Remembering the 50th anniversary of the start of the Vietnam War and all Americans injured or killed in war, members of the Panther Valley JROTC and members of the "Friends of Coaldale High" held an impressive flag raising ceremony outside the Coaldale Complex (old Coaldale High School) Wednesday afternoon.
"Vietnam was America's longest war," said Korean War veteran William Gaddes of the "Friends of Coaldale High," who purchased the large 15-foot by 25-foot flag. "It cost the lives of nearly 60,000 men and women."
Gaddes flew 80 combat missions above North Korea and served with the South Korean Navy during the war.
Gaddes, a Coaldale native now living in Lake Hauto, pointed out that this flag replaced the 14-foot by 20-foot flag that was damaged during a quick storm in the winter. He added that this flag also serves as the largest flag ever displayed in Coaldale.
The program started at the school, in which members of the Panther Valley JROTC Honor Squad, under the direction of SFC Joseph Gordan and Cadet Battalion Commander Colin Johnson, carefully folded the new flag in preparation for transportation to the Coaldale Complex. Upon arrival, Honor Squad and Honor Guard members unfolded the flag in a ceremonial manner.
Upon the sounds of Taps, played by Mark Sain-Mellner, cadets then raised the flag into the air and then back down to half-staff in honor of those killed and injured during bomb attacks in Boston Monday afternoon.
During the program, Gaddes praised the dedication, professionalism and support provided regularly by the Panther Valley JROTC.
"We support the Panther Valley JROTC, as it is a character-building and achievement-oriented program which has achieved outstanding success," said Gaddes.
Veterans organizations represented during the ceremony were Coaldale American Legion Post 170, Coaldale VFW Post 6982, Tamaqua/McAdoo AMVETS Post 1, Tamaqua American Legion Post 173 and others.
"The event was simply beautiful," said Rolland Marshall of Tamaqua, who served in the U.S. Army from 1953-54 and served as past commander of the Coaldale American Legion.
"Older veterans are dying off," said Tom Sopko of Coaldale, who served in the U.S. Navy from 1962-65. "I love to see this amount of patriotism continue throughout our area. We need all the patriotism we can get."
He also added his support and drive to keep the JROTC in our schools.
"The flag will be lit via a bright light atop of the school," said Gaddes. "We are hoping to add a POW flag alongside this flag as well."
"We are honored that the Panther Valley School District chooses to keep patriotism alive by keeping the JROTC Program in the school," said Anthony Mussoline, First Vice Commander, AMVETS Post 1 of Tamaqua/McAdoo. He served in the U.S. Army from 1966-68.
"Events like this show heart, compassion and resolve of our country," added Gaddes. "We shall overcome and become even more watchful."
"The flag raising ceremony offered visitors a needed taste of patriotism," said John R. Poko, who served in the Marine Corps from 1971-73.