Section of Centre County highway officially dedicated to Vietnam veterans

‘Long Time Coming’

CHRIS MORELLI/THE EXPRESS Former State Representative Mike Hanna Sr., at right, and current State Representative Stephanie Borowicz (R-Centre/Clinton), back row, pose with Vietnam veterans during Wednesday’s Central Pennsylvania Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway Dedication Ceremony.

CENTRE HALL — A host of dignitaries, veterans, families and legislators packed the Centre Hall Lions Club on Wednesday morning for the Central Pennsylvania Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway Dedication Ceremony.

The ceremony was held inside because the actual highway signage was not ready. The section of highways being dedicated runs from the intersection of Routes 192 and 477 to the intersection with Route 144 in Centre Hall.

The day began with a welcome from State Rep. Stephanie Borowicz (R-Clinton/Centre) and Brian Querry of the Centre County Veterans Affairs office.

“The most important people that I want to thank are the Vietnam vets who are here,” Borowicz said. “We lost 3,147 Pennsylvanians in the Vietnam War. This is for you guys. This highway is named and I pray as people see it, I hope they’ll remember the sacrifice that they made. It will be an honor and a remembrance of what you did for freedom and the sacrifice. You are the true heroes.”

Querry said that the naming of the highway was a long time coming.

“I was in high school during the Vietnam War and I always wondered why things happened the way they did with the Vietnam Veterans,” Querry said. “I see a lot of Vietnam Veterans and there are a lot of stories about these veterans being spit upon, being abused verbally … I really think that we can’t thank Vietnam veterans enough. They were told what to do. They were doing their duty. I’d like to thank them at this time.”

There was a presentation of colors by the Nittany Leathernecks Marine Corp League and an invocation from Pastor Debbie Dailey. Elizabeth Shaffer performed the National Anthem and Boy Scout Troop 20 led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Mike Hanna Sr., who served as the state representative for Clinton and Centre counties for 26 years, was the one who started the process of naming the road to honor the Vietnam veterans. He said that he was honored to be a part of this day.

“Let me say thanks to the Vietnam veterans. That thanks is long overdue,” Hanna said. “This was a very special piece of legislation to me. I was very happy to sponsor this. I want to make sure to give credit to all those who made it happen. The idea for this started here in the district. The idea came to me from some Vietnam veterans.”

State Rep. Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre/Mifflin) said that he was pleased to see all the branches of the United States military represented at the event. He recalled being a young boy while the Vietnam War was taking place.

“My good friend with his Navy hat on brings back fond memories. I was a single digit young boy when the Vietnam War was going on and we had a family friend – several of them – who had served. My mother was very good about making sure that we faithfully sent letters (to them). One day, a package came with a white (Navy) hat. I wore that thing until my head got too big to wear it. I wore it proudly,” Benninghoff said.

Sen. Jake Corman (R-Centre/Mifflin/Juniata/Huntingdon) also talked about the significance of the highway re-naming.

“These types of highways are ways for us to remember… for us to understand different times in our lives and our nation’s history,” Corman said.

The featured speaker was David Dimmick, U.S. Air Force veteran and member of Pennsylvania Air National Guard 112th Tactical Control Squadron in State College.

“We’re here to dedicate a highway. That’s the right and proper thing to do,” Dimmick said. “To many, that may seem to be enough. But in my mind, a 20-mile strip of asphalt seems to be highly inadequate. As we use this occasion to say thank you to Vietnam veterans, I hope we see behind those shiny signs and think about the sacrifices of the past, the present and the sacrifices that will be made in the future,” Dimmick said.

Following Dimmick’s speech, several veterans unveiled a replica of the sign that will be placed along the highway.

The ceremony received rave reviews from those in attendance.

“I really enjoyed the ceremony,” said Roger Elling of the Centre County Veterans Affairs office. “It was long overdue for these Vietnam veterans. It’s a great thing that we’re doing for them. This is something that should have been taken care of a long time ago. It was a long time coming. They went through so much disrespect, but I think we’ve learned from the mistakes of the past.”

As the ceremony wound down, Centre County commissioner Steve Dershem snapped photos of the veterans gathered around the sign.

“This was one of the most moving, touching, well-organized, fantastic ceremonies I’ve ever seen,” Dershem said. “Everybody who touched this ceremony was just outstanding.”