(Editor’s Noe: This story first appeared in the Sunday Dispatch on July 8, 2012.)
Angela Miller said she was in the presence of heroes.
The wife of fallen state trooper Joshua Miller stood near the newly unveiled Hometown Heroes Memorial on Kennedy Boulevard and reflected.
“I felt all of the heroes’ presence here today,” she said., “This is one of the many great things that will carry all the heroes’ stories long after we’re gone and not able to tell their stories anymore.”
The memorial was officially dedicated to the following men:
• Cpl. Dale Justin Kridlo, U.S. Army. Killed in action: Nov. 7, 2010, Kunar Province, Afghanistan. Age: 33
• Lt. Col Richard Joseph Berrettini, U.S. Navy and PA Army National Guard. Incident: Jan. 2, 2008, Khost Province, Afghanistan. Died: Jan. 11, 2008, San Antonio, Texas. Age: 52
• Pennsylvania State Trooper Joshua Daniel Miller, Pennsylvania State Police. End of watch: June 7, 2009, Monroe County, PA. Age: 34
• Police Officer Rodney F. Pocceschi, Virginia Beach Police Department. End of watch: June 23, 2003, Virginia Beach, VA. Age: 33
•First Lt. Jeffrey Frank DePrimo, Pennsylvania Army National Guard. Killed in action: May 20, 2008, Ganzi, Afghanistan. Age: 33.
It’s also dedicated to Capt. T.J. Hromisin, who was critically injured in Iraq.
Hromisin addressed the crowd. Blind since the explosion, he was led to the podium by a guide dog.
“I stand here today overwhelmed with the work that has been done on the memorial,” he said. “It’s pretty incredible that everyone that travels on Kennedy Boulevard and William Street will see, in living color, the dedication to the men who didn’t make it.:
He joked about his tree “out back.”
“Everyone that travels through Pittston will now know the sacrifices that have been made by the patriots of our community.”
He was given a tremendous round of applause by the crowd as he exited the podium.
Outgoing Greater Pittston Chamber of Commerce President Charles Adonizio summed up the occasion: “This is our hometown,” he said. “And these are our heroes.”
Adonizio spoke of how the memorial came together. He said the chamber building was over 25 years old and didn’t have a flagpole. The chamber was in the early stages of acquiring a flagpole when, in November of 2010, Dale Kridlo was killed in Afghanistan.
“A the time of Dale’s funeral, the mayor’s office sent a memo out to all businesses to lower their flag to half mast in honor of Dale,” Adonizio said. “Needless to say, we couldn’t comply with the mayor’s request since we didn’t have a flagpole,”
But, Adonizio said, the flagpole was just the beginning.
“We decided our organization could do more,” he said. “In fact, we should do more to honor those heroes on behalf of the Greater Pittston community.”
Initially, Adonizio said, they were going to install six monuments on the smaller, William Street-side of the building because there were three flowering pear trees on the bigger lawn in front of the building.
But Hurricane Irene ripped through the area in September and damaged all three trees and they had to be removed.
“It was as if the hand of God came down to clear this place to honor those heroes,” Adonizio said.
After layout, fundraising and construction, the finishing touches were completed a day before the ceremony.
The project raised well over the $30,00 goal, he said. Area citizens and businesses answered the called for monetary support “in such a way we never believed possible.”
“As you can plainly see, this is truly a community effort,” Adonizio said. “Speaking personally, I have never been as proud of this community as I am today.”
Father Maloney of Our Lady of Eucharist Parish gave the invocation and Luzerne County Chaplin Joseph Savokinas gave the benediction.
Bill Allabaugh, the choir director, and Ann Manganello, accompanist, led the Immaculate Conception Church Choir and the Avoca Community Choir in an armed forces medley as members of each armed service brought out their respecctive flags.
A representative of each family laid a wreath at the granite monuments.
The crowd was hushed as each serviceman’s name was read.
An honor guard’s rifle report echoed out.
The flag was raised on the new 50-foot flagpole.
A bugler, David Erickson, sounded Taps.
Many of the 200-plus in attendance cried.
State Rep. Mike Carrol, D-Avoca, said everyone in Greater Pittston has a role to play. “Some are teachers. Some are small business owners. Some are engineers,” he said. “But the fabric of our comunity results in people like the six we’re here today to celebrate. These six heroes were a product of this community.”
Former state Rep. Tom Tigue, a Vietnam veteran, said our cemeteries are filled with hometown heroes like Kridlo, DePrimo, Miller, Berrettini and Pocceschi.
“These men, and now women, put themselves in harm’s way so that they could protect and serve and defend us and our values,” Tigue said. “Because their dreams were cut short in many ways, and there lives were cut short, it allowed meny of us to filfill our potential.”
He said we can track the heroes from the American Revolutation to the War on Terror.”This generation, that we’re here today to honor, all deserve the accoldates they receive,” Tigue said. “Their families deserve our heartfelt thanks and we can only try to understand what you’ve been through.”
Angie Miller said Joshua’s memory will always be kept alive. “But to see a community come together like this and have the same depth of love for these heroes that we do is more than words can describe,” she said.
She said as soon as she pulled up to the memorial and saw daisies growing on the grounds, she knew Joshua was there.
“Daisies are my favorite flower,” she said. “Every morning on my birthday, Josh used to go out and hand-pick daisies and put them in a vase for me. And each year he’d give me one more, add one each year for my age. Daisies have been my sign since he’s passed. When I pulled up and saw the daisies, I was immediatley taken back.”
Lucy Poccesschi, aunt of Rodney Pocceschi, said the ceremony was “beautiful, a gorgeous turnout.”
Rodney’s sisters Jaclyn Mosley and Gina Boyle founded Fallen Officers Remembered, an organization that donates bulletproof vests to police departments.
“It’s a nice tribue to all of these invididuals who gave their lives in service to their fellow man,” Mosley said.
Michelle Dale, Dale Kridlo’s mother, traveled from Vero Beach, Fla. for the dedication. She lived in the Pitston area for 58 years before relocating to Florida.
“Im overwhelmed with the patriotism and dedication of the Pittston community,” she said. “They’re all heroes, every one of them, What makes them do what they do? Who knows? But they’re all so noble, so selfless.”
She said she misses her son “immensely” and feels him in her heart, but she understood his commitment to his country.
“He was totally dedicated, she said. “The last time I saw my son when he was alive, it was in Pittston … he told everyone at the party how dedicated he was to what he was doing.”
Adonizio said it was a solemn and prideful occasion for the community.
“Because today we demonstrate our gratitude to those men and their families for their service and their sacrfice,” Adonizio said. “Today we dedicate this Hometown Heroes Memorial in their honor with the sincere pledge that this community shall never forget what these brave men have done for us.”
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