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Penn State Mont Alto unveils veterans memorial

September 17, 2012|By ROXANN MILLER | roxann.miller@herald-mail.com
  • Penn State Mont Alto and its student Veterans Club joined forces to install a memorial on campus to recognize U.S. military veterans. From left, Brian Hall, president of the campus student Veteran's Club; JT Berger, veteran and student; and Kevin Faust, veteran and student.
By Roxann Miller

MONT ALTO, Pa. — Penn State Mont Alto honors veterans with a memorial Penn State Mont Alto and its student Veterans Club joined forces to install a memorial on campus to recognize U.S. military veterans.

Brian Hall was one of the students who initiated the development of a permanent site to honor and remember members of the armed forces.

“It was important for us to recognize and honor the support of all the veterans that served and attended Penn State Mont Alto since ... World War II,” said Hall, who is a veteran and president of the campus student Veterans Club.

The memorial, which stands at the foot of a new, 40-foot flagpole in front of Conklin Hall, was dedicated on the 11th anniversary of Sept. 11.

For Hall, seeing the project become a reality Tuesday was the culmination of a dream that began on Veterans Day last November when fundraising plans to raise $13,000 were announced.

“Overall, I’m just proud to see it and the symbol that it represents — and for all the veterans that defended our freedom and allowed us to be able to do this and dedicate the memorial,” Hall said.

The flag will be illuminated and visible 24 hours a day. Future plans include personalized paver bricks and park benches around the memorial.

“No matter how you feel about the government, the military, politics, it honors the people that put their lives out there so the rest of us can be free,” Kevin Faust said Thursday as he looked at the memorial.

Faust is a veteran and will earn his associate degree in human development and family studies in December. He plans to continue two more years and earn his bachelor’s degree in human development and family studies.

From 1999 to 2008, JT Berger served in the army as a military police officer and performed counter-intelligence.

Seeing the memorial dedicated on the anniversary of Sept. 11 was emotional for Berger.

Originally from the Bronx, N.Y., Berger was two blocks away when the first plane hit the Twin Towers.

“It was the worst two weeks of my life,” he said. “I was down there for search and rescue.”

Berger said he was one of the first responders into the building.

“I’m glad to see that Mont Alto has a flag on the campus now,” Berger said. “I’m glad that they are actually recognizing veterans — making us stand out because veterans really get overlooked a lot of the time.”

The veterans memorial at the Mont Alto campus is one of two in the Penn State system, according to Randall Ackerman, campus director of development.

When the students initially discussed their plans with Ackerman, he said he was skeptical about whether or not they could raise the funds needed.

But, in two months time, they had raised $3,000.

“At that point, all of us on campus got behind their effort,” Ackerman said.

With the support of local VFWs and American Legions and alumni who served in the armed forces, phase one of the memorial was completed at a cost of approximately $13,000.

Phase two will include additional cement sidewalks, matching sidewalk lightposts, meditation benches and 25 individual black granite markers that can be purchased in memory or in honor of a loved one.

Ackerman said the memorial is a fitting addition to the campus.

“There is a generation of students attending our campus that are growing up in an era of peace time and are unaware of the conflicts that have brought our nation to this point. I think it’s important for memorials like this to be visible to remind us,” he said.

“I think veterans memorials like this are critical to help future generations remember the lives that were given and lost,” Ackerman said.

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