York County pays tribute to veterans over breakfast

Jason Addy
York Dispatch
  • York County and state officials hosted hundreds of veterans for breakfast Friday morning in honor of Veterans Day.

Hundreds of veterans and active military service members filled the York Expo Center for the county’s annual Veterans Day Program on Friday morning.

The event, sponsored by state Sen. Scott Wagner’s Penn Waste company, brought together veterans from World War II to the Korean War to Operation Iraqi Freedom for breakfast and music, provided by the Central York Middle School Fife and Drum Corps.

Sen. Scott Wagner sings along with the national anthem during the annual Veterans Day breakfast and program at the York Expo Center, Friday, Nov. 11, 2016.  John A. Pavoncello photo

After breakfast, York County Director of Veterans Affairs Terry Gendron hosted a short ceremony to thank the men and women who have served in the military.

As the Central York students played the songs of each branch of the Armed Forces, veterans stood to be recognized by the crowd, which applauded and gave thanks.

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“I love living in the United States of America, and I love all veterans past and present,” York County President Commissioner Susan Byrnes said, before introducing guest speaker York County Deputy Sheriff Michael Lutz.

Having been raised to know that “nothing comes free or without hard work and sacrifice,” Lutz said, he “always admired and respected military veterans before I became one myself.”

Lutz served in the Pennsylvania National Guard’s 28th Infantry Division for 15 years and was activated three times.

Along with his fellow Guard members, Lutz drove to Louisiana in 2005 to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In 2008, Lutz was deployed to fight in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and in 2012, he was sent to Eastern Europe to train Latvian soldiers.

Lutz described the traits he sees in every veteran and soldier in just four words: loyalty, honor, resiliency and perseverance.

With more than a decade of military service under his belt, Lutz joined the York County Sheriff’s Office after realizing those were the same traits he sees in law enforcement officers.

The deputy sheriff thanked his fellow officers for supporting him after he was wounded in the line of duty in June. Lutz was shot in the cheek while assisting York City Police in serving an arrest warrant.

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Lutz will be formally recognized by the York County Sheriff’s Office when he returns to duty, Byrnes said.

Wagner thanked the veterans in attendance and said he owes part of his businesses’ success to them.

Cadet Capt. Skyee Wright hands out flowers to veterans during the annual York County Veterans Day breakfast and program at the York Expo Center, Friday, Nov. 11, 2016.  John A. Pavoncello photo

“It truly is an honor for me to be here today to celebrate the service and sacrifices that you all have made to protect us here at home,” Wagner said.

The ceremony closed with a video of 93-year-old World War II veteran Voni Grimes playing his harmonica, a benediction from Chaplain John Trout, a retired colonel in the Pennsylvania National Guard, and a rifle salute and a rendition of taps and “God Bless America.”

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York City Councilman Henry Nixon said the Veterans Day event is important for remembering who we are celebrating and what they have done for us.

“We have a government, we have a way of life that is dependent, really, on what these men and women have done,” Nixon said. “Thank you.”

Air Force veteran Jesse Manning, 78, attended the Veterans Day breakfast for the first time Friday and said he had tears in his eyes when he saw how many people had turned up to support him and his fellow veterans.

“This is wonderful. This is my first time here. I didn’t expect all this,” Manning said. “I came in seeing all these cars. I thought the fair was open.”