Parade, ceremonies mark Veterans Day across region
James Desmone reflected Thursday on the friends he lost during the Vietnam War.
“I’ll spend the day thinking about my friends who didn’t get home, and all the other people who didn’t make it back,” he said shortly after a Veterans Day ceremony at the war memorial inside Arnold’s Roosevelt Park.
Desmone, 59, of Springdale served with the Army’s 1st Cavalry Division in Vietnam in 1971 and 1972. A disabled veteran himself, he now serves as commander of the Alle-Kiski Valley Disabled American Veterans chapter.
Desmone said he was certain to spend time thinking about those being treated in military hospitals.
“Those are the things that will be on my mind,” he said.
The Roosevelt Park ceremony preceded a parade on Fifth Avenue from Arnold to New Kensington. The remembrance culminated with a ceremony at the Gold Star Mothers war memorial along Ninth Street in New Kensington. The New Kensington-Arnold Joint Veterans Committee sponsored the events.
Among the participants were members of the local Disabled American Veterans chapter; the Valley High School marching band; cadets with the high school’s JROTC program; the American Red Cross; American Legion posts 684 and 347 in Arnold and New Kensington, respectively; local, county and state elected leaders; police and firefighters from both cities and soldiers with the Army Reserve’s 340th Engineering Co. in New Kensington.
Other celebrations happened yesterday in the Alle-Kiski Valley — in Apollo, Lower Burrell and Oakmont.
“I think it’s great that they still do this,” Mia Trofimuk, 22, of New Kensington said of the parade in Arnold and New Kensington. “This is a good thing for the community.”
Trofimuk said Veterans Day holds special meaning for her because her father, Matt Nolen of Arnold, served as an Army Ranger during Operation Desert Storm.
Harrison resident John Megats, 36, took his three young children to the parade, saying he wants to teach them at an early age the importance of the day.
“I don’t want them to think it’s just another day off school,” he said. “They need some background, some perspective on what this is all about. You have to start them young so they understand.”
Dominic Stokes, 17, of Arnold said he spent Thursday morning educating himself on Veterans Day history by watching the news. He admitted a lot of his peers “think this is just another day off of school.”
Stokes, a senior at Valley High School, said he gave some thought to joining the military, knowing it would help him afford going to college. He said he’s decided against enlisting but indicated he has the utmost respect for those who serve.
“It takes a lot of courage,” he said.
Hundreds of people lined Fifth Avenue in both cities to watch the parade. Linda Chobanian of New Kensington stood with her grandson, Isaiah Parks, 5, of Arnold, at 10th Street and Fifth Avenue as he collected candy that parade participants tossed from vehicles.
“My grandson loves to hear the drums and see the fire trucks,” she said.
Thomas D. Rushnock, 62, of Arnold ended the events by addressing a crowd of a few hundred at the Gold Star Mothers memorial.
Rushnock, a state constable, served with the Air Force from 1964 to 1971, spending two tours in Vietnam. He flew with the Air Force Security Police Heavy Weapons Team.
After being afflicted by Agent Orange, a chemical defoliant used in warfare, Rushnock spent nearly two years in the Philadelphia Naval Hospital upon his return from Vietnam. Over the years, he has endured 32 surgeries.
He said of his time in Vietnam, “For me, it was the most memorable experience — good and bad — of my entire life.”
Rushnock read a passage from the book, “Voices from Vietnam,” that summarized the struggle soldiers endured.
“Those of us who have experienced combat, felt it, heard it and still carry the results of it, will never forget,” Rushnock said.
He closed by saying, “We, as fellow Americans, must take every opportunity, especially on this day, to say, ‘Thank you for your service.'”