By EMMALEE C. TORISK
Students in Cassandra Bradley’s 12th-grade English class braved chilly weather and gusts of wind Monday to attend the city’s annual Veterans Day ceremony, which took place only feet away from their high school building.
With her class in the midst of studying the Vietnam War, the hour-long ceremony at the Struthers Veterans Memorial — at the corner of Morrison Street and Euclid Avenue, on Struthers High School property — was most relevant, Bradley said.
“We’re getting so far removed from these veterans, but some students even went around, unprompted, to thank them,” she said. “We are just so appreciative of the administration for letting us do this.”
Sandra DiBacco, former Struthers superintendent, served as master of ceremonies of the event, calling it “an honor and a privilege” to do so.
DiBacco explained that the city’s veterans memorial — built in 2006, after several years of planning and fund- raising — remains one of her greatest accomplishments from her time in Struthers.
It’s something the whole community should be proud of, she added.
“Our veterans are getting fewer and fewer,” DiBacco said. “All of their hard work — their service [to their country] and their building of the memorial — is a reflection of their passion and their dedication.”
The featured speaker for the ceremony was Army Lt. Col. Roderick A. Hosler, who has served in many positions in active and reserve duty.
Hosler also spoke during last year’s event, and this year emphasized the importance of honoring veterans "for their selfless service to the nation" not only on Veterans Day, but every day.
If those men and women hadn’t taken time away from their lives to defend the country in its time of need — and fought "in the jungles, the deserts, the mountains and the Arctic” — Americans simply wouldn't have the "freedom, liberty and opportunity" that they enjoy today.
"Their efforts literally saved this country and this world many times over," Hosler said. “We owe our veterans a great deal.”
Hosler mentioned, too, that veterans, especially those who served during World War II and the Korean War, are dying quickly — about 1,000 a day. The country is also losing its veterans of the Vietnam War, and of the Gulf War and of the War on Terror, at a rapid rate, he added.
“Once, we were young, a tower of strength and determination. We were American warriors. We stood our ground and won,” Hosler said. “When you see an old veteran, go up and say, ‘Thank you.’ They’ll appreciate it.”
During the ceremony, Boy Scout Troop 101 posted the colors, and Father Tim O’Neill, pastor of St. Patrick Parish, delivered the invocation and benediction, thanking the “brave men and women” who fought for “the gift of freedom.”
Performing the national anthem was Rachel Wagner, a senior at Struthers. VFW Post 7538 offered a gun salute, and the Struthers High School band played a medley of patriotic theme songs.
During this medley, Donna Burford, of American Legion Post 158, shouted out the names of the military branches as their respective songs were played. Burford, who served in the Air Force from 1956 to 1959, said veterans need to be remembered, and that too many Americans simply forget about them.
"It's because of them that we can even do this. God bless America," she said. “No, wait — God has blessed America.”