Susana Marte knew what she was supposed to say, but her emotions got the best of her.

"I just couldn't believe that this was happening and the veterans were here and we were honoring them," said Susana, 17, a senior at the York County School of Technology in York Township.

Susana and fellow 17-year-old seniors Anisa Diaczun and Kaitlyn Lunger presented "Heart for Heroes" at the school Tuesday to honor the service and sacrifices of men and women who served in the U.S. armed forces. Veterans at the event also received "Thank you" coins made by the school's metal fabrication class.

Special presentations were done by the honor guard of the school's protective services program and by the Kiltie Band of York.

Devin Smeal, a member of the Protective Services Honor Guard, folds the flag during the Hearts for Heroes Ceremony at the York County School of Technology
Devin Smeal, a member of the Protective Services Honor Guard, folds the flag during the Hearts for Heroes Ceremony at the York County School of Technology Tuesday. (John A. Pavoncello)

Susana, who recently enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, said that she, Anisa and Kaitlyn worked for more than six months to organize the program as participants in the community service competition of SkillsUSA, an organization designed to help students get the skills they need to become world-class workers, leaders and responsible citizens, according to its website at

SkillsUSA, based in Leesburg, Va., has contests based on the types of classes offered at schools of technology. State-level winners go on to compete in the national competitions.

Susana, Anisa and Kaitlyn will compete in the SkillsUSA Pennsylvania contest to be held Wednesday, April 9, to Friday, April 11, at the Hershey Lodge in Dauphin County.

The three students said they will do a presentation about the "Hearts for Heroes" ceremony and about their efforts to teach students of all ages the importance of respecting the American flag and honoring the soldiers who fought for the country.

During Tuesday's ceremony, more than 70 people heard from teacher Travis Landis, who was a U.S. Army sergeant who served in Iraq. Landis said that before he enlisted in the Army, he was a typical teenager who got into trouble and had no clear direction on what he would do in life.

"But I came back mature, respectful, a young man who respected my elders and my superiors," he said. "I was in great shape and had that path to travel for my life."

State Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township, said America's freedom has endured because of the courage and leadership of the country's soldiers.

"We'll always remember your service," Grove said. "We'll always remember your sacrifice and we'll always be prepared so we will always remain free."

Jack Sommer, managing partner at Prospect Hill Cemetery, talked about the various monuments and programs the cemetery has to commemorate the memories of soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice for the country.

"It's a price we cannot repay," he said. "And it's a price we should never forget."

York Township resident, Darryl Knisely, a U.S. Army veteran of the Vietnam War, said the students did a very good job in running the ceremony and he felt honored by their efforts.

Wes Stonesifer, 40, of Lewisberry said he served in the U.S. Coast Guard during the Gulf War. He said he's glad to see students who are serious about appreciating veterans.

"As veterans, we want to be proud and not ever be ashamed of what we all went through to serve our country," he said.

—Reach Eyana Adah McMillan at