Tributes to those who served
It was the first of four tributes offered Monday by the Yamhill County United Veterans Honor Guard, the American Legion Riders from McMinnville Post 21 and the Legion’s Women’s Auxiliary. The veterans’ group moved from Dayton to Amity to the Y-C cemetery to Evergreen Memorial Park, honoring vets who’ve died and everyone else who served.
A patch on the jacket worn by one of the Legion Riders noted, “7 percent of Americans have worn a U.S. military uniform, keeping our country free for 100 percent of Americans.”
Flags snapped in the breeze at the Dayton cemetery and other memorial sites. Tiny versions of the Stars and Stripes graced veterans’ graves and larger banners waved over all.
“This means a lot to me, to remember the guys and women who served to preserve our freedom,” said Thomas Clayton, who joined the honor guard a few months ago.
A Vietnam veteran, he served in the Army and Navy, and his wife, Jeanne Clayton, served in the Navy. They are active in Dayton Legion Post 10626, where he serves as commander.
As the tribute began, Clayton and another honor guard member ceremonially lowered the cemetery’s main flag to half staff. Auxiliary members played a white, blue and red wreath beneath the flag.
Near the wreath, a pair of boots, a rifle and a helmet signified soldiers who have fallen in battle. Beside this memorial, Legion Riders placed an empty chair, draping it with a POW/MIA banner in remembrance of service members from World War II, Korea, Vietnam and other wars who have yet to be accounted for.
Memorial Day dates to the 1860s, when people began marking “Decoration Day” by placing flowers on the graves of those who died in the Civil War. Richard McJunkin of the honor guard read General Order 11 from the Grand Army of the Republic, a fraternal organization made up of Civil War veterans, which made Decoration Day official in 1868.
The order spoke of honoring “those who died for our country,” saying, “We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance.”
As the celebration of Decoration Day spread, the name became Memorial Day, honoring veterans of all wars and military service. It was celebrated on May 30 for many years, then moved to the last Monday in May in 1971.
Yamhill County veterans have held Memorial Day events in West Valley cemeteries for several years. This year, the United Veterans Honor Guard decided to take the tribute to visit different cemeteries.
At Dayton and the other cemeteries, the tribute ended with a rifle salute — three honor guard members shooting at once, three times. With the reports still echoing, “Taps” began.