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North Irwin community to honor vets, current military

It’s been 57 years since Army Cpl. Leonard Santimyer served in the Korean War.

Santimyer, the former mayor of North Irwin, was drafted into the Army in May 1953, two months before the United States and Korea signed an armistice agreement in July.

Although he saw no combat, he was stationed in Korea in 1954, where he spent 16 months.

Santimyer is one of several veterans who call the small borough home and will be recognized during North Irwin’s Veterans Day celebration at 6 p.m. Thursday at North Irwin Playground.

“The guys who served, and maybe some of the women, mostly served in World War II,” Santimyer said. “Over the last couple of years, we had some fellas serve in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Last year marked the borough’s first luminary ceremony at the playground, which featured red, white and blue bags illuminated by candles in honor of the military.

Brian Crawford, a North Irwin resident and member of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Irwin, started the program to benefit the church’s Treats for Troops Program, which sends care packages to military members serving overseas.

About 80 people showed up for the program, allowing Crawford and church members to collect hundreds of items to send overseas.

Santimyer said it was touching for so many of the borough’s residents to honor service men and women as well as veterans.

“At the most, we have 800 people in North Irwin,” he said. “That means about one-tenth of the people came out, and that’s definitely a good thing.”

Crawford said he was proud of the turnout for the first celebration, and the event is growing this year with more speakers and a sponsorship from Dunkin’ Donuts.

This year speakers will include Westmoreland County Commissioner and Vietnam War veteran Charles Anderson and Sen. Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland County, and another local veteran, Crawford said.

Mayor James Douglas, who is a National Guard veteran, plans to serve as master of ceremonies for the evening.

After the speakers, Crawford said, organizers plan to honor veterans and active members of the military by reading their names, which will be printed on red, white and blue luminary bags.

The luminaries, which will be lit by a small tea candle, will be placed in the park to spell out “USA.”

Members of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Irwin were able to send about 20 packages to soldiers serving abroad after last year’s event, Crawford said.

Like last year, he said he hopes to collect microwavable macaroni and cheese, razors, razor blades, toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, baby wipes, plastic sandwich bags, snacks, gum, deodorant, single-serving drink mixes, playing cards and games, international phone cards, puzzle books, reading materials and microwavable popcorn.

The program also collects candy, but no chocolates, except for M&Ms.

The program collects items that can be easily carried or packed away, such as hard candies and personal care products, or cash.

Crawford said the church pays for all postage, and it’s always looking for new troops to receive packages.

“We’ll send them to anyone in the military. We just need an address,” he said.

Dunkin’ Donuts will provide coffee and snacks. The restaurant, located at 9725 Route 30, will accept donations on behalf of the event organizers.

“I’m hoping this becomes something that brings people from all over the region into North Irwin,” Crawford said. “I think it’s something that the borough would be proud to be known for, because it’s a great thing to be able to help our troops and honor our veterans.”

Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 781 offers its annual Veterans Day observation at 11 a.m. at its headquarters at 100 Billot Ave. in North Huntingdon.

Post Cmdr. Don Kattic said the Norwin High School Orchestra String Quartet, under the direction of Mike Szymanski, will perform at 10 a.m.

This year, Kattic said, the event will feature a speech about the role of women in the military, presented by Lt. Col. Susan Oliver of Evans City.

“Out of approximately 2.6 million living veterans, about 8 percent are women,” Kattic said.

The event also features American Legion Post 359 Cmdr. Tom Tomko and Auxiliary member Dawn Apelquist as well as the VFW Honor Guard, which, under the command of Capt. Tom Keaton, will post the colors and fire a volley for all departed veterans.

All veterans and current military personnel and their families are invited to the event, which will be followed by a luncheon.


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