University Heights remembers the fallen on Memorial Day
On Memorial Day, University Heights residents gathered at Walter Stinson Community Park to commemorate and remember those who have fallen in service to their country.
“Today we remember the men and women that made this nation possible,” said University Heights Mayor Michael Dylan Brennan in his opening remarks. “We remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice, and sanctified with their blood the cause of freedom.”
In the featured address, Commander Rick DeChant reminded the audience of the cost of freedom. “We who survive these heroes must always remember the price they paid,” he said, “and that freedom, indeed, is not free.”
DeChant has served more than 21 years in the U.S. Coast Guard, including combat tours in the Gulf, Haiti, Iraq and Kuwait.
In recognition of his military service, his work in homeland security, and his efforts in veteran education issues, DeChant was inducted into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame in 2017.
“All too often, we as Americans forget the responsibility we have to keep the memory of those brave men and women alive,” DeChant said. “All too often, we forget how fortunate we are to live in a democracy where there is no fear of oppression—as there exists in many parts of the world today.”
DeChant concluded with a reading of his grandfather’s favorite poem, “In Flanders Field.” The poem declares it is necessary to honor service people in order to make sure their deaths were not in vain.
The 2021 ceremony was dedicated to the late Pete Bernardo. Bernardo had helped organize the University Heights Memorial Day Parade and Ceremony for the past 30 years, and played an active role at John Carroll University (JCU). Bernardo was a decorated Vietnam War veteran who received the Distinguished Service Cross, as well as three Purple Hearts for his heroic efforts in the line of duty for the U.S. Army.
Bernardo passed away on May 14 at the age of 75.
“It is not war that makes a man great, but his actions, his goodness, his virtue, how he acts even when no one is looking or paying attention—his character. That was Pete,” Brennan said. “He touched us all.”
Deacon Maurice Miller began the ceremony with an invocation. Vice Mayor Michele Weiss led the Pledge of Allegiance, and the University Heights Symphonic Band (UHSB) played the national anthem and performed taps. City Council members placed flags in recognition of service during war, and Rabbi Pinchas Landis offered the benediction. UHSB closed the ceremony with the Armed Services Salute.
Traditionally, University Heights has hosted a large parade on Memorial Day, followed by a ceremony at JCU. Due to COVID-19 public health orders, this year’s Memorial Day parade was canceled. University Heights will instead host a parade on the Fourth of July.
Chase Mandell and Maeve Kozak
Chase Mandell and Maeve Kozak are summer interns at University Heights City Hall.