New Castle News
NEW CASTLE —
Patriotism and a deep appreciation of freedom were on display from every nook and cranny of the Scottish Rite Cathedral.
More than 200 Lawrence County veterans and their guests were treated to a rousing, 90-minute salute from the Mohawk School community and others during the 14th annual Veterans Day program yesterday morning.
The event was hosted by Mohawk High School’s Future Business Leaders of America and the Scottish Rite Cathedral Foundation. The entire student body from the junior high and senior high, including the uniformed marching band and the chorus, was bused to site.
“Forever Free, Forever Grateful” was the theme, and it came through loud and clear in word, song, dance, poetry and instrumentals that were performed during the program.
The event was the brainchild of Mohawk High student Mark Hogue, who was looking for a worthy senior project in 1998. His idea was approved and the program has grown into one of the school’s most popular activities. Hogue, a former FBLA member, is now a teacher at West Middlesex High School.
The first nine programs were staged at the high school, but when the auditorium was under renovation in 2007, the event was moved to the Cathedral, where it has remained and thrived.
Marsha Karidis, a business teacher at the school, helped students prepare for the program along with Kathy Eichenlaub and Joseph DiMuccio.
“We try to do something a little different every year,” Karidis said. “Some things have become tradition, like the New Castle Veterans Honor Guard presenting the colors.”
The program began with a video telling of the story of Francis Scott Key’s inspiration for writing the Star Spangled Banner.
Students heard the story of Leslie H. Sabo Jr., who received the Medal of Honor posthumously from President Barrack Obama during a ceremony at the White House last May.
The Ellwood City man died a hero at age 22 in 1970 when he hurled a grenade at an enemy bunker in Cambodia to save surrounded comrades. Rose Mary Sabo Brown, widow the slain soldier, was introduced.
State Rep. Chris Sainato, who was re-elected to his 10th term Tuesday night and whose committee assignments includes Veterans Affairs, delivered the keynote speech. The former teacher at Shenango High School told students they should not take the freedoms they have lightly.
The band played a “Salute to America’s Finest” during which veterans stood when the anthem of their service branch was played. There was also a recognition of students whose parents or siblings served or are serving in the military.
Choral director James McKim played a patriotic medley on the Cathedral’s Mighty Moller organ.
Gary Hassan, Derek Waddington and Ross Williams of The Veterans Memorial Pipe Band, Post 2001 VFW, Meadville, performed. Waddington is a sophomore at Mohawk.
Performed by Jenna Natale performed at interpretive dance to “Let it Be.”
FBLA officers Danielle Lucas, Andrew Henley, Mackenzie Moon, Michael Maravola and Jessica Duffy introduced guests, gave remarks and made special presentations during the student-run event.
Lorree Houk, assisstant superintendent, and principal Raymond Omer, also spoke.
Upon their arrival, veterans were presented flowers and pins in the lobby by Mohawk senior Jenna Natale and sophomore Kelcie Seth. After the program, veterans and their guests were served refreshments provided by the school’s home economics students, who baked breads and pastries.
The oldest and youngest veterans in attendance were recognized. Glen Hepler, 95, served in the Army while Russell Wilmes, 28, of Mahoningtown, is a Reservist after serving in the Air Force.
Wilmes attended with his neighbor, Jack Chmura, an Army veteran of World War II.
“I wish there were more younger veterans able to attend this,” Wilmes said. “It’s a tremendous event.”