"When I hear the Pledge of Allegiance and the band play the national anthem, I get goose bumps," Mr. Gress, Pleasant Valley High School's principal told the assembly of the 14th Annual Veterans Day ceremony.
"Nov. 11 is set aside to reflect on what our veterans have sacrificed for us. We should never forget," he said. "I read where there are 22 million veterans alive today. All should be recognized. But recognition shouldn't be just today. It should be every day."
He thanked everyone for their help in putting together the all day program from those who came and put up displays in the gym to those who participated in the program and to staff. A special thank you went to Mark Tramontina and his 20th Century classes, his wife, Monica Tramontina, a PVHS paraprofessional, who coordinated the event.
What started out as Tramontina inviting a couple of veterans to speak in his classroom on Veterans Day 14 years ago has grown to become an all day event held in the gym to accommodate several classes at one time.
The students and staff visited the gym throughout the day to view various displays ranging from boots worn by veterans, equipment carried by Marines in their knapsacks, a variety of fatigues and uniforms, items included in a MRE (meal, ready-to-eat) field ration kit. Recruiters from the Army National Guard, the United States Marine Corps and the Navy had tables set up. There were displays of World War I aircraft, of military medals and ribbons, Remembering Vietnam and acknowledgment of the Rosie the Riveters who helped our country through World War II.
There was a telegram, dated Jan. 11, 1945, addressed to the wife of John Michael Lomonaco, telling her that her husband was listed as a MIA in Germany.
William Stavey, dressed in a Navy uniform, had a display of photographs and letters, dedicated to the memory of his father, William Stavey, who was a petty officer first class in the Navy and served in the Pacific Theater during WW II. He died in 1950.
Members of the United States Submarine Veterans brought in a scale model of a submarine, made by member Ken Smith.
PVHS students encouraged people to write the name of someone who is currently serving in the military on a piece of construction paper and made a chain of the names. They also asked for volunteers to write letters to soldiers.
Rocco Seiler, a PV graduate of 1987, and also a veteran, is a member of the school's 50th anniversary committee.
"We wanted a way to pay tribute to our alumni who served and we created a video of those PV grads that we could find who served in the military."
The film depicted various scenes of military personnel performing duties with PV veterans' senior pictures fading in and out accompanied by the anthems of the different branches of the military and patriotic music.
A voice over was heard of the words written by Thomas Paine on Dec. 23, 1776 of "These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman."
One of the guest veterans to speak was PV grad, Lisa Kaye, who spoke of her military experience.
"I loved it. It was the ultimate jungle gym. I laughed my way through basic training. Music and sports are what kept me going in high school. I joined the Army band to be able to do both."
She served in the Gulf War.
Pennsylvania Representative John Siptroth was one of the day's speakers. He is a Vietnam veteran, having served from 1966-70 in the Army.
"It was an honor to serve," he said. "We face our future by remembering the past. We should never forget how our veterans left the comfort of home and sacrificed to protect our rights."