JOHNSTOWN — On a cold, dark and misty Monday morning, veterans literally took center stage at the annual Johnstown Veterans Day Program downtown at the Sir William Johnson Park.
Veterans in the crowd were asked to come up and stand in a row to be recognized in front of the Charles Jenner Memorial Band Shell — a new feature of the program.
The city annually conducts a traditional Armistice Day-type program at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11.
Retired Army Lt. Col. Pat O’Lucci and John Morris, a retired Navy master chief storekeeper, served as co-masters of ceremonies for the program.
“Americans are pausing today to honor our veterans,” said Mayor Vern Jackson, a Navy veteran who offered a welcome to about 100 in attendance.
Jackson recognized how many American veterans during a time of need in the country “set aside their personal ambition” to serve their nation. He offered a ”thank you” to all veterans — whether they served in peacetime or wartime — for their sacrifices.
The featured speaker was 4 1/2-year veteran, and attorney, Jennifer Bacon Wojeski, a former U.S. Navy lieutenant.
She said many veterans are proud to serve and perform national sacrifice. But she said veterans can respond in many ways when being thanked for their service. Wojeski said she will always be grateful for the nation allowing her to continue her studies, although she saw no combat.
“I got to see the world, visit ports and make friends,” she said.
Wojeski said she traces her call to action during Sept. 11, 2001 when she was in Washington D.C. and saw the Pentagon attacked.
She was commissioned through the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. in 2004. As a surface warfare officer, she reported to the USS Tortuga (LSD-46) in Little Creek, Va., where she served as the electronic warfare officer and later the Combat Information Center officer.
While aboard the USS Tortuga, Wojeski participated in international training exercises UNITAS (South America) and BALTOPS (Baltic Sea). She was also part of Joint Task Force Hurricane Katrina, which helped rescue and transport displaced Americans to safety.
For her second tour, Wojeski reported to the USS Gonzalez (DDG-66) out of Norfolk, Va., where she served as ship’s navigator. She successfully navigated the ship in and out of over a dozen ports during a Mediterranean deployment, as part of the Standing NATO’s Maritime Group-2.
Wojeski separated from the Navy as a lieutenant and attended Albany Law School. She was admitted to the New York state bar in 2012. She is currently a practicing attorney in Gloversville, with a focus on elder law, estate planning, and estate administration.
“I hope you continue to thank veterans for their service,” Wojeski told the gathering. “But allow them to tell their story.”
Monday’s public Veterans Day Program off West Main Street began after all church bells were sounded.
Observed was the Pledge of Allegiance, and there was a moment of silence for deceased veterans.
Other speakers Monday included Pastor Heather Kramer of the Johnstown Reformed Church, who provided the invocation and benediction.
Color guards included the Johnstown Fire Department and the Johnstown Police Department Honor Guard.
Providing musical selections — including “American Scenes” by Dallas Burke and the National Anthem — was the Johnstown High School Band. “Taps” was played by band trumpeter Damien Roth.
Johnstown Boy Scout Troop 104 presented the laying of the wreath.
A three-shot salute was provided by the Johnstown Police Department Honor Guard.
Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at [email protected]