By BROOKE WHITLING and NATALIE SANDROCK
Cranberry Area High School hosted its annual Veterans Day assembly Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019, in honor of area veterans.
In the words of Army veteran Bob Bowen, a third-year attendee, “The kids come and really respect us.”
Veterans Day, unlike Memorial Day, pays tribute to all American veterans, regardless of whether they are still with us or what war they fought in, if any.
Melissa Hogue, a six-year Army veteran, commented, “Being in the Army taught me that I can do anything I put my mind to. It taught me that I have the ability to do things I never thought I could do, and it also gave me the opportunity to live and visit other countries. I would do it all over again.”
Venango County is home to many veterans from all branches of the military and several attend this event each year.
Talking about his time in the service, local veteran Marvin Miller, stated, “It was different. I went from being a young man to a hardened soldier. When I went back to civilian life it was different, very different.”
Regarding his twenty-six years in the navy, Rey Santiago discussed how he was drafted into the Vietnam War. Of his time in service, he said his most memorable experience was, “I got to see the whole world.”
During the assembly, community members enjoyed performances by Cranberry’s junior high and senior high choruses. These performances were complemented by Cranberry’s band members.
In addition, a select group of students read poetry on the topics of war, veterans, and soldiers lost in duty.
For the past three years at this event, Cranberry has given an alumni award to a Cranberry graduate who has served. This year the alumnus who received this award was Jack Beebe, grandfather of recent Cranberry graduate Shay Harry, who is currently serving in the U.S. Air Force.
A highlight of the assembly was U.S. SFC (ret.) Tracy Shuffstall, the keynote speaker at the event. A thirty-year retired Army veteran, she gave a speech about her time and experiences in the military. She talked about her own children currently in the service, as well as how she came from a long line of veterans.
“I took on the uniform, and I said, ‘If not me, then who?’”
It was obvious from the applause that the audience found Shuffstall’s speech to be moving, but it was the ending that most people will keep in their memories.
“I want to recognize a woman, who turned 87 this morning. She was the wife of that WWII veteran; the mother of all of those people that were in Vietnam and Korea. She has had countless grandchildren in the Army, in combat, in Vietnam. She wrote a letter to each of us every single day; my mother, Laurene Bowser.” Shuffstall ended the speech on what many found to be a heartwarming note.
Local radio stations, Froggy 98.5 and 100.3, will be broadcasting a sound clip of the Cranberry student body reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. The 7 a.m. airing of this special message will occur on Nov. 11, Veterans Day.
For more photos from the school’s Veterans Day program, visit TheDerrick.com for a free gallery. A video of the full program and interviews by Cranberry Chronicles staff is included below.
Brooke Whitling, Natalie Sandrock, Jacob Umstead, Gabe Dresbach and Ava Fischer are students at Cranberry High School and members of Cranberry Chronicles, the school’s journalism/publications class.