Tonight: Ceremony honors veterans at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall


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What is it that motivates someone who has already served his country in armed conflict overseas to continue to serve his community upon his return?

Whatever it is, it's common to many of America's veterans and it's something that the Financial Planning Association of Pittsburgh acknowledges tonight with its second annual "Saluting Service" ceremony at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall in Oakland.

The event, which begins with a picnic at 6 p.m., is free to the public. So this will be your chance to ask these veterans why they do it. Or -- better yet -- thank them.

Sixteen veterans and one veterans group will be honored at the event, which will feature former Steelers great Rocky Bleier, a wounded veteran himself, as guest speaker. Sharing the program will be the Trinity Jazz Orchestra with Adam Brock, a Washington, Pa., native who was a semifinalist on "American Idol" last year.

"The FPAP was looking for a way to give back to the community in general and to our veterans in particular, since we have such a large veterans population in Western Pennsylvania," said chairperson Ruth Forsyth, who co-founded the event last year.

"And we were particularly impressed with the number of veterans who continue to serve their community after they've served their country. So we came up with this event to celebrate all of the veterans, and then we have an award, which is the First Class Patriot Achievement Award, where we make a $10,000 donation to a veterans organization in [the winner's] honor."

More than 400 people attended last year's event, when the recipient of the $10,000 was the Veterans Leadership Program. This year's donation goes to The Veterans Place of Washington Boulevard.

"It's important to us to be able to give back to the people who have served us," Ms. Forsyth said. "Last year, [the veterans] were overwhelmed. They were extremely honored and it was significantly more than they expected. And it was wonderful to see them sharing stories and getting to know each other.

"It did exceed our expectations in how well it was received and how many different people we reached. For months afterward we were hearing from veterans organizations and people thanking us for doing this type of event. And people just had a good time."

Nominees are sought from the 27 counties of Western Pennsylvania. This year's 17 nominees include:

• Allegheny County: David L. Eibling (Pittsburgh), Mike J. Hepler (Hill District), Michael E. McCarthy (Strip District); William R. Cole (Pittsburgh); Brian L. Schill (Upper St. Clair); Roger W. Heins (Upper St. Clair); Edward M. Stewart (Carnegie); John R. Phelps (Bethel Park); Robert J. Ree (Coraopolis); Charles "Chuck" DeSabato (Plum); and Ernest R. Oatneal (McKeesport).

• Beaver County: Calvin W. McConnell (Aliquippa).

• Butler County: Gerald Vanasdale (Valencia).

• Westmoreland County: James D. Bendel (Greensburg); James Yauger (Trafford); Jason H. Gerstner (Youngwood).

• And a nomination for the board members of the Pitt Vets at the University of Pittsburgh in Oakland: Matt Hannan (president), Dave Coogan, Marco Atti sano, Sean Rohrer, Gideon Bradshaw, Cody Bertolini and Jake Jager.

The ceremonies begin at 7 p.m. inside Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall, 4141 Fifth Ave.

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If you have a suggestion for something to do some evening, let us know about it and we'll see if we can get some of our friends to join you. Contact Dan Majors at dmajors@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1456. This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: http://press.post-gazette.com/


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