Area veterans honored during high school program

Area veterans were recognized for their service and sacrifice to our country as part of the annual Veterans Day Assembly Program held Wednesday afternoon at St. Marys Area High School’s Carpin Auditorium.Students, faculty and staff from the high school and middle school gathered inside the auditorium to pay tribute to local veterans. SMAHS Senior Mandy Gerarge acted as the event’s emcee. Following her introduction of the SMAHS band, which opened the program with a performance of “Silvercrest March,” Gerarge reminded the audience of the purpose of Veterans Day. “Veterans Day is the day set aside to thank and honor all those who served honorably in the military - in wartime or peacetime,” Gerarge said. “In fact, Veterans Day is largely intended to thank living veterans for their service, to acknowledge that their contributions to our national security are appreciated and to underscore the fact that all those who served - not only those who died - have sacrificed and done their duty.”She explained that as part of Veterans Day, Americans pause during the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month to honor all men and women who serve the United States.The assembly then stood for the Pledge of Allegiance, the national anthem and the posting of the colors by members of the St. Marys Servicemen’s Burial Detail, which consists of members from all veterans’ organizations in Elk County.SMAHS senior Jake Reed recited a portion of President Obama’s special proclamation in regard to the nation’s veterans: “Americans across this land commemorate the patriots who have risked their lives to preserve the liberty of our nation, the families who support them, and the heroes no longer with us. It is not our weapons or our technology that make us the most advanced military in the world; it is the unparalleled spirit, skill and devotion of our troops. As we honor our veterans with ceremonies on this day, let our actions strengthen the bond between a nation and her warriors. “In an unbroken line of valor stretching across more than two centuries, our veterans have charged into harm’s way, sometimes making the ultimate sacrifice, to protect the freedoms that have blessed America. Whether active duty, Reserve or National Guard, they are our nation’s finest citizens, and they have shown the heights which Americans can rise when asked and inspired to do so. Our courageous troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the globe have earned their place alongside previous generations of great Americans, serving selflessly, tour after tour, in conflicts spanning nearly a decade.”After reading from the statement, Reed noted the president’s sentiment is echoed in communities all around the country.Next, veterans were asked to stand and introduce themselves. The veterans in attendance represented all branches of the military and eras of service during World War II, Vietnam, Korea and the Gulf War.“On behalf of our school community, we sincerely thank you for your years of service to this country,” Reed said.SMAHS senior Amy Donachy recited the military poem “In Flanders Fields,” written by Lt. Col. John McCrae during World War I. Students Natalie Schwer, Cassie Williams and Brent Bartlet sang a piece that shared the poem’s title.Gerarge then introduced Capt. Nicholas Loudon as the assembly’s keynote speaker. Loudon, 29, is the son of Randy Loudon, a physical education teacher at the high school. He is a graduate of Brockway Area High School and the United States Military Academy at West Point. Loudon completed the Infantry Officer Basic course, U.S. Army Ranger school and Infantry Mortar Leader’s course. He has served as a rifle platoon leader with Charlie Company’s parachute infantry regiment in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C., and with the 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart, Ga., where he took command of Alpha Company infantry battalion.For more information on this story, see the November 11th edition of The Daily Press.