Seven flags welcomed veterans, active service men and women, and their families to Mt. Pisgah last Saturday. The flag closest to the top of the hill was the American flag. Following it down were the flags of the five branches of service – Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, and Air Force. The last flag was one representing all five branches.
Patriots in the Park was hosted by the Friends of Mt. Pisgah, a non-profit group that supports the activities of the park.
Representatives from the offices of Representative Clint Owlett, Representative Tina Pickett, Representative Fred Keller, Senator Gene Yaw, and the Bradford County Commissioners were there.
The Penn York Highlanders opened the day with “Hard Times No More,” appropriately chosen because it was written by Stephen Foster, whom the lake at Mt. Pisgah was named after. They continued by playing five more songs – the theme songs for each of the five branches of service.
Next, while the Penn York Highlanders and Cub Scout Pack 30 from Columbia Crossroads stood at attention, VFW Post 8675 members raised the American flag. This was followed by an opening invocation led by Pastor Jennifer Jones and the singing of the National Anthem by Colleen Kinney.
Maren Callahan, president of the Friends of Mt. Pisgah, introduced the keynote speaker, Dan Shaffer, a 30-year Navy veteran and Canton High School alumnus.
Shaffer’s speech highlighted his experiences 19 years ago during the tragic 9-11 attack. He was at the Pentagon and said he felt shocked and amazed that the building was able to take so much force. Afterward, he also felt that a lot of Americans started rethinking their priorities.
Shaffer praised his wife for all the little things she did while he was in the military, including driving quite a distance to get a dog for their sons so they would have a buddy no matter where they lived.
Shaffer’s final words were to remember the sacrifices of families who have loved ones who didn’t come home. Also he asked that we remember the at-home heroes – the first responders who go to work, or rather do a service for us.
“It’s important for us to take care of those families,” said Shaffer.
Following Shaffer’s speech, there were special presentations made. Representative Tina Pickett presented Joseph Kozak with the Korean Ambassador for Peace Medal. Deb Struble presented Quilts of Valor made by her quilt group in Towanda to Lt. Col. John Herrington, USAF (ret) and Glenda Slater, Sergeant, U.S. Army.
There was a drawing for six quilts made by Mary Campbell – one for each branch of the service, plus one extra Navy quilt for the keynote speaker. Campbell also made 90 masks using fabric representing the branches of the service that were given to veterans as they entered the event, along with raffle tickets for the quilts.
“She’s a machine,” said Callahan, who is Campbell’s daughter. “She did great!”
Campbell purchased all of the fabric for the quilts and the masks from Nothin’ Fancy on Fallbrook Street in Troy. Proprietor Cindy Ammerman aided Campbell with this quilt project. Joyce Meeker also helped by finishing the binding on the quilts. In addition to the quilts, the Troy Trojans donated a stadium blanket for the raffle.
The winners were: Army quilt – Claude Carmen; Navy quilt – Joe Rynell; Coast Guard quilt – Niles Peterson; Marines quilt – Cary Kane; and the stadium blanket – Rex Seymour.
The presentations closed with the singing of America the Beautiful by Kinney and the benediction by Pastor Jones.
In addition to the speeches and presentations there were agencies set up in the park area, including the Bradford County Bookmobile, Bradford County Library System, Bradford County Veteran Services, Big Brothers / Big Sisters, and the Census team.
Snacks were provided by local businesses including cookies from MK Catering in Canton, popcorn from Mill Street Treats in Sylvania, and various snacks donated by the Friends of Mt. Pisgah. Coffee and hot tea was also available, served by Troy High School students. Snacks were individually wrapped with the help of Laura Taylor. Bradford County Dairy Princess Taylor Bride-Marshall offered eight choices of individually wrapped ice cream.
“We wanted to minimize contact and keep things safe for people,” explained Callahan.
The new Bookmobile and the Veteran Services new mobile unit were set up side by side. It’s ironic because the Veteran Services mobile unit was the former Bookmobile, which was originally an EMTA bus.
Pete Miller, director of Veteran’s Affairs for Bradford County, was on board the mobile unit to explain the transition.
“This van was built by veterans for veterans,” said Miller, who said there were many who helped out to make it what it is today including Warren Overpeck, C.C. Allis, VFW Post 6824, Steven Hakes Sr., Moose’s Enterprises and Northern Tier Veterans.
“I help veterans,” continued Miller, who is a 21-year Army veteran. He explained that he assists with questions on any VA programs and processes claims for compensations and pensions.
“I’m a one-man show,” added Miller.
To contact the Bradford County Veterans Services, call (570) 265-1704.
The Friends of Mt. Pisgah works year round to bring programming to the park. If anyone is interested in joining, call the park office at (570) 297-2734 or Find the park on Facebook for meeting times.
“We couldn’t do this without our volunteers,” said Maren Callahan.