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The cost of freedom highlighted in Purple Heart ceremony at Pembroke High School

By Howard B. Owens


Sacrifice and service of the men and women who served in the U.S. military to protect this nation were highlighted in a Wednesday afternoon ceremony at Pembroke High School.

The event honored the Village of Corfu, Town of Pembroke, and Pembroke High School as Purple Heart Communities, and honors were bestowed by members of the Military Order of the Purple Heart in recognition of Pembroke's commitment to honoring veterans and the U.S. military.

These awards are the Order's way to ensure the sacrifices service members made are not forgotten, said Ron Krul, representing the Military Order of the Purple Heart.

"When people see that Purple Heart plaque displayed (at the school), it unites students and adults of all races, religions, ages, genders, national origins, and nationalities as one united people to keep our American freedoms safe," Krul said.

In accepting the award for the Village of Corfu, Mayor Thomas Sargent recognized community members who have honored veterans in the community over the years, including Richard Beale, who organized the Memorial Day Parade; Vinnie Schollard, who ensured Main Street was lined with flags; and Mr. Spring, who distributed poppies in the community. 

"For them, and the rest of the veterans, I thank you, and I thank you for this honor," Sargent said.

Pembroke Town Supervisor Thomas Schneider recalled the Farewell Speech of President George Washington, whose likeness is on the medal, and who warned the people of the nation to avoid foreign entanglements. The Purple Heart, he said, is the high price we pay when we go to war.

"This type of recognition is important, so we recognize the sacrifices of all Purple Heart recipients and all people who served so that we understand the cost of the freedoms that we cherish so greatly in this nation," Schneider said. "I hope our leaders who vote to go into conflicts understand that cost on so many families and so many veterans and current active service members, because there is a true cost, and we can't forget that."

There are 13 former Pembroke students who have received the Purple Heart. They were each honored during the ceremony.

  • Charles Arnold, 1965,  Army, Vietnam
  • Merelle Austin, 1950,  Army,  Korea
  • Roger P. Bartholf, 1949,  Marines,  Korea
  • Lloyd Blood, 1942, Army/Air Force,  WWII
  • Roger Ditzel, 1943,  Army,  WWII
  • Jerry Dusel, 1964,  Army,  Vietnam
  • Clarence Hall, 1967,  Army,  Vietnam
  • Dennis Hoffman, 1940,  Marines,  WWII
  • Roger Kimmel, 1961,   Army,  Vietnam
  • Thomas Mattice, 1963,  Army,  Vietnam
  • Roy Schlagenhauf, 1931,  Army,  WWII
  • Wayne Snyder, 1967,  Army,  Vietnam
  • Werner C. Ziehm, 1946,  Army,  WWII

Closing remarks were delivered by Dr. John B. Long, who noted at the start of his speech, that he turned 96 two days prior.  He is a World War II veteran, a Purple Heart recipient who served in the European Theater as part of the Big Red One (The legendary 1st Infantry Division of the U.S. Army).

The full speech by Dr. John B. Long:

Today, I'd rather be right here because this is America at its very best.

I want to direct all of my remarks to the young people that are here this afternoon, because they are the ones that are going to lead America and carry the torch that we're leaving with the leadership for this great country. I need the young people to understand, I remember so very clearly -- I was 18 years old, in high school. One day I came home -- this was back in 1944 -- my mother handed me a little card. It was my draft notice letting me know I had been inducted in the United States Army.

Shortly after that, I was on my way down to Cape Wheeler, Georgia, for intensive infantry training.

Along the way, of course, a lot of things happened. Fortunately, for whatever reason. God spared my life as he did with some of the rest of us that are here on the stage today. But we need to understand something: We paid a huge price for the freedoms we have today. Four hundred thousand of my fellow soldiers never returned back home. The fact of the matter is, because of that, we have what we have here today in America.

My remarks to the young people here today is this: you have the greatest opportunity of your lifetime. This is America. It is the greatest country in the world. We want you to know that you can be everything that you are able to be. You have all these great opportunities in this country. You can be doctors. You can be lawyers. You can be electricians, whatever it is, because of the freedoms that you have today, because of the service of all of us from World War II, and the wonderful Purple Heart recipients over here.

I want you to understand that you have freedom of speech, you have the freedom to assemble, you have the freedom to worship as you please -- all of these great freedoms are because of what we accomplished and what happened in World War II.

I just want these young people to remember today, when you leave school today, take something home worthwhile with you. Remember, that you can be all you can be, you have the opportunity to do that, and we here today want you to do that because you need to carry out the torch of leadership for the greatest country in the world that God has ever been able to create. Thank you so much. God bless all of you, and above all, God bless America.

The event also included a moment of silence to honor Pembroke teacher Kevin Steffan, who passed away unexpectedly this week.

Photos by Howard Owens. Top photo, Mayor Tom Sargent delivering his remarks. Inset photo, Dr. John B. Long.


During the playing of the National Anthem.


Russell Ward and Ron Krul, Military Order of the Purple Heart.


Supervisor Thomas Schneider with the certificate for the Town of Pembroke presented by Ward and Krul.


The plaque presented to Pembroke HS to display at the school.


Zach Hartz and Sam Pfeiffer honor Charles Arnold, a Pembroke graduate who received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star while serving in Vietnam.


John Preisach, on the left, was friends with Purple Heart recipient Dennis Henry Hoffman, who graduated from Pembroke in 1940 and served with the U.S. Marines during WWII.  Before he died, he gave Preisach his Purple Heart, and Herzog donated it today to the Veterans Outreach Club and Pembroke High School.  Also pictured are Lily Senko, vice president of the Veterans Outreach Club, Amelia Geck, president, Arianna Hale, VP and secretary, Isla Czechowicz, treasurer. 

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