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Hometown Heroes honored from the Lake Region


Family members and veterans of the fourth-grade students from Wallenpaupack North Intermediate School, joined together for the posting of colors at the annual Veterans Day program. See the related photo gallery. Lifestyles photo by Katie Collins.

By Katie Collins

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HAWLEY - Heroes don’t wear capes. Instead, Rosa SanClementi, a fifth-grade student from Wallenpaupack North Intermediate School said heroes are “willing to have loyalty and determination because freedom isn’t free.”


SanClementi was the fifth-grade essay winner for the school’s yearly Veterans Day program, where students shared their thoughts on what it means to be a hometown hero. America, SanClementi said, doesn’t have 50 stars, but rather “it has way more” because “every veteran is a star.”


Third grade essay winner, Annie James credits her grandfather who served in the Navy, for teaching her what bravery is. Veterans are heroes though, because they “risked their lives so we have freedom.”

Grady Liddy, the fourth-grade essay winner said simply, veterans are heroes “because they are” since they “choose to help” and have a love for the United States. Often leaving their family and friends to serve, Liddy feels safe because of how hard veterans work. He recognized family members who have served, saying that he is “proud of them all for serving.”


A fourth grade artist from Wallenpaupack North Intermediate School, MyLes Mann drew the pictured image for the school’s annual Veterans Day program. This year, the theme was “hometown heroes.” See the related photo gallery. See the related photo gallery. Lifestyles photo by Katie Collins.

A graduate of Wallenpaupack and West Point, Major Marissa Chierichella, US Army was commissioned in 2006 in the Army as a second lieutenant in the military police corps. Currently, Chierichella serves as executive officer for the US Army parachute team, The Golden Knights. To date, Chierichella has traveled the world, been deployed to Iraq and Syria and won numerous awards and decorations.


Chierichella realized what she was meant to do, after a field trip to West Point in elementary school. It was then Chierichella said, she knew “This is where I belong. This is my future. I want to serve my country, and I want to be an officer in the Army.” Initially, her parents thought she would change her mind and along the way, there were people who doubted her or felt she was at a disadvantage because she was a woman. From that, Chierichella said she was motivated because she wanted to show those who questioned her, that “you can achieve anything you put your mind to and your effort into.”


Hometown heroes are those who serve others Chierichella said, like her parents. Chierichella’s dad was a firefighter and her mom was a teacher in New York City and Wallenpaupack. Veterans are heroes, but it’s also important to recognize that there are many “unsung heroes” who are “humble warriors” in her own hometown.


Soon after graduating from West Point, Chierichella was deployed to Iraq where she was in charge of 44 men and women. Initially, she didn’t envision her career becoming what it has, since she skydives and does “Army things” while also informing the public about what opportunities exist in the Army she said. It’s the camaraderie, teamwork and challenges that Chierichella loves. No two military careers are the same she said, but the experiences teach about the “importance of sacrifice and freedom.” Hometown heroes she said, must realize their commitment may not be noticed, but Americans have to “recognize how remarkable they are, and how grateful we are for their commitment to serve our nation.”


The 173 fourth grade students shared their thoughts on who a “hometown hero” is through their drawings and words, that were displayed on banners. The entire school considered the concept, with the 483 students writing essays about the topic. Through their art and words, Principal Amanda Cykosky said the students recognized the bravery and determination of veterans, while also telling of a veterans’ sacrifice and love for their country, which unites people.


From the program, Cykosky said she hoped the community would be reminded that, “We will always be connected by our nation’s strength, unity and our appreciation and unwavering love for our veterans.”

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