Thomas Jefferson High School salutes veterans with inspirational celebration

West Jefferson Hills School District  |  Posted on

TJHS hosted an inspirational salute to Veterans recognition and celebration

Thomas Jefferson High School (TJHS) students and staff honored and celebrated local veterans, including TJHS graduates who’ve died in the line of duty, during a powerful and inspirational Salute to Veterans recognition and celebration at the school.

The day began with a breakfast for the veterans and local first responders, with more than 70 veterans attending the breakfast and program.

Flanked by a huge American flag in the theater, the TJHS band, orchestra and choir performed several patriotic songs, including a rousing Armed Forces Salute compilation with accompanying video to end the program.

The audience of veterans and the entire TJHS student body and staff heard the inspirational story of U.S. Marine Eric McElvenny. A native of Belle Vernon, McElvenny was wounded after stepping on an IED in Afghanistan and had his lower right leg amputated. He has been racing since 2013 and finished sixth overall in the triathlon at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics. He has completed eight full Iron Man races, completing his first Iron Man competition 22 months after his injury.

Louise Biddle, a retired teacher from West Jefferson Hills School District and community leader in the South Hills and Mon Valley, gave the Invocation and TJHS senior class president Jaylen Hocker gave the welcome address. Thomas Jefferson High School principal Pete Murphy was the emcee and primary organizer of the salute.

Thomas Jefferson senior Aidan Oeler presented a slideshow and spoke about the 10 TJHS graduates who’ve died in service to our nation in Vietnam, Lebanon and Iraq. They are: Robert Guy Brown, Charles Thomas Lee, Thomas Burkhardt, James Dewar, Frederick P. Gillen, Thomas V. Haas, Robert Doering, David C. Bruggeman, Richard A. Morrow and Steven W. Freund. Oeler also spoke about the history of U.S. military songs and wished the U.S. Marine Corps’ a happy 248th birthday (USMC founded on November 10).

A memorial plaque with the names of the 10 deceased servicemen is located in front of TJHS.