BEA honors local veterans

Photos by Rose Hoover Veterans stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.

WINGATE – It’s been fifteen years since Aaron Irvin graduated from the Bald Eagle High School in 2003. Just two weeks after graduation, Irvin enlisted in the Marines. Since then, a lot has happened in his life. He married, had two children, served fifteen-and-a-half years in the military, and has completed multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan on his way to becoming Captain Aaron S. Irvin, USMC.

Last Friday, November 9, Capt. Irvin returned to his alma mater as the guest speaker at the annual Bald Eagle Area Veterans Day Celebration at the BEA high school gym. Capt. Irvin addressed the entire Bald Eagle Area School District student body, BEA staff, and other local active military personnel and veterans.

“It’s a big honor to be here,” Capt. Irvin says.

Irvin started his address by personally thanking the veterans that came before him for their sacrifices.

Irvin surveyed the crowd of elementary and high school students, and said, “By far, this is one of the best things I’ve ever seen – all these young faces here giving thanks to the veterans of the United States military.”

Photos by Rose Hoover 2003 BEA graduate, Capt. Aaron Irvin, USMC, was the keynote speaker at the 2018 Bald Eagle Area School District Veterans Day Celebration.

Irvin spoke about the sacrifices that veterans have made to give us to give us the peace that we take for granted; to say what we want to say; to do what we want to do. He said that there is no better thanks that you can give a veteran, for giving you the freedoms that you have, than by being a good person.

Irvin said, “You don’t need to put on a uniform to serve. Every single one of you in this room has an obligation to serve. Make yourself a part of this Country – don’t make yourself be a divider in this Country.”

Irvin asked every single person in the room to change the world.

He said, “I challenge every single one of you here to be a service to this country, and that means being a good person…”

He encouraged the students to have compassion and to help others.

Photos by Rose Hoover “What Veterans Day Means to Me.” Standing, from left: Alyna Basalla (at podium); Director of Elementary Education, Jim Orichosky; Leah Bryan, Mountaintop Elementary; Jocelyn Holt, Port Matilda Elementary; and Gracie Collins, Howard Elementary.

Capt. Irvin ended his speech by saying, “Everybody sees Social Media…everybody sees the hate that goes on in our Country and across the world…don’t be part of that. Start breaking the mold at a young age. No matter what your race, your color, your creed, you need to treat people with respect – at all times. And that is a service that I am requiring you to do, on behalf of all the veterans here who fought and sacrificed for the freedoms you have in our Country.”

“Treat everyone with respect,” Aaron said. “Be a citizen of this Country and a citizen of this world.”

Originally from Runville, Capt. Irvin currently lives in North Carolina with his wife, the former Stacy Hall, and their two daughters, ages 4 and 6.

Irvin’s next duty will be as the Marine Officer Instructor at Penn State starting next spring and summer, and says with a smile, “So my family and I will be lucky enough to move back here and be a part of this community again.”

The day’s events at BEA began with the Parade of Colors by thirteen members of the Clarence American Legion Cartwright-Martin Post 813 and Snow Shoe VFW Post 5644 Honor Guard.

Photos by Rose Hoover Howard Elementary students at the BEA Veterans Day Ceremony.

Directory of Secondary Education and High School Principal Jack Tobias welcomed the guests and thanked the many people who helped with the event.

Tobias said, “This is a total team effort to put this event on.”

High School student Madison Eckley, whose father, Travis Eckley, is currently serving in the military, read the Presidential Proclamation from President Donald J. Trump. High school student, Eric Greene, led the Pledge of Allegiance, and Superintendent Jeff Miles recognized the veterans in each of the military branches.

The symphonic band and choir performed patriotic songs, and the elementary students from Howard, Mountaintop, Port Matilda, and Wingate elementary schools sang a rousing version of “God Bless the U.S.A.”

Director of Elementary Education and Wingate Elementary Principal, Jim Orichosky, introduced student representatives from of the elementary schools, who each read a speech about “What Veterans Day Means to Me.” Elementary student representatives were Gracie Collins, Howard Elementary; Jocelyn Holt, Port Matilda Elementary; Leah Bryan, Mountaintop Elementary; and Alyna Basalla, Wingate Elementary.

After the program, a free luncheon for 200 veterans, current military personnel, dignitaries, and guests was provided in the high school lobby.

Veteran Cindy Fayman, who is also the BEA High School guidance secretary, was at the ceremony with her brother, Ed Robison, and her father, Max Robison, who served in the Air Force. Fayman, who served almost six-and-one-half years in the United States Navy, has attended each BEA Veterans Day Program, since the beginning.

Fayman says, “I think it’s wonderful. A lot of time and energy has been put into this. It’s humbling, actually.”

Ty Ammerman, of Snow Shoe, says he also tries to make it a point to attend every BEA Veterans Day Program. In previous years, he attended the ceremonies at Mountaintop Elementary School, when the programs were also held at the outlying elementary buildings. For the past two years, he has attended the joint elementary – middle – high school event at Wingate.

Ammerman was Capt. Irvin’s classmate, and also graduated from BEA in 2003. He enlisted in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard in 2002, in his senior year in high school. He served eight years, completed monthly drills, and ultimately was deployed to Iraq in 2009.

“It’s very nice that the school hosts these events,” Sgt. Ammerman says, continuing, “Especially in today’s society, where everybody is ‘anti-this and anti-that,’ it is really nice that the community is supportive and gets together to show their appreciation for the veterans.”