Punxsutawney Area High School Hosts Veterans Program | News

PUNXSUTAWNEY – Punxsutawney Area High School took to Friday morning to celebrate Veterans Day with students and honor some local veterans in the community.

The school held its annual veterans breakfast and about 15 people attended the breakfast, according to vice principal Manny Barbazzeni. Later that morning, the auditorium was filled with veterans, their families, and students for the Veterans Day program. Veterans and their families occupied the first rows of seats in the auditorium.

Barbazzeni welcomed everyone to the program before the high school band kicked off the morning with the “Star Spangled Banner.”

Bob Lott asked to return as a guest speaker this year, as he had been on a long trip with World War II veteran Walter “Wally” Hurd. He brought with him a condensed version of the film he made about their trip to the 75th anniversary of D-Day. He shortened the film from over an hour to about 16 minutes of highlights for students and attendees to to see.

“This trip really opened my eyes and gave me quite an education. I was unprepared for the reception we had. The love the French have shown to WWII veterans is beyond words,” Lott said.

The video showed highlights of Hurd’s trip and included much of the French love that Lott mentioned. There were clips of them meeting the French and the mayor of Sainte-Mère-Elise thanking World War II veterans for doing their job, because “my freedom was your job in ’44”.

After showing the video to the students, Lott asked them if they could imagine this kind of treatment for veterans in the United States.

“I can’t,” Lott said. “The reason is that we never lost our country…France lost its country and its freedom and the United States and the other allies got it back for them. It creates a love that I don’t think not that we can understand.

After the presentation, the high school choir sang songs from each branch of the military. Attendees were asked to stand during the song for their branch if they had served.

A slideshow was created by the National Honor Society using photos of local veterans submitted by relatives. The presentation also included popular country songs with military themes like John Michael Montgomery’s “Letters from Home” and Justin Moore’s “The Ones That Didn’t Make It Back Home.”

The program ended with the reading of “Taps” and some closing remarks from Barbazzeni. The students were sent back to silently return to class while the band performed “Amazing Grace.” The band members played a special song just for Lott and Hurd once the auditorium was empty. Many students stopped to shake hands with Hurd as they left the stage to put away their instruments.

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