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Huntington High School chorus, seniors celebrate Memorial Day early

Paul Kelly, 69, of Huntington, who served in

Paul Kelly, 69, of Huntington, who served in Vietnam and is a member of the Nathan Hale VFW Post 1469, gave a speech at an early Memorial Day tribute at the Town of Huntington Senior Citizens Center. (May 23, 2013) Credit: Brittany Wait

Members of Huntington High School’s chorus walked into the Town of Huntington Senior Citizens Center Thursday and handed military veterans and seniors replica poppy flowers.

Days before Memorial Day, the center held an early tribute event at Nathan Hale VFW Post 1469, presenting the colors and words from a local military veteran from the post, followed by patriotic songs sung by the high school’s chorus.

Paul Kelly, who served in the Army and is a member of the VFW Post, spoke about a friend he lost while serving in the Vietnam War in 1969 and emphasized the importance of young people taking the lead becoming military or political leaders to keep the country strong.

“Memorial Day is a time to remember our soldiers who lost their lives in our nation’s wars,” said Kelly, 69, of Huntington. “Frankly, it’s a sad time for most people who have been to war because during this weekend we think about the friends we lost.”

Sarah Mosden, a junior at the school, was among the nearly 30 students who sang “Beautiful City” from the Broadway musical Godspell, and “God Bless America.”

“His speech was powerful. I held back tears,” said Mosden, 17. “It’s important for young people like us to honor in any way those who gave their lives to protect our freedoms.”

After the speech, Patricia Bergersen walked up to Kelly, clasped his two hands together in hers and told him, “Thank you.”

“I came today to honor my grandson who just graduated as a Marine and my late husband, who served in Korea,” said Bergersen, 76, of Huntington. “And I wouldn’t miss honoring those who lost their lives and had their names etched in the walls at Veterans Plaza [on Main Street in Huntington].”

Joe Ferzola, who was drafted at age 20 to serve in the Army in Korea in the early 1950s, appreciated the tribute to comrades he had lost, although it was a reminder of sad times.

“I was guilty for a long time that I survived the war,” said Ferzola, 84, of Huntington. “This tribute brought back many sad memories of mine of those left behind, but I feel we should honor those who served their country and perished as often as we can.”

Kelly ended his speech on a good note, saying that barbecues and parties on Memorial Day and Veterans Day are just fine, as long as everyone doesn’t take for granted this freedom.

“There’s a tendency for people to feel this time is to celebrate and barbecue, which is great because those men and women lost their lives so we can do those things,” he said. “But at those parties take a moment to acknowledge the people who are at this very moment flying the planes, piloting the ships and patrolling war zones, so that we can enjoy the safety of this great nation.”

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