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City honors local veterans

Mirror photo by Russ O’Reilly / Lisa and Shawn Kent watch downtown Altoona’s annual Veterans Day parade with their children Ava and Aiden on Monday.

Patriotic music could be heard and large crowds could be seen all Monday morning along the streets of downtown Altoona as the city gathered to support the veterans in the annual Veterans Day parade.

In honor of the 100th anniversary of the very first Armistice/Veterans Day, the city expected the largest turnout yet for the celebration.

All veterans were invited to walk in the parade, and for many, this was an opportunity to represent all of the local veterans, past and present.

“Our community has a lot of veterans in it,” said Willard Boyer, an Air Force veteran. “When I was in the War Vets Council, I would cut out the clippings every time a war veteran in Blair County died, and every year I had about 300 to 400 of them.”

Monday’s parade offered a chance for members of the community to show their support and respect for all who have served.

Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski / Patton VFW Post 779 Commander and Marine Corps veteran Ken Graboski of Flinton (left) salutes the flag during the playing of “Taps” at the Veterans Day ceremonies at the Patton Recreation Park Veterans Memorial on Monday.

“We’re pausing as a nation to honor our veterans,” said Sam Dunkle, retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel. “Our veterans have been there from the beginning, fighting for our freedom in the American Revolution all the way to the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan today, so it’s nice to take the time to honor all those veterans past and present that have gained our freedoms as Americans and made our country one of the greatest in the world.”

At the conclusion of the parade, many of the participants and bystanders gathered for a short presentation and to hear comments made by the keynote speaker, Congressman John Joyce.

“I’m the son of a veteran of World War II, and my wife is a veteran in the United States Navy, having served for more than 13 years, so my respect for the military comes from my home, comes from my family, and comes from those constituents that I serve here in south central Pennsylvania,” the Blair County Republican said. “I realize how important a strong military is, and once that military service is finished, a strong support for our veterans.”

Additionally, as part of the concluding presentation, Navy veteran Vera Basciani, who also just celebrated her 99th birthday, was honored for her service, with the day being proclaimed “Vera Basciani Day.”

State Sen. Judy Ward, R-Blair, honored Basciani alongside Altoona Mayor Matthew Pacifico. Ward also spoke to the importance of the Veterans Day celebration.

Mirror photo by Russ O'Reilly / David Jalosky, an Air Force veteran, watches the parade with his daughter, Joy Orr, and grandchildren Thomas David Orr and Bethany Orr (not pictured).

“We had beautiful weather and a great turnout. It just warms your heart,” Ward said. “It means a lot to the veterans; it really does. It’s a big deal for our veterans, and it should be a big deal.”

Mirror photo by Russ O'Reilly / Spectators stand behind a banner during Altoona's annual Veterans Day parade Monday.

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