EXETER — Wyoming Area students and faculty members made sure those who served in the military were honored this Veterans Day.
A Veterans Day program and luncheon were held at the high school Tuesday where more than 120 men and women who served in the military were welcomed.
The annual event has been organized for the past several years by the high school’s history club, and its moderator, Maureen Pikas, said the students always look forward to the event.
“The kids really enjoy seeing the veterans here and I think they appreciate it a bit more,” Pikas said. “We have veterans from World War II up to Iraq and some fellow Wyoming Area alumni that come and participate. I’ve had former students show up, as well.”
The event began with students piling into the school’a gymnasium, followed by veterans as they were greeted with a standing ovation from students and faculty.
Principal Vito Quaglia offered opening remarks, giving the vets his personal thanks. He said, without them, those in attendance would not be there today.
Special guest speakers included State Commander Bernie McDonald and United States Marine Corp veteran Shawn Standford.
At one point during the program, Wyoming Area School Board member and Wyoming VFW member Jerry Stofko presented Pikas with a plaque, thanking her for the time and effort she has put into the program for the past several years.
As part of the program, Exeter resident and Navy veteran Jack Brogan, 86, performed the song “Flanders Fields” with the high school chorus.
Choral director Leonarda Sperazza said she knows Brogan through the Exeter Lions Club and said she had to get him to sing for the program.
“He leads the singing at our meetings all the time,” she said. “I wanted him to sing last year, but he was away so I contacted him this year and said, ‘You have to do a little four line solo for us’ and the kids were just so thrilled to have him sing. They want him to do a Christmas program with us.”
Brogan served as a radio operator on board the U.S.S. Token AM 126 from 1946 to 1948 and also served in the Navy Reserves for six years after his two-year stint.
He said he was honored to have been asked to sing for the program.
“Ms. Sperazza is so dedicated and I’m happy to have been asked to sing with this group,” Brogan said. “They are a great bunch of kids and the most dearing thing is I came to rehearse and one of the girls came up to me and said that she didn’t see me at the last rehearsal, but she ran into the room saying, ‘Where’s the old man?’”
Brogan received a standing ovation from his fellow veterans and students after the performance.
After the singing, a slideshow with pictures of family members of students and faculty who served in the military, as well as pictures of the veterans in attendance were presented to the crowd.
The veterans were then dismissed the same way they entered — to a standing ovation.
Pikas said she was thrilled with how the day went, and she is already looking forward to planning next year’s program.
“I’m so emotional,” she said. “It was such a wonderful thing seeing all the men and women out there being honored and they love it. It makes me feel special to bring that to them and it’s just so great.”
Brogan said he has been attending the Veterans Day program for the last several years and was never asked to be part of it until this year.
He said the program gets better every year.
“Every year, it gets bigger and better and you have to give this Wyoming Area a thank you for what they do for the veterans,” he said. “It’s a great program.”
Reach Jimmy Fisher at 570-704-3972 or on Twitter @SD_JimmyFisher