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Wreath event pays homage to veterans

REMEMBERING — Bill Baker of Bergholz lays a wreath Saturday at the Union Cemetery grave of his friend, Carl Bernhart, who was killed in action on March 16, 1968, during the Vietnam War. -- Mark Law

STEUBENVILLE — More than 600 wreaths were placed at the graves of veterans at local cemeteries on Saturday as part of the national Wreaths Across America.

Wendy Barr, local coordinator, said 200 wreaths were placed on veteran’s graves at Union Cemetery and 40 at Mount Calvary Cemetery.

There was a ceremony at Union Cemetery to mark the event. It was the second such event, Barr said.

Each cemetery has a website through Wreaths Across America for donations. People can designate which cemetery gets the donation.

Bill Baker of Bergholz was at the event to honor his friend, Carl Bernhart, who was killed in action on March 16, 1968, during the Vietnam War. Baker, who is a member of Rolling Thunder, Ohio Chapter 8, said he was in Medina last year for Wreaths Across America.

Baker and Bernhart graduated from Jefferson Union High School and both enlisted in the Army together. But the friends were separated, with Bernhart going to Vietnam and Baker staying stateside.

“That kind of thing happens in the Army,” he said of the separation.

Members of Bernhart’s family also was present at the ceremony on Saturday.

“The way I think, it is an honor to do this for veterans. They sacrificed their life so we can have the freedoms we have today,” he said.

Rolling Thunder members ride their motorcycles to Veterans Administration facilities in Ohio, visiting and talking with veterans.

Calvin Bickerstaff of Steubenville High School’s Key Club was the master of ceremonies during the event at Union Cemetery.

“Right now, across the country, at more than 2,000 memorial sites like this one, we are gathered as one nation to remember, honor and teach,” Bickerstaff said. “We are all proud to be Americans that live in a free society made up of many people, from many walks of life. The freedoms we enjoy today have not come without a price. Lying here before us, and in cemeteries throughout this nation, are men and women who gave their lives so that we can live in freedom and without fear.”

“The United States of America was founded on the ideals of freedom, justice and equality. Our nation stands as a shining beacon of liberty and freedom to the world. We thank those who gave their lives to keep us free, and we shall not forget you. We shall remember,” Bickerstaff said.

“This nation has always been the first to protect the innocent and oppressed. This nation has always been the first to stand up for the freedom of people from around the world. Many of you here today have answered that call and served your country well. We are here today to say thank you. Thank you, and we are honored to know you,” Bickerstaff said.

Wreaths were laid for each branch of the service: Richard Barr Sr., Army and also for the Coast Guard; Jack Ernest, Marine Corps; state Sen. Frank Hoagland, R- Mingo Junction, Navy veteran; Schelley Brooks, Air Force veteran; Christopher Clutter, Merchant Marine veteran; and Baker, POW-MIA.

Bickerstaff urged those laying wreaths to say the name of the veteran out loud and thank them for their service.

“Remember, we are not here today to decorate graves. We are here to remember not their deaths, but their lives. Each wreath is a gift of appreciation from a grateful America,” he said.

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