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Agent Orange group hosts successful veterans retreat

New Castle News - 5/15/2024

May 15—A weekend gathering of about 15 veterans and wives was a time for ceremony, celebration and song at Pine Valley Campground in Beaver County.

The retreat weekend had been in the planning for about a year by members the Lawrence County Veterans Agent Orange Project. The event was funded largely by contributions.

"The turnout was good for our first year," said CEO and founder Hugh Coryea, who did a lot of the planning with the Agent Orange committee. "Everything was catered and paid for 100 percent with the generous donations from people in New Castle.

"I was told we were the first in Lawrence or Beaver counties to ever do a veterans weekend getaway," Coryea said. The event honored the late Kenneth Wayne Shiderly Sr. of North Beaver Township and was sponsored by Shiderly's son, Kenneth Jr. and his wife, Debbie.

Shiderly, an Army veteran, died Sept. 12 at age 84. He had donated a lot of his time to Pine Valley, a children's camp that attracts 700 or 800 youths per summer, Coryea pointed out.

A fundraiser in Shiderly's name was held at Riardo's restaurant on East Washington Street recently, and about $500 was raised through it that helped to pay for the weekend retreat entertainment, Coryea said. The business donated a percentage of its dining tabs that night in Shiderly's name.

"One thing I can say about New Castle people is, if it's anything that has to do with veterans, they're the first ones in line," Coryea said. He added that 18 American Legions from the surrounding area and 15 VFWs from outside of the area also contributed toward the event.

The weekend's opening ceremony was led by Lawrence County Career and Technical Center students of the SkillsUSA competition team, which won a state gold medal this year. The team will proceed to Atlanta next month to compete in the national level of competition. The members marched in with the American flag and led the Pledge of Allegiance. Then Tommiann Fuge, a junior at the school, sang the national anthem.

A variety of music flooded the weekend by Walt Sanders, a four-year Marine and Elvis impersonator from Bellevue, Ohio, who is active in the American Legion and Disabled American Veterans; Savannah Telshaw, an 18-year-old Mohawk Area School District student who sang and played the ukelele and guitar; singer Morgan Gruber who appeared on American Idol, and The Dorals from New Castle.

A pinning ceremony Saturday night of 15 veterans, including two women, Laura Calvin of New Castle, a 20-year, eight-month Army veteran, and army military policewoman Christina Howze of Pittsburg with her husband, Eric.

Jack Marshall of The Dorals, a Navy lieutenant, and veteran David Audia also received pins, along with E-9 Charles Harvey of New Castle, the highest-ranking officer and a member of the Marine Corps League. The farthest traveled was from Cleveland. Other veterans traveled from Pittsburgh and Kittanning.

The weekend, for relaxation and socializing, wound up Saturday night with veterans sitting around a fire at the gazebo, telling funny military stories, Coryea said.

After Sunday morning breakfast, Pastor John Fraser of Maitland Lane Free Methodist Church officiated at a chapel service.

Planning is already in the works for another veterans retreat in the same place next year, Coryea said.

"Our goal is to fill the place," which can accommodate around 400 people, he said.

Members of the Lawrence County Agent Orange Project, in addition to Coryea, are Mike Kobbe, Chris Kobbe, Debbie Shiderly, Kirsti Courson, Dan Bailey, Mike Frost and chaplain, Pastor John Fraser.


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