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By Michael P. Mauer

Before the United States officially became a country, the men and women of the Mon Valley paid tribute to military veterans.  That honor eventually became nationally known as Veterans Day – a solemn holiday that evolved from when the armistice ending the Great War in Europe was signed Nov. 11, 1918.

A new generation has learned this tradition.  At the centennial year marking the end of World War I, members of All-American Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 914 Intrepid joined with Cornerstone Christian Preparatory Academy in West Mifflin for a ceremony Nov. 12 lauding all those who served in the armed forces of the United States.

Approximately 300 students, faculty, veterans and other attendees filled the school’s activity hall on Clairton Road to honor local soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who served to protect America’s interests around the world.  Among those veterans praised during the ceremony for their military service were relatives of the students and staff, including a servicemember who was wounded while posted in the Middle East.

According to event organizer and language arts teacher Ashley Smock, the students at Cornerstone Christian were able to take away from the ceremony a valuable lesson.

“Veterans embody what it means to lay down one’s life for a friend, and are such integral parts of our nation’s history,” she said.  “We wanted to set aside time to give them the respect – an honor that those men and women deserve for their sacrifice and bravery – while teaching our young people a lifelong lesson about honor and respect.”

Jake Bradich, VFW Post 914 commander agreed.

“Looking at the children here, I’m pleased to see many faces that I’ve seen before,” said Bradich, an Iraq War veteran.  “It is important for them to know that military veterans aren’t people you see in the movies or on television.  In many cases, they’re people who live right in your neighborhood.”

The event included musical selections performed by elementary school students, as well as a bagpipe melody.  Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 914 Intrepid West Mifflin presented the colors, and were honored with other assembled veterans with a presentation made by middle and high school students.  Remarks were also made by school principal and history instructor Brandon McCall, who quoted Medal of Honor recipient and President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better,” said McCall, who has a brother currently serving in the military. “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds.”

According to Smock, this is the school’s third Veterans Day program as Cornerstone Christian Preparatory Academy.  The annual remembrance ceremony for veterans carried over from when the school was known as Wilson Christian Academy.

Other activities Cornerstone Christian does to support the military include having the students and staff dress up for America Day, and raising funds for veterans service organizations such as the American Legion and the VFW.

“As a former soldier, I couldn’t be more proud of everything my community does to support its veterans,” said Bradich.  “Many of those in the armed forces currently stationed in the Middle East, Africa and Afghanistan are able to serve with pride this Veterans Day, knowing that our country’s liberties are still being cherished, and the military respected.”

For more information about VFW Post 914 and its activities, visit the group’s website at: http://traa.weebly.com/vfw-post-914.html

(Michael P. Mauer is a Life Member of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 914 Intrepid West Mifflin.  He was awarded the Joint Service Commendation Medal by Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf for his actions as a military reporter in Operation Desert Storm.)