This year’s Veterans Day observances, scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 10, and Monday, Nov. 11, in area communities, will mark the 101st year since the end of World War I.
Known at the time as “The Great War,” World War I officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. For that reason, Nov. 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars,” according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
In November 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day. It was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I, but in 1954, after World War II had required “the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the nation’s history” and after American forces had fought aggression in Korea, the 83rd Congress, at the urging of the veterans service organizations, amended the Act of 1938 (making it a legal holiday) by striking out the word “Armistice” and inserting in its place the word “Veterans.”
With the approval of this legislation on June 1, 1954, Nov. 11 became a day to honor “American veterans of all wars.”
Thomas B. Anderson American Legion Post 515 and Paul Lizza Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3414 are sponsoring the City of Latrobe Veterans Day observance Monday, Nov. 11, starting with the 10 a.m. parade followed by the program in Veterans Memorial Plaza.
Parade participants will assemble 9:30 a.m. at St. Clair and Ligonier streets and move out promptly at 10 a.m. on Ligonier Street to Weldon and Jefferson streets, Memorial Drive and Veterans Memorial Plaza.
On the 2019 program submitted by the committee are greetings by master of ceremonies Merle Brown, past commander of Post 3414; invocation and benediction by Rhonda Whatule, chaplain of Post 515; Pledge of Allegiance by Rosie Moff Wolford, mayor of Latrobe; greetings by Randy Miller, past commander of Post 515; musical selections by Greater Latrobe Senior High School Band under the direction of Tim Sheridan; an address by retired Army Sgt. 1st Class John Wayne Sleasman, Latrobe police chief, and a rifle salute by Post 515 and Post 3414 Firing Squad.
Sleasman said he served 21 total years between being a veteran of the U.S. Army and Pennsylvania Army National Guard. He was with Company A, 1st Battalion, 103rd Armor. He spent his entire military career in armor/tank, starting as a driver, then loader, gunner and finishing as a tank commander/platoon sergeant. He has been deployed to different locations, including Europe, Southern European Task Force (SETAF), immediately following the terrorist attacks on 9/11 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
After the service, Sleasman worked many years as the field coordinator of the Westmoreland County Drug Task Force for the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General. He has been with the Latrobe Police Department for more than 25 years. He began as a patrolman, then a detective and in October 2018 got hired as chief of police for the city of Latrobe. He was born and raised in Ligonier and currently resides there with his wife, Christine, and two daughters.
In addition, these organizations and their representatives will be introduced Monday morning at Veterans Memorial Plaza: VFW Post 3414, Joseph Muggli, commander; American Legion Post 515, Barry Novosel, commander; Marine Corps League, Emil Svetahor, commandant; Ladies’ Auxiliary to VFW Post 3414, Kristy Murphy, president; Sons of the American Legion, Shawn Gracie, commander; American Legion Auxiliary Thomas B. Anderson Unit 515, Janet Penrose, president; Sons of the American Revolution, Duane Miller; Daughters of the American Revolution, Mary Ellen Neff-Miller; Mayor Wolford; Latrobe Volunteer Fire Department, John Brasile, chief; Boy Scouts; Girl Scouts, and Cub Scouts.
Serving on the committee this year are Ralph Patterson, Merle Brown, Novosel, Earl Penrose, William Tompko, Larry Lowden and Murphy.
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The American Legion Post 515 will hold its annual Legionnaire Early Bird Membership Luncheon from noon to 3 p.m. Monday, Nov. 11, at the 1811 Ligonier St. post home. Novosel said, “All Legionnaires with their 2020 dues paid on or before Nov. 11 are encouraged to attend.”
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Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3414 will have its annual Banquet 5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 10, at the Spring Street post. Murphy said the banquet is “open to all veterans, auxiliary members and their spouses or guest.”
The monthly meeting of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Paul Lizza Post 3414 Auxiliary will take place 9:30 a.m. Monday, Nov. 11, outside Christ United Church of Christ, 1414 Ligonier St., just before the Veterans Day parade lineup. Members are asked to note the time change and place of the meeting and to wear their navy blue T-shirts and red jackets.
Transportation will be available for those not wishing or able to walk the route. Any questions, call 724-537-6480
Linda Butler, spokesperson, said, “We ask the public to come out and honor our local heros and show your support. We love our veterans.”
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Art Dira of the Veterans Memorial Committee announced “20 names have been added to the granite markers at Veterans Memorial Plaza in time for this Veterans Day observance:
“World War I — John F. McKay.
“World War II — Anthony A. Martin, Dominick A. Martin, Leboy Martin, John L. Werner Jr., Paul E. Smart Jr., Patrick G. McKay, Felix P. Mrozinsky, Louis C. Mrozinsky, Frank Mrozinsky and William T. Dunlap.
“Korea — William H. Wano, Robert A. Martin and Elmer J. McDonald.
“Vietnam — Richard L. Auman Jr., Thomas P. McKay, Thomas J. O’Barto, John D. DePree Sr., Thomas K. Wadsworth and Thomas W. Miller Sr.”
Dira noted, “This makes 1,097 names inscribed on the memorial markers. I have already sent out applications for names for Memorial Day 2020, and we will continue to take applications until late April 2020. If anyone is interested in having a name added to the memorial, please contact me at 724-539-8095.”
The memorial consists of the names of “honorably discharged veterans and those currently serving, whether living or deceased.”
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American Legion Post 982, Unity Township, will host its annual Veterans Day service 2 p.m. Monday, Nov. 11, at the post home, American Legion Road, off Charles Houck Road.
Guest speakers this year will be retired Col. Sam Wagner with the Westmoreland County Veterans of the War on Terror; retired Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court Judge John J. Driscoll, and Westmoreland County District Attorney John W. Peck.
The traditional luncheon will be served following the service, according to post spokeswoman Amy Johnson.
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Vic Nastase, superintendent of both the Blairsville and SS. Simon and Jude cemeteries, announced the schedule for the Veterans Day flag display as follows:
- Saturday, Nov. 9, American flags will be put up at 9 a.m.
- Tuesday, Nov. 12, all flags, poles and markers will be taken down starting at 10 a.m.
The Blairsville Veterans Flag Committee will display nearly 500 markers dedicated to deceased veterans of the Blairsville area along with American flags at the Blairsville and SS. Simon and Jude cemeteries. Volunteers set up poles and markers for “one of the largest flag displays in the state” beginning 9 a.m. Friday, Nov. 8.
All dates and times are subject to change depending on the weather.
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Blairsville Borough will hold its annual Veterans Day parade beginning 10 a.m. Monday, Nov. 11, at the east end of Market Street near Ernie Widmar Field. The parade will progress through town to the west end of Market Street, ending at the Veterans Memorial Park, where a brief ceremony will follow the parade.
Jim Meighan will serve as guest speaker for the ceremony.
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On Monday, Nov. 11, the Blairsville Community Concert Band will perform its 19th annual Veterans Day concert beginning with the presentation of the colors at 7 p.m. in the Blairsville High School Center for the Performing Arts, Burrell Township.
The event will pay tribute to active military and honor local veterans. The program will include popular music of all eras and classic patriotic marches. Admission to the concert is free, but donations are welcome. Donations are used to purchase music and small supplies for the band’s performances.
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Byers-Tosh Post 267 American Legion and Fort Ligonier Post 734 Veterans of Foreign Wars will host a joint Veterans Day program 11:11 a.m. Monday, Nov. 11, in the Ligonier Diamond bandstand area, according to Amanda Mattioli, the quartermaster at VFW Post 734.
Mattioli added, “Speakers will include Roy Hutchinson, the commander of the Byers-Tosh American Legion; Michael Hootman, commander at Fort Ligonier VFW Post 734, and myself (Mattioli). Richard Griser, the senior vice commander at the VFW, will be in charge of the rifle squad, and Girl Scout Troop 90003 will be passing out flags to spectators prior to the ceremony. Following the ceremony, the VFW will be open to the public and will host a free luncheon with live music by Hansel.”
The service also will include the Ligonier Valley Veterans Honor Guard, the Ligonier Valley High School marching band and Ligonier Valley Junior ROTC cadets.
There will be a parade from the VFW on East Main Street to the Diamond bandstand.
Master of ceremonies Steve Kimmick will open the ceremony, and Jim Tobias will present the opening prayer.
Junior ROTC Cadet Col. Hanna Long will speak about “Honor, Duty and Country.” The Ligonier Valley High School senior is the daughter of Mark and Mary Long of Ligonier.
“Cadet Col. Hanna Long was chosen because she is this year’s corps commander, and she is a great representative of JROTC and a great public speaker,” said Junior ROTC Commander Col. Charles Johnson.
Ligonier Mayor Ormond “Butch” Bellas will present a proclamation followed by a presentation by Hutchinson, Byers-Tosh Unit 267 Auxiliary President Judy Ebberts, Kimmick, VFW officer Jim Tobias and VFW Post 734 Auxiliary President Connie Tobias.
The auxiliary presidents will place flowers at the veterans marker in Diamond Park. The Legion and VFW commanders will place flags at the marker.
“Taps” will be performed by Scott Tobias. The national anthem will be played by the high school band during the raising of the flag by Junior ROTC cadets.
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The Ligonier Valley Junior ROTC cadets will present the annual Veterans Day program 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 11, in the high school auditorium. The community and all veterans are invited to this free event.
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EDITOR’S NOTE: Veterans organizations and other organizers of 2020 Memorial Day observances are asked to email details to Lifestyles Editor Louise F. Fritz email@example.com when possible or drop off programs in the mail slot next to the front door, 1211 Ligonier St., Latrobe.