JOHN DAY — Roughly 20 people gathered at the Seventh Street Sports Complex Thursday, Nov. 11, to honor Grant County veterans for their service.

The Veterans Day event, sponsored by the John Day Elks Lodge, included a rifle salute by the John Day American American Legion Post No. 77 and taps played by Ed Heiple.

Bob Van Voorhis, an Army veteran and active supporter of veterans in Grant County, reminded everyone that Veterans Day is not the same as Memorial Day, which is observed on the last Monday in May. While both honor military service, Van Voorhis noted that Memorial Day commemorates men and women killed in service to our country.

As the Department of Defense notes on its website, “A lot of Americans get this confused, and we’ll be honest — it can be a little annoying to all of the living veterans out there.”

Armed Forces Day, celebrated on the third Saturday in May, honors those currently serving on active duty, Van Voorhis added.

Veterans Day, which occurs each year on Nov. 11, commemorates the armistice that signaled the end of World War I and went into effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.

The holiday was initially known as Armistice Day. But Van Voorhis noted that President Dwight D. Eisenhower officially changed the name to Veterans Day in 1954 in recognition of the fact that peace was equally preserved by all veterans, not just those who fought in World War I.

Van Voorhis said the official number of veterans in Grant County is 750, but he has always put the number at around 1,000.

“In a county of 7,000 people, “Van Voorhis said, “there’s a lot of us.”

Van Voorhis thanked the Grant County commissioners and the people of Grant County for their support of veterans’ activities.

He added that Grant County is on the national registry as a Purple Heart county in honor of local residents who have been awarded the medal. The Purple Heart is a combat decoration given to military personnel who have been wounded or killed in battle. It is the oldest military medal still awarded in the United States.

“When you come into Grant County,” Van Voorhis said, “you’ll see a Purple Heart County sign.”

Van Voorhis was awarded the Purple Heart after getting wounded in Vietnam.

Van Voorhis pointed out that 6 million veterans served during peacetime, keeping the military on the line and other countries free against totalitarian regimes.

“That makes them just as important as us who served in combat,” he said. “They’re every bit as much of veterans as any of us.”

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Steven Mitchell is a reporter for the Blue Mountain Eagle. Contact him at steven@bmeagle.com or 541-575-0710.

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