Laurel Ridge celebrates nearly 900 graduates in the Class of 2023
Laurel Ridge celebrated the Class of 2023 with two commencement ceremonies. A commencement ceremony was held for just graduates of the health professions on May 11, with a ceremony for all other graduates on May 12.
Pinning ceremonies were held immediately following the May 11 ceremony for students graduating from the nursing, surgical technology, and medical laboratory technology programs. Additionally, there was a coin ceremony for emergency medical services graduates.
It’s anticipated that 895 students are part of the Class of 2023, including those who graduated in the summer and fall of 2022.
“It’s absolutely my favorite day of the year,” Laurel Ridge President Kim Blosser said during the ceremony. “This is what it’s all about – recognizing our outstanding graduates and all of the hard work that’s brought them to this point. For college personnel, this event brings us our greatest satisfaction.”
Resilience and perseverance are necessary to make it to commencement, she said.
“We’re so proud of you for continuing to move forward to accomplish your goal,” said Dr. Blosser. “Many of you are the first in your family to graduate from college. Others represent the latest generation of graduates in your family.”
Registered nursing graduate Shannan Mitchell was the class speaker for the health professions ceremony.
“What is your why – what is the defining moment that inspired you to pursue a career in health care?” she asked her classmates. “Ultimately, our motivation to work in health care is driven by the honorable pursuit of helping others. I’m a first-generation college student, one of six children, and I’ve chosen nursing after experiencing the loss of my older sister to Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2009.”
Several years later, Mitchell’s best friend was diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma and is now doing well. These experiences led to her “burning need” to become a nurse.
“Remember to return to your why, your motivation,” Mitchell said. “A career in health care requires you to constantly put other people before yourself. A career in health care is a career in empathy. We are healers and fixers, yet we sit with people in their darkness at their most vulnerable without rushing to turn on a light.
“You’re the proof that you can do anything you want to. We have the opportunity to make very large waves. Everyone here is going to change someone’s life because you’re going to make them feel like somebody. How lucky are we?”
Celia Cooley, who earned her associate degree in general studies, was the class speaker for Friday’s commencement ceremony. She spoke of the need for diversity in maintaining ecosystems and society.
“The diversity of species and the relationships between these species strengthen the entire ecosystem and community,” Cooley said. “I’m convinced the students at Laurel Ridge Community College fully embrace this way of thinking. Our community flourishes because of our acceptance of diversity and commitment to encouraging and supporting others.
“It’s my hope we will remain committed to supporting one another in our academic, professional, and personal growth. I’m incredibly proud of the wonderful [work] the graduating Class of 2023 has done at Laurel Ridge.”
Also, during the commencement ceremonies, Outstanding Graduate Awards were presented. The Outstanding Graduate of the Fauquier Campus was Theresa Akyaa, who earned her degree in surgical technology. Human services graduate Pamela Neff was named the Outstanding Graduate for the Middletown Campus.
Keynote address, wife’s published remembrance of area vet killed in Iraq highlight powerfully emotional Memorial Day here
The threat of rain, even thunderstorms for late morning to early afternoon in Front Royal, was replaced by sporadic sprinkles throughout Monday’s Memorial Day Commemoration of America’s servicemen and women who have given their lives in the struggle to preserve liberty and freedom for our nation and its allies around the world.
Those raindrops falling on the cheeks of attendees may have provided a service in hiding tears forming in reaction to former U.S. Navy SEAL Lt. Commander Sean Glass’s stirringly emotional keynote address. While Lt. Commander Glass survived tours of duty in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Eastern Africa, all he served with did not.
Or those raindrops could have been in service on stray cheeks later at Malcolm Barr Sr.’s reading of the published recollections of the wife, Sarah Cerri Cowherd, of fallen soldier Leonard Cowherd of Culpeper, a graduate not only of West Point but also nearby Wakefield Country Day School. Second Lieutenant Cowherd was killed in May of 2004 in Karbala, Iraq, leaving behind his wife of less than a year.
Her published recollection of receiving various belongings of her late husbands from the front provided a painful portrait, as had Lt. Commander Glass’s earlier remarks, of the void left behind in the lives of the living in the wake of the loss of those we gather on Memorial Day to pay homage to.
Memorial Day Co-Chairmen Rob McDougall and ‘Skip’ Rogers also alluded to the more solemn nature of this federal holiday, tied as it is to the ultimate sacrifice of one’s life in defense of others.
Keynote speaker Lt. Commander Glass also challenged us all not to become complacent with the freedoms that endure at home because of the sacrifices of the nation’s fallen. Glass urged, even challenged us to live lives worthy of those sacrifices, rather than fall into thoughtless self-centeredness in our personal interactions with loved ones and others we encounter in our day-to-day lives.
Co-Chairman Robert McDougall, U.S. Marine Reserves, launched the ceremony at noon, Monday, May 29th, at its traditional location on the historic Warren County Courthouse grounds. McDougall acknowledged town and county public officials present, among others.
Accompanying McDougall in presenting this community’s once-again annual remembrance of its and the nation’s fallen heroes were:
Color Guard from Randolph-Macon Academy comprised of Cadets Jay Haney, Cole Solinger, Kamila Yusupova, and Mateo Wohnig, with R-MA Chief Master Sgt. Ken Evans present;
sisters Grace, Lainey, and Ella Clark, who beautifully led the singing of the National Anthem; event Co-Chairman ‘Skip’ Rogers, U.S. Army retired; keynote speaker, former U.S. Navy SEAL Lt. Commander Sean Glass; retired Navy Chaplain Father Michael Duesterhaus, currently of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church;
retired A.P. reporter, federal public information officer, post-WW II British vet, and Royal Examiner contributor Malcolm Barr Sr., who was given a nod by McDougall for resurrecting the local Memorial Day ceremony 11 years ago, out of which the now-accompanying Dogs of War and Service dogs weekend event sprang (see related story); and bagpiper and Marine veteran Jim Lundt.
Watch the Royal Examiner’s exclusive video of Front Royal and Warren County’s Memorial Day Commemoration Ceremony, it will be time well spent, we promise.
A Solemn Salute to Sacrifice: VFW Post 1860’s Memorial Day Ceremony
In a scene shrouded by a gentle drizzle, the community stood in solidarity to honor our fallen heroes at the Panorama Memorial Gardens on May 29th, 11:00 am. This solemn setting hosted the annual Memorial Day Ceremony by VFW Post 1860, bringing together a myriad of hearts echoing the same beat of gratitude and remembrance.
Commander Jeff Cook kicked off the occasion, extending his welcome to all the attendees – relatives, comrades, and well-wishers who had gathered in tribute. The air turned even more serene as Chaplain Billy Adams led the assembly into prayer, and a moment of silence, honoring the departed comrades, the missing in action, and those held as prisoners of war.
It was under this damp yet determined atmosphere that service officer and Vietnam War veteran Tom Sayers took the podium, lending his voice to the silent reverence. His speech traced the origins of Memorial Day to the historical town of Waterloo, New York, taking listeners back to the poignant inception of this tradition in 1866.
In his stirring address, Sayers reminded everyone of the sacrifices that underpin the freedom we cherish. He highlighted the importance of teaching our youth about the costs of liberty and the meaning of Memorial Day, and to never forget the fallen but also celebrate the lives lived. His words echoed the brave spirit of our servicemen and women who have defended our country from Maine’s Rocky Atlantic coasts to the Golden State’s Sandy beaches.
The service then pivoted into a ceremonious tribute by the officers of the VFW Post 1860. The officers laid wreaths and delivered their respective tributes, a solemn display that showcased their dedication to remembering the fallen. The words spoken by each officer and the symbolic acts of remembrance reverberated across the assembly, reinforcing the significance of this solemn day.
Closing the ceremony, Commander Jeff Cook thanked everyone present for their homage to the fallen. His concluding remarks underscored the collective gratitude for the ultimate sacrifices made by these heroes, a sentiment shared by all those who braved the rain to attend the ceremony.
The VFW Post 1860, a non-profit veterans service organization, stands as a testament to the unity and solidarity among veterans and active military service members. The sense of community and shared respect for the fallen at their annual Memorial Day Ceremony serves as a poignant reminder of the immense sacrifices that preserve the freedoms we often take for granted.
Watch the VFW Post 1860 Memorial Day Ceremony on this exclusive Royal Examiner video by Mark Williams.
Virginia patriots remembered in historic grave marking ceremony
The echoes of the past reverberated through the hallowed ground of McIlhaney Family Cemetery as descendants and societies dedicated to the memory of the Revolutionary War united in a poignant ceremony. The Colonel James Wood II Chapter of the Virginia Society Sons of the American Revolution (SAR), along with other participating SAR chapters and Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) societies, marked the graves of Rev War patriots James McIlhaney and William H. Parker.
James McIlhaney, a Loudoun County native born in 1749, served valiantly during the Revolutionary War. His commission as Lieutenant in the 10th Virginia Regiment came in March 1776, with a subsequent promotion to Captain. McIlhaney demonstrated his courage in the Battles of Brandywine and Germantown before resigning from service in June 1778.
William H. Parker, born in Westmoreland County in 1752, etched his name in the annals of history as a midshipman on the Virginia State Ship (VSS) Tartar, later advancing to the rank of Lieutenant and taking command of the vessel. Parker’s bravery was evident during the Battle of Osborne’s Landing when he defied surrender, swimming ashore to join the Virginia militia. He would later play an integral role in the Battle of Green Spring and the Siege of Yorktown.
Ken Bonner, President of the Sgt Maj John Champe SAR Chapter, led the ceremony, which included six SAR chapters, three DAR chapters, two Children of the American Revolution (CAR) societies, and direct descendants of the patriots.
During the event, attendees were graced by the Virginia State Color Guard, commanded by Barry Schwoerer. The pledge of allegiance, led by Rand Pixa, President of the George Washington SAR Chapter, was a resounding testament to the ongoing commitment of Americans to their historic roots.
The graves of the two patriots were vigilantly guarded by sentries Gary Dunaway and John Lynch, both from the Williamsburg SAR chapter, who later unveiled the grave markers during the dedication ceremony. Numerous wreaths were presented by participants, symbolic of the respect and reverence held for these revolutionary heroes.
A heartfelt tribute came in the form of a three-round musket salute delivered by the combined Virginia SAR firelock squad. This salute was followed by the stirring notes of a bagpipe played by MacPhearson Strassberg from the Rev John Marks Society CAR, underlining the solemnity of the occasion.
Those present to pay their respects included a host of participants from various SAR and DAR chapters, offering a visual representation of unity and shared purpose in the ceremony. The SAR participants, as well as the musket squad, gathered for a group photograph, capturing this significant moment for posterity.
The ceremony served as a timeless tribute to McIlhaney and Parker, embodying the enduring respect and appreciation for the patriots who shaped America’s early days of freedom. This event reinforced the importance of such commemorations in reminding current and future generations of the sacrifices made in pursuit of liberty and independence.
An emotional and educational Dogs of War service kicks off Memorial Day weekend in Front Royal
Saturday, May 27, was no ordinary day in Front Royal. As the sun shone brightly on a beautiful late spring afternoon, the melodic sounds of Jim Lundt’s bagpipe ushered in a crowd of about 60 spectators and participants to the Humane Society of Warren County’s (HSWC) Julia Wagner Animal Shelter for the second annual Dogs of War and Law Enforcement K-9 team Memorial Day weekend event.
The Dogs of War Garden of Remembrance, a tranquil space nestled within the shelter grounds, was the hub of this heartwarming celebration. At its center stands a statue of a German Shepherd – a poignant representation of war dogs and law enforcement canines’ loyal service throughout history. Accompanied by a heartfelt dedication note, this statue embodies the community’s profound gratitude toward these unsung heroes.
Meghan Bowers, HSWC Executive Director, kick-started the event by introducing the man behind the memorial garden’s creation – Malcolm Barr Sr. As a lifelong animal advocate and former HSWC Board President, Barr’s passion led to the inception of the War Dog and Law Enforcement K-9 Memorial Garden. His efforts have not only shaped this Memorial Day weekend celebration but also ensured a year-round tribute to these canine heroes.
Bowers emphasized the appropriateness of Front Royal as the event’s location, noting the deep historical connection it shares with war dogs. It was here in Front Royal at the Remount Training Center that the first U.S. dogs trained for combat in World War II were prepared, a fact that Barr highlighted, adding significance to the ceremony.
The event was graced by the participation of various local authorities and services. A Color Guard was provided by the Front Royal Police Department, with FRPD Officer Olivia Meadows in attendance with her K-9 partner Marley. Representatives from the Warren County Sheriff’s Office and Front Royal Fire Department also lent their support.
In his address, Barr gratefully acknowledged the HSWC for dedicating a section of the animal shelter property to the memorial garden, which was inaugurated on this date last year.
Keynote speaker Steve Herman, chief national correspondent for Voice Of America and Barr’s former colleague at the Associated Press offered a detailed account of the history of dogs in warfare dating from the 7th century B.C. through World War II into modern times. Upon learning about this memorial service, Herman eagerly expressed interest in participating in the event.
During his address, he acknowledged his friend Barr Sr.’s efforts dating to the Vietnam era in having an overgrown war dog cemetery Barr had come across while on a reporting assignment on the Pacific Island of Guam, a major battlefield of the Second World War, rehabilitated. That site later became recognized as a national War Dog Cemetery.
Following Herman’s keynote address, Barr introduced Front Royal Councilman Skip Rogers, himself a former military dog handler, to lead the local law enforcement and K-9 contingent in the solemn act of laying a wreath at the Wagner Shelter Memorial Garden site.
The Valley Chorale, renowned for its exceptional talent, provided a melodic backdrop to the event. They performed both the opening and closing songs at the Julia Wagner Animal Shelter, adding a unique warmth to the proceedings.
This year’s celebration served as a poignant tribute to the enduring partnership between man and his canine companions in both wartime and on the domestic law enforcement front. It paid a well-deserved homage to the invaluable service dogs who have, and continue to, serve valiantly in times of peace and conflict.
Watch the Royal Examiner’s exclusive video of the Dogs of War and Service Memorial Day event.
VDOT: Warren County Traffic alert for May 29 – June 2, 2023
The following is a list of highway work that may affect traffic in Warren County during the coming weeks. Scheduled work is subject to change due to inclement weather and material supplies. Motorists are advised to watch for slow-moving tractors during mowing operations. When traveling through a work zone, be alert to periodic changes in traffic patterns and lane closures.
*NEW* or *UPDATE* indicates a new or revised entry since last week’s report.
Mile marker 0 to 15, eastbound and westbound – Overnight mobile lane closures for vegetation management, 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. through the night of June 8.
*NEW* Mile marker 5 to 13, eastbound and westbound – Right shoulder closures, including along Exits 6 and 13 off-ramps for sign work, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Mile marker 299 to 300, northbound and southbound – Overnight mobile lane closures for vegetation management, 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. through Tuesday night.
Mile marker 299 to 300, northbound and southbound – Overnight single lane closures for equipment moving and bridge removal work, 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. through the night of July 7.
*NEW* Route 55 (John Marshall Highway) – Shoulder closures near Route 638 (Fiery Run Road/Freezeland Road) intersection for sign work, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
*NEW* Route 79 (Apple Mountain Road) – Shoulder closures between Route 55 (John Marshall Highway) and I-66 on-ramp for sign work, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
No lane closures were reported.
Vegetation management may take place district-wide on various routes. Motorists are reminded to use extreme caution when traveling through work zones.
Traffic alerts and traveler information can be obtained by dialing 511. Traffic alerts and traveler information also are available at www.511Virginia.org.
County overseen FR-WC EDA reviews committee reports, finances, and development of MOU with County at May meeting
The Front Royal-Warren County EDA held its monthly meeting on Friday, May 19, 2023, at 8:30 AM. All seven Board members, legal counsel, and the County Director of Economic Development were present; Board Members Rob MacDougall and Hayden Ashworth participated remotely.
The regular meeting began with committee reports. Board Chairman Scott Jenkins mentioned the next Open-Door Business Session on June 1, which will focus on Workforce, and provided updates on recent meetings. The Board also provided updates on the Avtex Conservancy Property progress.
Treasurer Jim Wolfe and County Director of Economic Development Joe Petty provided an update on the EDA financial statements. Mr. Wolfe also gave an update on the Small Business Loan Committee and proposed the next steps for the committee.
Board Chairman Jenkins and Mr. Petty gave updates on the draft EDA & County MOU (Memorandum Of Understanding) and support agreements that should be ready by June.
The Board concluded the meeting with a closed session to discuss potential disposition of real property to business prospects and legal consultation on active litigation. No new business followed the closed session.
The next regular monthly EDA Board meeting will be held on Friday, June 23, 2023, at 8:30 AM, at the Warren County Government Center.
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