Oh What A Night!
Our inaugural "Saluting Service" was indeed something to be proud of! The weather gods blessed us and we enjoyed a great picnic on the patio of Soldiers & Sailors, browsed the Great Hall of the museum and were entertained by the Brass Choir of the Trinity Jazz Orchestra. The auditorium program began with the 6th Regiment U.S. Colored Troops Drum Corp followed by an inspiring speech by Lt. Col. (ret) Barry Bridger. We then honored all 23 nominees by asking them to the stage and viewing a special video of their accomplishments. Honorable mentions went to Stephanie Sellinger and Anton Uzonyi and the First Class Patriot Achievement Award was given to Thomas Fitzgerald. A $10,000 check was presented from FPA to The Veterans Leadership Program in honor of Mr. Fitzgerald. Last but not least, we were treated to a fabulous concert by The Trinity Jazz Orchestra, featuring American Idol semi-finalist Adam Brock and our very own Carmen Petote! Truly, it was an entertaining evening and wonderful tribute to our veterans!
I want to thank all of you who helped with this Herculean effort by volunteering your time, spreading the word, reaching out to your contacts for cookies and grills and ROTC kids........the list goes on and on. A HUGE thank you goes to Darla Main for coming out of FPA semi-retirement and agreeing to chair this hairy beast. She had no clue what she was agreeing to and we absolutely could NOT have done it without her!
As a board, our goal for Saluting Service was to present our FPA chapter in a positive way through community service and to increase the awareness of the FPA to the public. Here are some of the ways we accomplished that:
Facebook - if you haven't been on it yet - be sure to visit it now. There are many photos of the event and a video clip of the nominees that was shown on Tues. Turns out we are the 1st FPA chapter to have a Facebook page. The last statistics I had was that we had a total of 131 likes, 64,675 friends of fans, 60 talking about us and 1141 weekly total reach. Now that this page has been created, we can use it to promote other events to our members and the public.
Tribune Review - 2 separate ads ran in Sunday editions - 1 calling for nominations (we received 25) and 1 promoting the 5/22 event. Additionally, a full page 2 sided insert appeared in the Sun. May 20th edition. All of these ran in the Pittsburgh and Greensburg editions. Additionally a feature story and photo of one of the nominees ran on Tues. May 22nd highlighting the reception the night before, promoting the event that night and listing all of the nominees (there were also quotes from several). Another smaller story ran on Fri. May 25th announcing the winner and the FPA donation to VLP.
Reception on May 21 - at Carnegie Library in Carnegie. Attended by most nominees, their spouses, nominators and spouses, sponsors and guests and guest speaker. Very informal but seemed to be enjoyed by all who attended. No one was in a hurry to leave and it was a great way to get to know the nominees and their personal stories. Nominees were very honored by their nominations.
Saluting Service 5/22 - Over 500 registered to attend! That being said my guess is that our attendance was actually closer to 350-400. Speaker, emcee and band have all gone out of their way to tell me how honored they were to be a part of the event and would love to participate again next year!
Lastly I want to share some excerpts of emails that we have received:
From Veterans Leadership:
I remain overwhelmed and so very grateful from yesterday evening's program. It was indeed a reminder of why we do what we do and why it matters so much. I want to extend my thanks to you and the FPA for also doing what matters, and for honoring our region's heroes in such an extraordinary way. The program was outstanding.
VLP will use the donation to assist Veterans who need help with employment, housing, or other supportive services that will help them reintegrate back into the community.
Ruth, Darla.....and the FPA: Again, please accept my thanks, especially on behalf of the Veterans we serve. Yesterday's program was meaningful, substantial, and impactful--something real and tangible to honor those who serve and sacrifice on behalf of us all.
Albert H. Mercer
Veterans Leadership Program of Western Pennsylvania, Inc.
From wife of Tom Fitzgerald - 1st Class Patriot Achievement Award Winner:
Hi Ruth! Tom and I really enjoyed the evening. Everyone we talked to said it was a great evening. The band was exceptional! That really is a nice event your organization is doing. Tom was totally surprised! The award itself was very nice too. I am really thankful Tom was the recipient of the award. I wish you much success in the future with the event! Thank you again!!
From one of our nominees:
It was great to meet so many nice folks. I was honored to have met with and shared conversation with Lt.Col. Bridger as I have always held a special place in my heart for the prisoners held in North Viet-Nam. I know we as Marines talked about them while in country and hoped someone would come up with a mission to get them out and home. There would not have been a problem in getting volunteers for that mission.
Knowing what they went thru makes my wounds feel very small as they also had to feel deserted by their own being held for so long. At least my fellow Marines were with me and I them on the occasions of battle and especially for the wounded and the dead.
I hadn't the chance to search the Hall of Valor before last night and while going thru found one of my own who was killed Nov.12, 1969 and received the Medal of Honor posthumously. His name was Ralph Dias Jr., and what he did that day on the side of that mountain was incredible. Most of us had joined the Marine Corps right out of High School and knew where we would be heading and most were just 18-20 years old like Ralph. I believe he was 19 as I on that day. I was a Lance Corporal and fire team leader at the time and Ralph a member of a fire team in another Platoon. He had been in my squad for about a month but was sent to the other platoon just weeks before his death due to low manpower in that Platoon. I've kept his picture and citation all these years in a place of honor along with the names of all of our men killed.
I've seen so many things thru 10 years in the Marine Corps and 31 years as a policeman and am grateful for having been associated with the many wonderful men and women I've come to know. Please feel free to give my email address to anyone involved in the program and especially Lt.Col. Bridger.
Thank you for the Prayers. My wife seems to be improving by the day since receiving the Anointing of the sick last week as I continue to pray for a complete healing.
There are many more messages like this from members, attendees and participants. We made a difference and had an impact on those we honored, those who participated and the organization we benefited with our donation. For that I think we can all be proud!
Click Here to see message from Governor Tom Corbett