Area WWII veterans honored at special ceremony

Yesterday, as the nation marked the 64th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the United States\’ entry into World War II, roughly 500 World War II veterans were honored by State Representative Rick Geist at a special ceremony in Altoona\’s Jaffa Shrine auditorium.
“‘Awesome’ is a word that is over-used in this day and age, but it truly describes today\’s (Dec. 7) tribute and the impact it had on everyone in attendance,” Geist said. “To be in the presence of so many heroes of the ‘Greatest Generation,’ and to formally honor them for their service to our country – complete with appropriate military pageantry – was simply awesome.”
As Master of Ceremonies, Geist presided over an event that included a keynote address by noted military historian, professor and author Samuel J. Newland; a 21-gun salute by members of the Pennsylvania National Guard; a special WWII video tribute; presentation and retirement of the colors by members of James L. Noble VFW Post No. 3 and performances by the Altoona Area High School jazz band, the Jaffa Shrine Legion of Honor Drill Team, and Robert Baranik and Larry Detwiler, who delivered a stirring rendition of Echo Taps.
Newland has been a professor of military education at the United States Army War College in Carlisle since 1989. The War College alumnus holds a doctorate in modern European history and also is a graduate of the Army\’s Command and General Staff College.
In 2004, the War College awarded Newland the General Colin Powell Chair of Military and Strategic Studies. Newland retired from the Pennsylvania National Guard in 2000 with 21 years of military service.
“I\’m extremely honored to have a man of Dr. Newland\’s stature participate in today\’s ceremony,” Geist said. “He is a nationally recognized expert on World War II history and is well-versed in the triumphs and tragedies experienced by World War II veterans.”
Geist formally recognized and personally greeted every veteran in attendance, as well as publicly acknowledging those who were unable to attend. Veterans came from the 79th Legislative District that Geist represents, from around the area, and from out of state.
“I am deeply grateful to everyone who contributed their talents and their time to help make today\’s tribute a fitting one for our local World War II veterans,” Geist said. “The valor displayed and sacrifices made by these veterans more than 60 years ago helped to save the free world. The liberty we enjoy today, we owe to them. We also owe them our admiration and appreciation, today and everyday.”