41-A District Court Chief Judge Stephen Sierawski has been chosen this year as the Sterling Heights Memorial Day Parade’s grand marshal.

41-A District Court Chief Judge Stephen Sierawski has been chosen this year as the Sterling Heights Memorial Day Parade’s grand marshal.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Judge Sierawski to lead Memorial Day parade as grand marshal

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published May 6, 2024


STERLING HEIGHTS — A longtime judge from the 41-A District Court will preside in a different venue later this month: as grand marshal of Sterling Heights’ 45th annual Memorial Day Parade May 27.

Chief Judge Stephen Sierawski is scheduled to give a speech and pay tribute to fallen veterans during this year’s Memorial Day events under the banner of “Salute to Service: Honoring Heroes & Innovations.”

Sierawski, 62, is currently serving his 26th year as a 41-A District Court judge. He said the Sterling Heights Arts Committee asked him to serve as grand marshal.

“I was more than honored to represent the city this year as grand marshal,” he said.  “I’ve been a part of the Memorial Day parade since 1996. That’s almost 30 years ago — that doesn’t seem possible.”

Jeanne Schabath-Lewis, from the Sterling Heights Arts Commission, explained the thoughts behind her organization’s decision to pick Sierawski as grand marshal. She said he has been a very active part of the Memorial Day parade, and Sierawski and his wife — Sterling Heights Mayor Pro Tem Liz Sierawski — were instrumental in naming the new veterans memorial garden near City Hall after late Korean War veteran and local veterans advocate Marco “Mike” Adragna.

“We change it up every year, and it was time to give (Sierawski) an honor as well,” Schabath-Lewis said.

Stephen Sierawski said his own military service started in 1983 when, after graduating from Notre Dame University, he enlisted to fly as a navigator and was assigned to B-52s for strategic air command. He said his duties included nuclear war deterrence while he was stationed at Griffiss Air Force Base, near Utica, New York.

“In the Air Force, I inspected 24 nuclear weapons every third week,” Sierawski said. “That was how the Cold War was won.”

After around 5 1/2 to six years of active duty service, Sierawski decided to enroll in Wayne State University’s law school, and then a friend told him about Selfridge Air National Guard Base.

At the time, Sierawski said, he was looking for additional work because his wife was pregnant with twins and he needed to feed a family. So for three years, he juggled law school, family and serving at Selfridge.

“I looked into serving with the Air Force Reserve, and as fate would have it, they needed navigators for C-130s, the cargo airplanes,” he said.

However, in October 1990, his unit at Selfridge got called up for overseas duty in Operation Desert Shield, so he had to temporarily withdraw from law school to serve in the Middle East for around seven months.

“Upon returning from the desert, I was reenrolled in law school and was able to complete law school by December of 1992,” he explained. “Very fortunately, I was offered an assistant Macomb County prosecutor’s spot in 1993. And then five years later … I was fortunate to win a judgeship in 41-A in November of 1998.”

Military service is a multigenerational tradition in the Sierawski family. Sierawski said his father was a World War II veteran who survived the battle of Okinawa and received a Purple Heart and two Bronze Stars. In addition, Sierawski said his son, Anthony Sierawski, is currently a major in the U.S. Marine Corps in active duty and has served around 13 years, including two tours in Afghanistan.

Stephen Sierawski described how his military background affects his outlook on America as well as his role as a judge.

“Quite simply … we’re part of an amazing country, and more importantly, our responsibility to maintain freedom and other people’s freedom is not only very relevant when it comes to military service, but also as a judge,” he said.

“So I’ve carried that attitude over. … It’s my job as a district court judge to make sure those rights are protected as well as enforced.”

While he said last week that his speech wasn’t finished yet, he expected to talk about the importance of Memorial Day and the heroism of the brave men and women who serve.

“When I say heroes, I mean that. They are the true heroes who gave their lives for us,” he said.

Besides thanking veterans and honoring those who fell in combat, he also wanted to remind people about the true meaning of Memorial Day and the cost of freedom.

“Unfortunately, a lot of people look at Memorial Day as the start of summer,” he said. “But more importantly, it’s Memorial Day for just that reason: We need to remember. … It’s human nature, but some people forget the real reason for Memorial Day.”

Sierawski said that while people frequently thank him for his service as a veteran, he said veterans don’t serve to be thanked or to receive accolades.

“We do it for one simple reason: to protect our freedom here and abroad,” he said.

As someone with over 20 years of military service, Sierawski encouraged young men and women who are thinking about enlisting and are inclined to serve to do so. He said the rewards, such as the camaraderie, are endless.

“At the end of the day, you will be a changed individual,” he said. “Your perspective will forever enhance your ability in life. It installs discipline and a perspective that serves most people well.”

According to Sterling Heights officials, the city’s Memorial Day activities will start with a 9 a.m. ceremony at the courtyard by City Hall, 40555 Utica Road. Local dignitaries, including Sierawski and Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor, are expected to attend. Afterward, the city will hold a 10 a.m. parade down Dodge Park Road.

Learn more about the Sterling Heights Memorial Day Parade by visiting sterlingheights.gov/713/Memorial-Day-Parade or by calling (586) 446-2470.