- Last Updated on Friday, 01 December 2023 14:57
Thomas Jefferson High School students and staff honored and celebrated local veterans, including TJ graduates who’ve died in the line of duty, on Friday, November 10 during a powerful and inspirational Salute to Veterans recognition and celebration at the school.
The day began with a breakfast for the veterans and local first responders, with more than 70 veterans attending the breakfast and program. Flanked by a huge American flag in the theater, the TJ band, orchestra and choir performed several patriotic songs, including a rousing Armed Forces Salute compilation with accompanying video to end the program.
The audience of veterans and the entire TJ student body and staff heard the inspirational story of U.S. Marine Eric McElvenny. A native of Belle Vernon, McElvenny was wounded after stepping on an IED in Afghanistan and had his lower right leg amputated. He has been racing since 2013 and finished sixth overall in the triathlon at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics. He has completed eight full Iron Man races, completing his first Iron Man competition 22 months after his injury.
Louise Biddle, a retired teacher from WJHSD and community leader in the South Hills and Mon Valley, gave the Invocation and TJ senior class president Jaylen Hocker gave the welcome address. Thomas Jefferson HS principal Pete Murphy was the emcee and primary organizer of the salute.
Thomas Jefferson senior Aidan Oeler presented a slideshow and spoke about the 10 TJ graduates who’ve died in service to our nation in Vietnam, Lebanon and Iraq. They are: Robert Guy Brown, Charles Thomas Lee, Thomas Burkhardt, James Dewar, Frederick P. Gillen, Thomas V. Haas, Robert Doering, David C. Bruggeman, Richard A. Morrow and Steven W. Freund. A memorial plaque with the names of the 10 deceased servicemen is located in front of TJHS.
Oeler also spoke about the history of U.S. military songs and wished the U.S. Marine Corps’ a happy 248th birthday (USMC founded on Nov. 10). The TJ Marching Band also participate in the city of Pittsburgh Veterans Day Parade on Saturday, November 11.
An archived stream of the full Veterans Day program is available at: https://livestream.com/accounts/14682220/events/4486191/videos/238443255.