YATESVILLE — Three days after Ethan Brown turned 17, he found himself in a military recruiting office. The Pittston Area senior is now a member of the U.S. Navy.
Brown and his fellow Pittston Area High School classmates attended a Memorial Day program presented by the Greater Pittston Earl F. Detweiler AMVETS Post 189 at Charley Trippi Stadium on Thursday afternoon. Brown, like many others in attendance, has a connection to Memorial Day because of his grandfather, Barry Brown.
Barry served as an Engineman in the U.S. Navy. Now, the younger Brown is following his grandfather’s footsteps and said the program Thursday meant everything to him and his fellow service men and women.
“This is a huge honor to respect all who have served,” Brown said. “There’s an enormous number of people who sacrificed for everything we have. I respect that.”
Since he was a child, Brown said his grandfather shared countless stories about his early days in the military. Brown said that’s why he wanted to join — the stories. He hopes to be part of an Honor Guard one day, much like the one seen at the program, which included a firing detail.
“There are so many memories I have from (my grandfather),” Brown said. “That’s why I’m here. This is incredible for everyone to get together from all different eras and times. This is supporting one common cause.”
Guest speaker for the event was Dupont resident Bernie McDonald, a Pittston Area graduate who was named the AMVETS State Commander last June. McDonald said he hasn’t been back to Pittston Area since he graduated in the 1970s.
On Monday, McDonald will be the principal speaker at the Dupont Memorial Day parade.
“It’s an awesome feeling to know where I came from and where I’m at now, to be a good influence on our kids,” he said. “The veterans are always here for them.”
McDonald respects the work of the young Pittston Area students, such as Brown, who have chosen a career in the military. When McDonald graduated from Pittston Area, choosing the military was much different than it is now, he said.
“It makes me proud that a school such as Pittston Area would encourage our kids to chose the military,” McDonald said. “There’s a lot of options the kids have that we didn’t have. There’s more of a benefit today and it’s an education.”
Thanks to state. Rep. Mike Carroll’s office, the AMVETS presented Pittston Area with two new American flags. A flag-folding ceremony took place and the flags were presented to the Pittston Area junior and senior class officers. One flag will fly at the football field and one will fly at the entrance to the school building.
As part of the program, four Pittston Area students were recognized for their work in the AMVETS Americanism Contest — an essay contest for school-aged students within the district. The ninth grade winner was Kearney Turant, who also picked up a second place finish in the state contest. In 10th grade, Cassandra Swingle won first place, and later placed second in the state. Kayla Hogan was the winner for the juniors, while Rachel Ferrance took first for the seniors and second in the state.
McDonald presented each with a pin for their achievements.
A flag was raised to open the ceremony in recognition to those on the Pittston Area staff who have served in the military. School maintenance worker Phil Pisano raised the flag.
Pittston Area junior Arianna Boccardi provided her rendition of the National Anthem. Pittston Area teacher Pam Kobierecki led the crowd in singing “God Bless America,” to which all students rose to join in. Junior bugler Michael Elko provided a rendition of “Taps.”
“This is an incredible feeling to come back here,” McDonald said. “This is why we celebrate Memorial Day.”
Reach Nick Wagner at 570-991-6406 or on Twitter @Dispatch_Nick