The sun smiled on Carbon County Friday afternoon as residents, veterans, and employees of the county gathered in the Josiah White Park in Jim Thorpe to honor the brave men and women who served this country.
During the county's annual Veterans Day program, Henry Desrosiers, director of the Office of Veterans Affairs in Carbon County, welcomed everyone to the event.
Members of the Panther Valley High School JROTC program then posted the colors. Other veterans organizations that were in attendance and participated in the event included American Legions from Jim Thorpe, Palmerton, Lehighton, Weatherly and Summit Hill.
Gil Henry, American Legion Post 304 chaplain, provided the invocation and benediction. He asked the Lord to bless the veterans and the men and women who are still serving in the military.
Following the introductions, Desrosiers spoke about what it means to be a veteran.
"Veterans are drawn from many generations and many backgrounds," he said. "Some charged across great battlefields, some fought on the high seas and some patrolled the open skies. But all contributed to the greatness of America. As much as veterans differ by gender, race, age, national origin or profession they share a common love of their country. A love great enough to put their life on the line to guarantee the way of life we enjoy today and to secure that way of life for tomorrow's generations.
"The title veteran must be earned," Desrosiers continued. "It is a title given to citizens whose shoulders are broad enough to carry the weight of our common defense. It is a title that speaks of courage and sacrifice in the face of mortal danger. It speaks of compassion and heartbreak in the terrible cost of war and it speaks of love of country and of a belief of our country's goodness."
He then spoke of heroes and how many say there is a lack of heroes today.
"If people have no heroes it is because they are looking in the wrong places," Desrosiers said. "Today's heroes are the ones who fought and who are fighting today for the cause of freedom and peace. I ask all to pause today in tribute to the priceless contribution from all veterans and those who gave their lives. We salute them for their part in the preservation of freedom and honor them for courage and devotion to country. May God bless our veterans and those who wear the uniform."
Following Desrosiers opening, Carbon County Commissioners Wayne Nothstein, Thomas J. Gerhard, and William O'Gurek; as well as special guest speaker Ret. Major Kenneth Markovich, a Panther Valley native with an impressive military background who is currently serving as the senior instructor of the PV JROTC program, addressed the people in attendance.
Nothstein spoke about the freedom Americans received thanks to veterans.
He noted that there are many state legislations that are being passed in honor of Pennsylvania's veterans.
He also thanked legislators for their support of veterans over the years and veterans for their dedication to the country.
Gerhard echoed Nothstein's thoughts, saying that this country's veterans served courageously and some made the ultimate sacrifice.
He also recognized his father, former county Commissioner Tom Gerhard, who is also a veteran.
"I am proud to say I am the son of a veteran," he said. "It was my dad who taught me as a young boy about the value of service and freedom. He taught me respect and honor for those who served.
O'Gurek spoke about the reelection of President Barack Obama and how Obama's words about this country are true when it comes to veterans and their dedication in the pursuit to make America great.
He echoed everyone's thoughts, saying that it was the sacrifices by these men and women that make the military the best in the world and challenged all to keep America great.
Markovich then addressed the audience.
He said that this weekend should be a time to reflect and thank all who served in the military.
He, like O'Gurek, read a portion of President Obama's Veterans Day proclamation.
"'Their sacrifices have helped secure more than two centuries of American progress, and their legacy affirms that no matter what confronts us or what trials we face, there is no challenge we cannot overcome, and our best days are still ahead.' I believe this," Markovich said. "Our best days are still ahead and it's because of the help of veterans."
He urged all veterans to get their photo albums out and tell their children and grandchildren the stories about what they did while serving, what it was like and what being in the military is all about.
"That is how we spread the great news of our country," Markovich said.
He thanked everyone and asked that they thank a veteran.
Following the speeches, members of the color guard fired a 21-gun salute, while Taps was played on the bugle. Angela Nardini then sang "God Bless America" to end the program.