More than 70 years ago, Lexington native Helen Evans couldn't wait to join the Women's Army Corps. At 21, she became part of the first Kentucky WAC unit to serve in World War II.
Already a college graduate with a major in home economics, Evans applied for officer candidate school. They asked what she might be suited for.
"I said I wanted to do anything but food," Evans said. She spent the next 31/2 years responsible for working out how to feed thousands of WACs in the U.S. and abroad, working out of the Quartermaster General's office in Washington.
Now 92, Evans came to Lexington Cemetery on Memorial Day to remember those she served with.
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Mayor Jim Gray, who addressed the crowd of hundreds who turned to honor veterans of all military conflicts, said that retelling their stories is important.
"It matters that we remember the World War II stories of our parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles and pass them on to the next generation," Gray said.
As a child, Gray said, he was convinced that he had actually been there alongside his father, the late James N. Gray, as he served on a PT boat in the Pacific, or training Chinese guerrillas.
Mayor Gray's mother, the late Lois Howard Gray, also served in the WAVES. And even as she slipped into the twilight of Alzheimer's, he said, she would still salute the flag at annual Memorial Day services.
So, Gray said, remembering does matter.
Gray closed with the words of President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, honoring the Civil War dead whose headstones now march in white rows across the green cemetery lawn.
Almost 150 years ago, Lincoln dedicated the Pennsylvania battlefield where thousands died with these words: "That from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain."
That is the spirit that moved Jane Kosmatka, of the American Legion Auxiliary Unit No. 8, who helped place a wreath honoring fallen Kentucky soldiers.
"I consider it a great honor," Kosmatka said. "It's a time for all people not only to remember those who have died but to say thank you to all the veterans who served. It's because of them we are here."