PLAINS TWP. — A Wyoming Valley resident was the keynote speaker at the Veterans Day ceremony at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
Retired Capt. Thomas J. Hromisin, 30, of Pittston, was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Army on May 28, 2005. He was deployed to Iraq in April 2007 and was severely wounded by a sniper on May 29, 2007.
The injury rendered Hromisin blind and left him with a severe traumatic brain injury.
Hromisin spoke before a roomful of military veterans with his trusty guide dog, C.J., at his side. Those in attendance included veterans from World War II, the Vietnam War and the Persian Gulf War.
Before he began his speech. Hromisin led the crowd in a moment of silence for “brothers and sisters at arms” that were either serving now or did not return home from duty.
“What is the word or words that we would use to describe our inner feelings on Veterans Day?” Hromisin asked the crowd. He said “sorrow” could be used because of the soldiers that didn’t return home.
Sorrow was not the word that Hromsin thought should be used to define the day.
“Let’s let your national and personal pride be the overwhelming feelings of today because of your valor and courage under fire,” he said.
Hromisin said he was surprised, but honored when he was approached to be the speaker at the event.
“It was a little intimidating because they (veterans) sacrificed so much along the way.” he said. “Today, war’s sort of set up for you. You’re kind of sent into it.”
Mary Ellen Hromisin, Thomas’s mother and caregiver, was proud of her son’s speech.
“He never ceases to amaze me,” she said.
Hromisin is a graduate of Seton Catholic High School. He received a full ROTC Scholarship to the University of Scranton, where he graduated in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and a minor in Leadership.
Valerie Boytin, nurse executive for the Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center, gave the opening comments. She said the day was one for celebration and gratitude, while remembering the sacrificies that veterans make.
She referenced a quote by British author Samuel Johnson to illustrate the purpose of Veterans Day:
“People need less to be instructed in new truth than to be reminded of truth that they have long known.”
We are gathered here today for the latter purpose, to remind ourselves of truths we have heard many times before — that freedom is certainly not free,” Boytin said.
Korean War veteran Bob Alper also spoke at the ceremony. Alper is a member of the Korean War Veterans Association of Wyoming Valley. He told the story of the heroics of four chaplains onboard USS Dorchester. The ship was traveling to England in 1942 with 902 soldiers and sailors onboard.
A torpedo struck the ship, which Alper said caused chaos onboard.
“But the four chaplains moved about,” he said. “They took charge of a chaotic scene.”
As the ship was sinking, the four chaplains handed their own life jackets to four other men. Alper said the men’s religion did not matter in that time of crisis.
“They were Americans,” he said. “We could use more of that thought today.”