JOHNSTOWN - Twenty-year Marine and Air National Guardsman John Pradelski knows of the sacrifices made by him and his fellow service members over many years.
As the main speaker at Monday's annual Johnstown Veterans Day Program, Pradelski said he also knows Americans will make more sacrifices in the future.
"We need to stand ever vigilant in the protection of our freedoms," the city resident said.
The Pledge of Allegiance is recited at the Johnstown Veterans Day Program on Monday at the downtown Charles Jenner Bandshell. In front from left are John Pradelski, Mayor Sarah Slingerland and Laurie Garramone.
The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich
About 100 people attended the traditional Veterans Day Program conducted under overcast skies at the Charles Jenner Bandshell in the Sir William Johnson Park.
A moment of silence was observed for deceased veterans. Retired Navy Master Chief Petty Officer John Morris served as master of ceremonies.
Pradelski took those gathered through a brief historical timeline of the Veterans Day holiday. He noted it originated after World War I - known at the time as "The Great War" - which officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919. That year, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day.
Armistice Day was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I, but by 1954, Pradelski said, Nov. 11 became a day to honor American veterans of all wars. He noted President Dwight D. Eisenhower that year issued the first "Veterans Day Proclamation." By Sept. 20, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford returned the annual observance of Veterans Day to its original date of Nov. 11.
Pradelski recalled his 20 years as a member of the Air National Guard and
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Marine Corps. He said that whether men or women were drafted or volunteered, they always served their country well, obeying the rules of their commanders. He said he and his Marine Corps members "wanted to do something for our country."
As a Marine 50 years ago on Parris Island, S.C., Pradelski said he learned through his superiors that President John F. Kennedy had been shot on Nov. 22, 1963.
"That night, we sat on the deck, saddened and confused," he said.
But Pradelski said the nation pressed on through the Vietnam War of the 1960s and '70s.
"We saw the pain and agony of those on the front lines," he said.
Pradelski said "thank goodness" for those who organize events such as Monday's program. He also thanked those who become involved in many organizations to help veterans, such as the Wounded Warrior Project.
He said he is proud to be part of a "select group of Americans" who call themselves veterans.
"Stay the course, job well done, Semper Fi," Pradelski told the group.
Other speakers at Monday's program included Johnstown Mayor Sarah Slingerland, who contrasted American flags hanging in the city to what local life and freedom represents.
"It is a real honor to be the mayor of a small city like Johnstown," she said.
Slingerland said she is reminded of the impressive flag at the Johnstown Public Library that veterans helped obtain.
"Behind me at the courthouse is another beautiful flag," she said.
The mayor also noted flags that fly at city schools, where all are guaranteed an education, and the one in front of City Hall, where a free government serves the people.
"That's what sacrifice is for," Slingerland said. "And we thank our veterans for that."
Color guards were provided by American Legion Post No. 472, the Johnstown Fire Department and the Johnstown Police Department Honor Guard. The honor guard also performed a three-gun salute.
The National Anthem and a selection, "American Pride," were played by the Johnstown High School Band. Taps was played by band member Jordan Vose.
Johnstown City Historian Noel Levee presented a wreath.
Mother Laurie Garramone of St. John's Episcopal Church gave the invocation and benediction.
Michael Anich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.