Before Saturday, James Tucutich had never had the opportunity to be the marshal of a parade.
“I look forward to it,” Tucutich said prior to Washington County’s Veterans Day parade, which was held in downtown Charleroi yesterday. “It’s a new experience for me.
Tucutich, a veteran of the United States Navy who served from 1943 to 1946, was one of nine World War II veterans invited to serve as a collective marshal.
Prior to the parade, the veterans were honored at an invitation-only luncheon at American Legion Post 22 in Charleroi.
Tucutich was joined at the luncheon by Armand Lorenzi, Allan Q. Jones, Nora Villella, George Eckert and Howard Hughes.
Two other World War II Veterans, Austin Murphy and Joseph Picinotti, were invited but unable to attend the luncheon.
All of the veterans received certificates recognizing their service. For Villella, it was an emotional event.
“I’m just overwhelmed with all this,” she said. “I can’t stop tearing up.”
Villella, a resident of Carroll Township, served in the Navy in 1945 and 1946. She was a secretary to the Chaplin at Saufley Field in Pensacola, Fla., where she was stationed for boot camp.
“I was in boot camp when the war ended,” Villella said.
Saturday’s luncheon also commemorated the 100th anniversary of the American Legion, as well as Post 22. County Commissioner Larry Maggi presented a proclamation recognizing the milestone.
The event opened with remarks by Post Commander Frank Pattera, who recognized the World War II veterans.
“It’s because of you we have the freedoms we have today,” Pattera said.
The luncheon’s keynote speaker was Charleroi Attorney Alan Benyak, who served in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps in the U.S. Army.
Benyak told the World War II veterans that without them, “America would not be America.” He also recognized the veterans who continue to serve in the Middle East against terrorist groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda.
“They are every bit as evil in their intentions against this country,” Benyak said.
Benyak also spoke about the significance and meaning of Veterans Day.
“We can never serve our veterans the same way they served us, but we can try,” he said.
“That is what Veterans Day asks of all of us.”