Veterans breakfast at Greater Johnstown Middle School

Veterans enjoy breakfast at Greater Johnstown Middle School on Friday, Nov. 8, 2019.

For Army veteran William Cacciotti, Veterans Day represents many things...one being camaraderie.

That feeling of friendliness, goodwill and familiarity amongst a group of people was on display Friday morning as the Greater Johnstown Middle School hosted its 21st Annual Veterans Breakfast.

“It’s just kind of breathtaking,” said Cacciotti, the middle school’s interim assistant principal. “The nice thing about it is we have veterans that are here in the school district that have served, and to be able to do this for the community and have the veterans come in – I think it just kind of builds relationships with the veterans from the community and it builds a stronger bond with us.

“I love it,” he said. “A lot of these guys have served in different wartime situations, and we’re just happy they can come in here and share some camaraderie and enjoy each other’s company.”

Sponsored by Greater Johnstown School District, Conemaugh Valley Veterans, and Nutrition Inc., the annual event celebrated military service, honoring veterans with student presentations, remarks and special awards.

Greater Johnstown Middle School Principal Dino Scarton said the entire school district takes pride in hosting the veterans event each year.

“For years it’s been held here in this building,” he said.

“It was once Meadowvale Elementary, then called East Side Elementary and currently it’s called the Greater Johns-town Middle School where we house grades 5 through 7. And that experience of having our students being able to interact with the veterans and really show their appreciation for what the veterans have done with their lives is great.

“Their service and support that they’ve had has been a great influence,” Scarton said.

“Whether it be the active duty service members, the guardsmen or the reservists, their services and sacrifices have helped to keep this country safe and free, and this is huge for our students to be able to show their appreciation for them.”

Students from each of the district’s schools participated in this year’s event. Pupils from the high school’s Key Club helped to greet veterans at the door, several middle school students came together to sing a few musical selections, and a kindergarten class presented a World War II.

“We also have Lt. Col. Craig Minnick as the keynote speaker,” Scarton said.

A presentation of awards by Tom Caulfield, Director of Veteran Community Initiatives, also took place during the special event.

Key Club President Taylor Harrity said Friday’s veterans breakfast was the perfect prelude to the observance of Veterans Day on Monday.

“It’s the people honestly,” she said. “This is my third year coming to one of these. Just hearing their stories and what they have to say about their experiences makes it really special. And just seeing the smile on their faces when we serve them.

“A lot of these people are actually Johnstown graduates, so they want to come back to the place where it all started.”

Ronald Fisher is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @FisherSince_82.

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