NORTH ROYALTON – The home of the free because of the brave.

This was the underlying theme of the various Veterans Day ceremonies hosted at schools, churches and organizations throughout the city, that stopped to observe the national holiday, Nov. 11, by recognizing the service of military men and women past and present.

Veterans were welcomed into the schools to enjoy breakfast with students, receive tokens of appreciation and partake in assemblies.

At Albion Elementary School, Wayne Squires, a Navy Vietnam veteran, visited with his granddaughters Leah and Hannah Kubicki, 6 and 9, over breakfast.

Having lost his 21-year-old nephew in the war in Iraq has deepened the significance of the day for him.

“It brings back a lot of memories. It means more than it used to to me. It’s more of a remembrance of the ones who paid the ultimate sacrifice. They are the ones who deserve all the credit,” Squires said.

Bella Scebbi, 9, sat proudly with her aunt Angela Jordan, who served in Iraq with the Army.

“I’m very happy,” Bella said, becoming emotional having her aunt back home beside her.

“It’s very special to me, too. Every year they do this and now she finally moved back to Ohio, and Bella has a veteran to celebrate with. She’s lucky to have her auntie back,” said Laura Scebbi, Bella’s mom and Jordan’s sister.

Mike Vislosky, a Vietnam veteran, played “Taps” after the flag raising ceremony outside, conducted by the North Royalton Police Honor Guard.

“I think it’s a tribute to those who have given their lives for our country and appreciating their service and their bravery,” he said of the meaning of the day.

Over at the North Royalton Family YMCA, several dignitaries gathered to unveil a unique piece of artwork created and donated by Joe Burdick, owner of Burdick Custom Flags.

Ward 3 Councilman Dan Langshaw contacted Burdick after seeing a similar flag Burdick created for Broadview Heights.

Burdick donated the work here in Royalton at the Y at no cost to permanently recognize and honor the service and bravery of veterans, and the Langshaw Family donated the plaque that explains the piece.

The distressed wood depicts a subdued United States flag, used in times of combat. The color matches the uniforms and patches of those deployed overseas under hostile forces. The thin green line symbolizes the community’s support of all those who have served in the U.S. Military.

“I love our country, love our military and love the people who serve our country,” Burdick said of his donation.

U.S. Congressman Anthony Gonzalez said he appreciates the display, in fact, he has one in his Washington D.C. and Strongsville offices. He called it significant, not only depicting the sacrifices of veterans and their service but also because of how Burdick crafts the artwork from distressed wood, representing the stresses many veterans still endure. It’s a reminder to him to continue to serve these men and women.

“I know my responsibility is to always serve you who have served us,” Gonzalez shared.

Bill Schiffer, a Vietnam Army veteran, challenged the crowd to not only remember veterans this day but to remember and acknowledge them every day each time they meet one.

“Remember when you see a veteran, thank them. Believe me, it means more to a veteran than any medal we could have earned,” he said.

The permanent display is a reminder to do just that, remember veterans daily, Langshaw added.

“It’s a permanent display so everyone who comes through our doors will know how much we value veterans, whether in peacetime or war,” he said.