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Fellowship Community honors our nation's veterans

Military veterans of all eras are a special breed of people.

The Whitehall Area Chamber of Commerce and WAEB presented a Veterans Day Celebration Nov. 13 at the Zentz Center at Fellowship Community, Whitehall, in honor of those who served our country.

The main attraction of the event was a panel of five veterans representing the World War II and wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Panelists answered questions from the audience and from a Whitehall-Coplay Middle School class through a webcast.

The veterans shared stories ranging from why they initially enlisted to their experiences in boot camp and life as a veteran.

The experiences of the men varied upon their return to the states.

"It was basically you got dropped off at the airport and you made your way home," said Marine Corps veteran Joseph Malia of Allentown, who served in Vietnam. "People really didn't get much respect."

Michael Williams of Philadelphia, who served in the Army in Afghanistan, said his era of veterans were treated with far more respect.

"We had tons of people welcoming us home," he said. "The culture around our veterans has changed today and I could not be more grateful."

Malia said he enlisted because he wanted to help change the image of the war portrayed by the public and media.

"I felt the way they were portraying what was going on in Vietnam ... I wanted to help them with that," he said.

The panelists all agreed upon their discharge and return home their thoughts still remained with those they served with in the combat zone.

"I don't know if you can put that into words," said Marine Corps veteran Jason Smith of Allentown, who served in Iraq. "You're happy, but sad at the same time."

Returning home to family, friends and a safer life remains bittersweet.

"I'm still smiling, I'm very happy," Williams said.

Korea and World War II veteran Charles Helfrich, a Marine Corps veteran, said it was difficult serving in the military, but a good foundation made it easier.

"It's tough, but I tell you, it depends on how you were brought up," he said.

U.S. Navy veteran Daniel Bonner of Easton, who served in World War II, asked the public to remember the nation's veterans and recognize their contributions.

"We lost so many veterans and soldiers and veterans," he said. "Let's keep them in mind when we talk about the wars. They fought hard and they never asked for anything."