Honoring the fallen: 'Who represent the very best in every one of us'

Honoring the fallen: 'Who represent the very best in every one of us' »Play Video

EUGENE, Ore. -- From the Civil War to Afghanistan, fallen veterans were all honored in special ceremonies across the nation Saturday.

Hundreds gathered at the Historic Pioneer Cemetery near the University of Oregon Campus for a Eugene tradition that goes back decades of honoring the fallen.

From patriotic songs, to the laying of wreaths, the Memorial Day service honored those who paid the ultimate price for their country.

Eugene attorney and Afghanistan war veteran Bryan Boender summed up the day during a speech for the crowd that filled the cemetery.

“Today though - here - we remember those we've lost in service to our nation. Men and women who represent the very best in every one of us,” said Boender.

Members of The Sons of Union Veterans gave the service a deep sense of history.

While the ceremony carried on, a smaller Memorial Day tribute took place just down the hill. The Sons of Union Veterans gave Harold Slavik, a geologist from Springfield, a special salute.

Slavik had a passion for Civil War gravesites, especially the ones unmarked and forgotten.

“He went from graveyard to graveyard and located these individuals,” said Perry McGill, a member of the Sons of the Union Veterans. “It was his passion, and he did an excellent job.”

McGill told KVAL News that of the estimated 10,000 Civil War vets who moved to Oregon, only about half had proper burial markers or headstones.  

During his search through historic burial sites, Slavik found proper grave markers for the families, both Union and Confederate. He died in late 2011.

On this Memorial Day, the man who honored dead from the Civil War was honored himself.