general of the multinational force, George Casey. Giggles rippled through the audience when Ousey described the Pittsburgh Steelers boxer shorts and what must have been size 14 socks the general found in his package.
Ousey then extended his “personal, heartfelt thanks” to Shearer and the members of the CAHS Patriots. He also presented Shearer with a commander's coin. He said military commanders have the coins made that they present to members of their units who do exceptional jobs.
Ousey also delivered a message from former President George W. Bush.
In the message, Bush said that throughout history, citizens from every corner of the country have proudly worn the uniform of the United States.
“In times of peace and through the hardships of war, our military have built a great tradition of courageousness and faithful service,” the statement read.
The statement ends by calling on the nation to respect that service and honor those who have faithfully served.
Karl Polacek is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-626-3538.