For many Americans, Memorial Day is a day to remember those who died in war. But it’s also a time to honor those who served and have passed on even if they were not a casualty in battle.
While Americans have visited cemeteries since their country’s founding to honor those who died in war, an official day of remembrance is a more recent creation. Decoration Day was established in 1868 in part to honor the 600,000 soldiers who died on both sides in the Civil War.
A century later, Congress officially approved the name “Memorial Day” and moved its date from May 30 to the last Monday in May. This year it falls on May 28.
The tradition of handing out poppies to honor those who died originated with the opening lines of Lt. Col. John McCrae’s poem “In Flanders Field.”
Grant County has a large number of residents who have served in the military. Bob Van Voorhis, an active supporter of local veterans in the John Day area, estimates about 1,000 veterans live in the county, which has 7,185 residents.
Memorial Day is a time to recognize publicly the sacrifice of those who served, but their stories should be remembered year-round.
Lelus “Pete” Baucum didn’t receive his high school diploma from Grant Union High School until he retired from teaching at the same school 42 years later in 1984. He was drafted into the Army during World War II and headed off to basic training in Fort Lewis, Washington, before the school year ended.