It’s the Fourth of July, a day to celebrate our heroes and to be reminded of the sacrifices that gave us our freedom.
As Patrick Knobloch knows, heroes come in all shapes and sizes, with a variety of experiences.
“We’re a community filled with heroes,” said Knobloch, one of the key organizers of today’s progression through downtown State College and across the Penn State campus.
The Parade of Heroes steps off at 2 p.m. and serves as a featured attraction in the traditional Central PA 4th Fest celebration that will conclude with a huge fireworks display tonight at Beaver Stadium.
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The parade will honor 14 individuals who were nominated for their contributions to the nation and the community.
“These are all people you look up to,” Knobloch said, “people you would want to be more like.”
They sure are.
Adam Hartswick, who lost both legs in a bomb blast in Afghanistan, is among the honorees and is expected to ride in the parade. He has been recovering at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
The State College High School graduate has received considerable attention, and deservedly so, because of his inspiring story of valor and sacrifice. Hartswick, a combat medic, was injured May 14 while rushing to help members of a foot patrol who also had been struck by an explosive device.
But this list of heroes is filled with inspiring stories, with the names of local people who have given much.
Two are involved in the mission of the American Red Cross disaster services. Bonnie Dyke, of Bellefonte, a nurse, has done relief work across the country. Charles Poust, of Pine Grove Mills, is disaster services leadership chairman for the Centre Communities Chapter.
Donald Watkins, of State College, is a U.S. Navy veteran who has worked with the Boy Scouts and state game commission and has served as a firefighter and paramedic.
State High students Hope Guthoff and Dustin Neumann helped save a man who was having a heart attack at the school. Both are volunteers with Port Matilda EMS.
Donald Hazel Jr., of State College, is a military veteran who served 30 years with the Penn State police and now works with the Centre County sheriff’s office.
The late Paul Mazza contributed much to our region as founder of the Mazza Law Group and South Hills School of Business and Technology, and as of one of early drivers of 4th Fest.
Honorees include exercise instructor Polly Norton, of State College, who raised money for the American Cancer Society; and Terri Rudy Pontzer, of Bellefonte, a conservationist who is president of the Nittany Mountain Biking Association and a volunteer with ClearWater Conservancy and Special Olympics.
There’s Lisa Wandel, of Boalsburg, who organized the Women’s Adventure Club of Centre County and who volunteers with Centre Crest, the Sierra Club and other organizations; and Pat Elliott, of Port Matilda, who put together a fundraiser to support 200 people displaced by the closure of a mobile-home park.
And speaking of men and women who have served their country …
Bellefonte’s Sgt. Vincent Reynolds suffered injuries from a bomb blast in Afghanistan, losing a foot and much of a leg.
State College’s Spc. John Buchan has been serving as a fire support specialist in Afghanistan. He returned home recently and will attend today’s parade, his family said.
We urge our readers to line the streets to applaud these 14 people for their significant contributions to our region and our nation.
“Most of us, we’ve lived with freedom all of our lives,” Knobloch said. “Sometimes it seems as if we take it for granted.
“This is a good time to bow your head and reflect a little bit on the value of freedom, the meaning of liberty.”
This is the second year for the July 4 Parade of Heroes. We hope the list of nominees includes even more names in future years.
Honoring these individuals is a great step toward a meaningful day of celebrating our nation and remembering those whose sacrifices earned and preserved our way of life.