Editor's note: The reporters and photographers attend Cranberry Area High School and are members of Cranberry Chronicles, the school's journalism/publications class.

Although today is officially Veterans Day, Cranberry Area High School on Thursday paid tribute to the area's veterans during its annual assembly.

"The kids come and really respect us," said Army veteran Bob Bowen, a third-year attendee.

Six-year Army veteran Melissa Hogue provided a lesson in persistence and determination, saying being in the service taught her that she can do anything as long as she set her mind to it.

"It taught me that I have the ability to do things I never thought I could do, and it also gave me the opportunity to live and visit other countries. I would do it all over again," Hogue said.

Marvin Miller said he went from being a young man to a "hardened soldier." When he went back to civilian life "it was different, very different."

Vietnam veteran Rey Santiago spent 26 years in the Navy, which allowed him "to see the whole world."

The program included Cranberry's junior high and senior high choruses, whose performances were complemented by Cranberry's band members.

In addition, a group of students read poetry about war, veterans and soldiers lost in duty.

The annual alumni award, given to a Cranberry graduate who has served in the military, this year went to Jack Beebe. He is the grandfather of recent Cranberry graduate Shay Harry, who currently serves in the Air Force.

Retired Army Sgt. Tracy Shuffstall, the keynote speaker, spoke about her 30 years in the service and the long line of veterans in her family, including her children.

"I took on the uniform and I said, 'If not me, then who?'" she said.

At the end of her speech on Thursday, Shuffstall paid tribute to a special woman who turned 87 that morning.

"She was the wife of that WWII veteran; the mother of all of those people that were in Vietnam and Korea," Shuffstall said. "She has had countless grandchildren in the Army, in combat, in Vietnam.

"She wrote a letter to each of us every single day - my mother, Laurene Bowser."

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