Norwin grad to speak at Irwin Memorial Day parade
A Norwin High School graduate who is the commander of 173 members of the elite 82nd Airborne Division, will be the keynote speaker at the Irwin Memorial Day Parade on Monday morning.
Capt. Ellyn Grosz, 29, an Irwin native who has been deployed to Afghanistan three times since 2013, will speak at ceremonies at the Irwin Union Cemetery. The parade that begins at 10 a.m. at the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and Main Street, will proceed to the cemetery.
Grosz, a 2012 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, said she wants to draw a distinction in her speech between Veterans Day on Nov. 11, and Memorial Day.
“We have a tendency to confuse Veterans Day and Memorial Day,” Grosz said, noting Memorial Day is to recall those who have passed away.
Grosz forged a path toward a military career while still at Norwin High School. She enlisted in the Army Reserves at age 17, then graduated as an Army Reserve private from basic combat training at Fort Jackson, Columbia, S.C. in 2007, the year before graduating high school.
“I fell in love with the Army in basic training,” Grosz said.
Her love of the military came naturally for Grosz, who said her Scott Grosz, served in the Air Force and in the Army National Guard. Uncles and grandfathers served as well.
“We’re very much a military family,” Grosz said.
While deployed to Afghanistan in 2015, she was an airspace advisor to the Afghan National Army and served as an advisor during Operation Iron Triangle in eastern Afghanistan.
She recalled that she would wear a hajib, a scarf around her head as is the custom for Afghan women, when she interacted with the Afghan military. She bought the hajib at the suggestion of her Afghan interpreter. Not only was the head dress helpful in her interaction with the Afghan men, which often was on a daily basis, but the respect shown by her fellow soldiers was crucial.
“I was super effective because the American males (soldiers) were very respectful of me. Both my male peers and subordinates treated me with respect. That was very empowering to them,” Grosz said of the reaction by the Afghans.
In the 82nd Airborne, she is one of the few female commanders of a company. It puts her in a position of being directly responsible for 173 men and women paratroopers, Grosz said.
Grosz is participating in the parade, which is sponsored by the J. Howard Snyder Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 781 of North Huntingdon and the American Legion in Irwin, said Don Kattic, who will be relinquishing his command of VFW Post 781 on June 1.
The parade will not proceed on Main Street, as it has in the past, Kattic said.
For veterans who have trouble walking, the Army and Marines will have military vehicles available for their transportation, Kattic said. Any local military personnel on leave or who have served in the military can participate in the parade.
“We request the community’s participation in helping us remember those who have died in our nation’s service and commemorate veterans of all wars and conflicts,” Kattic stated.
Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, [email protected] or via Twitter .