Memorial Activities - 2015

Published May 26. 2015 04:00PM

Retired U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Nick Paraschak can't remember too many living veterans from his hometown.

In fact, the 93-year-old who served during World War II at the Battle of the Bulge can only recall two, both classmates of his who graduatedin 1942. On Sunday, Paraschak read the names of 20 veterans from Coaldale who died since Memorial Day 2014 during two services sponsored by the Coaldale United Veterans Organization.

"You don't have to turn on the television to see a veteran," said retired U.S. Army Sgt. Michael Vigoda, who served as master of ceremonies. "We have them right here in Coaldale."

Guest speaker retired U.S. Army Maj. Gerald New, senior instructor of the Panther Valley High School Junior ROTC, gave a brief history of Memorial Day including the two dozen cities and towns claiming to be the birthplace of the holiday. It was first widely observed on May 30, 1868, to commemorate the sacrifices of Civil War soldiers.

Today, Memorial Day extends beyond the men and women who have served in our nation's military.

"We also remember those who we have lost from government organizations like the CIA and FBI, local police and firefighters, and those men and women on the flights of 9/11 who never served a day in the military but died defending this country and what is right," New said.

New singled out Coaldale natives Captain Norman Louis Nesterak, who died in Vietnam in 1969; Sgt. George Lucash, who died on Japan's Mount Suribachi; and Pvt. Joseph Herring, who died during the Civil War while serving with Company H of the 11th Pa. Infantry.

"These are not just names on a plaque," New said. "They were someone's friend, family or neighbor. There is a lot of history right here in Coaldale and we are here today to remember those who fought for our freedoms."

New retired from the U.S. Army after 20 years of service in September. His significant assignments included the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, Second Infantry Division, Republic of Korea; Troop Commander of the 1/16 Cavalry Squadron, Fort Knox; Adviser to First Brigade, Saudi Arabia National Guard; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; and Chief of Training, 7th Infantry Division, Joint Base Lewis/McChord, Washington.

The first of Sunday's services was held at the Seek Veterans Memorial with the latter ceremony at Coaldale Veterans and Women's Memorials.

In his comments, directed at the few youth in attendance, Coaldale Mayor Joel Johnson expressed concern about the younger generation's perception of Memorial Day.

"The greatest threat to our nation is not inflation, terroristic threats or the stock market," Johnson said. "Our children do not know how to be patriotic or have the sense of what it is to be a true American. Each morning school children repeat the Pledge of Allegiance at school, but too often it becomes a repetitive exercise with little or no meaning."

Sunday's events drew heavy participation from students in the Panther Valley School District including high school students Zachary Gilbert and Noah Easterly.

Gilbert sang the national anthem while Easterly read the popular poem "In Flanders Field," penned by Canadian physician Lt. Col. John McCrae during World War I.

Mark Christ directed the Panther Valley High School band through several patriotic musical selections.

The Panther Valley Junior ROTC cadets fired three rounds in honor of Coaldale's fallen heroes and taps was played.

Pastor Elisandra Garcia, of United Methodist Church in Coaldale, gave the invocation and benediction.

JARRAD HEDES/TIMES NEWS Retired U.S. Army Major Gerald New delivers a speech during Sunday's Memorial Day service at the Seek Veterans Memorial in Coaldale.

Special flag ceremony is held in Coaldale
Published April 13. 2012 05:01PM

Panther Valley Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps raised the American flag at the Coaldale Complex this week as an audience of veterans, their families and fellow cadets looked on.

The ceremony included a poem written by JROTC cadet Natasha Scerbo, a reading of the history of the American flag by Cadet Brooke Turner, and the placement of red roses before a photo of Mary Nesterak, the mother of Norman Nesterak of Coaldale, who died in the Vietnam War. Mary is Coaldale's last surviving Gold Star Mother.

Under the direction of Major Kenneth Markovich, the cadets, including Platoon Leader Roxanne Person and Battalion Executive Officer Ashlee Miller, assisted by Army Instructor Sgt. First Class Joseph Jordan, hoisted the flag as Cadet Colin Johnson played the trumpet.

Afterward, Cadet Pvt. Michael Scotto led the audience in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

Cadet Scerbo read Edward Guest's poem, "Our Duty to Our Flag," and Cadet Sgt. Turner read about the history of the American flag.

Navy Veteran William Gaddes spoke about the importance of honoring and remembering Vietnam War veterans, who came home from battle to derision and hostility, but nonetheless went on to work hard, raise families and contribute to society.

Afterward, red roses were placed on a small table before Mary Nesterak's photograph. Nesterak was unable to attend the ceremony, but a rose was placed in her honor by Betty Hoffman, who was Norman's mother-in-law., Hoffman's son, Ken, is also a veteran.

AMVETS Post #1, McAdoo, Adjutant Tom Mattie and First Vice Commander Anthony Mussoline also placed roses, as did Jordan.


Remembering the 52nd anniversary of the start of the Vietnam War and all Americans injured or killed in war, members of the Panther Valley JROTC and members of the “Friends of Coaldale High” held a flag raising ceremony outside the Coaldale Complex (old Coaldale High School) this morning (Tuesday, April 7, 2015).

“Vietnam was America’s longest war,” previously said Korean War veteran William Gaddes of the “Friends of Coaldale High,” who purchased the large 15-foot by 25-foot Garrison flag. “The war cost the lives of nearly 60,000 men and women.”

Gaddes, a Coaldale native now living in Lake Hauto, said he flew 80 combat missions above North Korea and served with the South Korean Navy during the war.

Veterans organizations represented during the ceremony were Coaldale American Legion Post 170, Coaldale VFW Post 6982, Tamaqua/McAdoo AMVETS Post 1, Tamaqua American Legion Post 173 and others.

“Events like this show heart, compassion and resolve of our country,” added Gaddes. “We shall overcome and become even more watchful.”