Berea honors World War I hero on centennial of his death (photos)

October 7, 2018

Berea honors World War I hero on centennial of his death (photos)

BEREA, Ohio -- Albert Baesel was a Berea farmer who simply wanted to serve his country. But the 28-year-old U.S. Army second lieutenant and Congressional Medal of Honor recipient embodied so much more than a man who worked the land.

An appreciative crowd gathered in downtown Berea Sept. 27 to honor him on the exact date that he died 100 years ago while trying to save an injured comrade during World War I.

The original flag that covered his casket was raised in military fashion, its worn and tattered stripes swaying gently from half-mast on the Triangle flagpole. A commemorative plaque marking the day was unveiled as a permanent fixture to the city clock tower.

During the bloody Meuse-Argonne Offensive near Ivoiry, France, Baesel attempted to rescue his injured squad leader from where he lay on the battlefield. He asked permission three times to save Corporal Sterling S. Ryan before being granted his request. Upon wrapping the soldier around his shoulders to carry him to safety, both men immediately were killed.

“Albert Baesel was no ordinary, everyday hero,” said Mayor Cyril Kleem, acknowledging several Baesel family members in attendance. “What he did was selfless. He chose to surrender his life to help save another, and we will never forget him.”

Baesel served with the 148th Infantry Regiment, 37th Division, after being activated by the U.S. Army from his Ohio National Guard unit. Originally buried in France, Baesel’s remains were re-interred in 1926 at Woodvale Cemetery in Middleburg Heights. American Legion Post 91 in Berea bears his name.

Great-nephew Gary Cole, 67, spoke after the ceremony about the letters Baesel sent home, as well as those he received from family members, during the war. All of them were discovered in Baesel’s footlocker.

“He was so gung-ho and patriotic,” Cole said. “He couldn’t understand why everybody that was able to fight wasn’t over there.”

Cole hopes people ponder the commemorative plaque and the ideals of patriotism, selflessness and bravery that it exemplifies.

“There’s something bigger here,” he emphasized. “There is more to life than just what you’re doing. I want people to walk up, read it and think: ‘Wow. Maybe I want my kid to be like that.’”

Baesel was one of only three Ohio soldiers to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor for bravery in World War I.

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