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Collections Corner: A Family of 103 Years of Military Service

A new exhibit has been installed at the Historical and Genealogical Society of Indiana County, just in time for Memorial Day. The exhibit features the Jablunovksy children who have a combined 103 years of military service. The exhibit comes to us thanks to a recent donation by the Jablunovsky family, and through the efforts of Museum Chair, Cori Woods and volunteer Jeff Miller, the exhibit has become a reality.

The Jablunovsky children grew up in Yatesboro, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania. Their father, John, immigrated from Czechoslovakia in the early 1900s. He joined his stepbrother, who was already living in Clearfield County. His stepbrother had a job for John in the mines, where he remained for 43 years, although he moved to Yatesboro with his brothers to work for R&P Coal Company. John married Mary Centko, also from Czechoslovakia. They would have 10 children together but only eight would survive to adulthood – Velma, Mary, Elizabeth, Anne, Philip, Christopher, and Bernadette.


During his formative years in the United States, John developed a deep appreciation for his adopted country and instilled that appreciation in his children. Holidays commemorating military services like Memorial Day and the Fourth of July were particularly popular with the Jablunovsky clan. Because of their father, the Jablunovsky children would take to heart what an honor it was to serve one’s country, and they would carry that with them in their combined 103 years of military service.


Velma was the first child to join the military. She graduated from Mercy Hospital School of Nursing in 1938 and joined the Army a few years later. During World War II, she was primarily stationed in the South Pacific, but she also served in Europe and the United States. When she was able to come home, Velma would often regale her family with her travels, sparking a desire for the other children to follow her.


A few years after her sister, Mary upon finishing the Indiana Hospital Nursing Program and entered the U.S. Navy. However, she received a medical discharge two months later due to a heart murmur but never lost her support of the military. The next two siblings to join the fight were Elizabeth and Anne. Elizabeth, upon graduating from Mercy in 1945, joined the U.S. Army. She was set to help efforts in Japan after news of the war’s end hit, but she never arrived, as she was rerouted to Korea.


Anne graduated from Mercy a year after Elizabeth and served in the U.S. Army. Her service was as an Army nurse in an evacuation hospital in Korea. While Anne was not involved in combat, many of the battles came close to her. Some nights Anne and her fellow nurses slept in their flak jackets and helmets in fear the enemy’s army would arrive. Her experiences in Korea would help prepare her for a nursing stint in Tuy Hòa, Vietnam a few years later during the Vietnam War.

After the older girls, it was now the boys’ turn to enter into military service. Philip would enlist in the Air Force directly after graduating high school in 1951. He would go on to become a medical technician during the Korean War, and also volunteer for the drum and bugle corps. The next son Christopher would join the U.S. Army after his elder brother but only served for two years.


The baby of the Jablunovsky family, Bernadette, was the last child to join the military. She graduated from nursing school in 1959 and joined the U.S. Air Force in 1961. During the Vietnam War, she served in the Philippines caring for soldiers who were being transported to the US for further medical care.


The military service would not end with the seven Jablunovsky siblings. Mary’s daughter, Mary Ann, would serve as a captain in the U.S. Army, and her cousins Gregory and John, Philip’s sons, also joined branches of the military. Gregory was in active duty for seven years in the U.S. Air Force and was in the Pentagon during the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. John served nine years with the U.S. Army.


Life in the military was not easy, but the Jablunovsky children would gladly do it all over again. Their deep love for their country and family gave them the courage to last through the hard times and eventually return home to Indiana County and share their stories with their friends and family. Through the current exhibit, their stories are now being shared with you. To learn more about this family's military service, visit the museum during business hours.