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Veterans Remembered At St. Nicholas Cemetery

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- America is a country of immigrants. From the very beginning men and women of many nations have borne arms to protect the freedom they came here to find. Many of them died.

In St. Nicholas Roman Catholic Cemetery, the names on grave markers Novakovic, Radocaj, and Simunovic speak to deep roots in Croatia.

David Sladak's, reading of the names of past members of St. Nicholas Church who died in the service of country is bittersweet. The North Side landmark where they were baptized, married and buried is now abandoned brick and mortar.

"Twenty-seven from just this one parish – horrendous amount," recalls Army Lt. Col. Bill Vergot, (retired) and member of the Preserve Croatian Heritage Foundation.

Headstones are scrubbed and the young learn the lessons of the price of liberty – not merely focus on picnics, pool openings and trips to the beach, says Adrian Vergot, in his eulogy.

"Instead, let us consider how much other average Americans paid to reach other beaches with names like Normandy, Buna and Guadalcanal," Vergot said.

Days like this are a reminder that it is the people who really matter – those who gave their lives remembered by those who are left behind.

"We have so much to be grateful for," says Susan Petrick with tears in her eyes. "This freedom is not to be taken lightly."

This small gathering is perfect in the strong notes of "Taps," played by the Belobrajdich brothers and in the flickering light of each candle marking just how fragile life can be.

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