Mt Pleasant News
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Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 21, 2018

For the love of country and family

Former MPCHS student speaks at Memorial Day observance Monday
May 29, 2018
Photo by: Grace King The Honor Guard fired a 3-volley salute following the Memorial Day Observance outside of the high school on Monday, May 28.

By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News

 

Memorial Day observance speaker Lanon Baccam’s love for the U.S. and military service started long before he was even born.

The veteran and 1999 graduate from Mt. Pleasant Community High School (MPCHS) shared about his drive to serve and protect the freedoms and liberties as a child of immigrants with the people filling the stands in the high school gymnasium during the observance on Monday, May 28.

Baccam, who was deployed to Afghanistan as a combat engineer and later served as the military Veterans Agriculture Liaison for the United States Department of Agriculture, regularly walks the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery to “understand the gravity of what it means when someone puts their life on the line for a cause.”

For his entire life, Baccam’s parents have told him stories of their life in Laos before immigrating to the U.S. and the constant political persecution of his people, the Tai Don people. Baccam said the stories always ended in “grateful reflection” for the freedom he and his family experienced moving to America.

Baccam believes there is something worth fighting for, a sense of duty that is not unique, especially in rural America.

“There’s something that compels young men and women to join the military, especially from rural communities like Mt. Pleasant,” Baccam said, sharing that upward of 40 U.S. Army recruits come from rural towns where only 16 percent of the U.S. population lives.

“There’s something worth fighting for here and we all know that,” he continued. “Growing up here gives you a sense of community, a connection to the land through agriculture and recreation, and an understanding that we are all part of something bigger than ourselves. These values are similar to what we’re taught in the military.”

Baccam’s family was forced to escape Laos after being threatened. Baccam went as far as to say that his father was “a marked man” for his efforts in aiding Americans.

In the dead of night in 1979, his mother and sisters walked through miles of rice paddies to reach the river that separates Laos and Thailand, waiting for a boat to take them across to a refugee camp.

The family later found themselves in Iowa following the Vietnam War thanks to Iowa’s former Governor Robert Ray, who worked to create a new model of refugee relocation. This model focused on bringing the Tai Don people to Iowa using community organizations to help families move in across the state, Baccam said.

Baccam’s family was sponsored by the Lindeen family in Swedesburg.

“This commitment to service, not just from those in government, but individuals, families and Iowa communities to help relocate the Tai Don people is why I am here today,” Baccam said. “Everyone who opened up their homes and hearts helped make my American dream possible.”

Baccam’s heartfelt speech remembering the soldiers who died so the U.S. can remain a free country followed the presentation of colors by members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion and AMVETS Posts and Auxiliaries. Some of the flags included were the U.S. Airforce, the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Marines, Henry County Honor Guard and the Iowa State Flag.

All stood as the MPCHS band played the national anthem, after which state representatives from the American Legion Post 58, Aaron Bodenham and Sam Beatty, took turns reading General Logan’s orders, marking the first Memorial Day in 1868.

Students from Mt. Pleasant elementary schools also had a place in the ceremony, presenting a musical presentation of the Gettysburg Address and singing the Battle Hymn of the Republic.

After Baccam spoke, the families of eight people whose names will be newly engraved to the memorial were invited to stand. The names are: Marvin Joseph Ruby, Ware Hall Taylor, Donald L. Mullin, Warren Arthur Pidgeon, Ronnie Gene Jones, Marvin James Lanferman, Thomas W. Spray and Mansel Eldon Beavers.

Concluding the ceremony, everyone was invited outside where 10 servicemen fired a three-volley salute.

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