Sunset High School players take the field to honor John Pelham

John Pelham was killed in Afghanistan in 2014 while he was serving in the Army.
Published: May. 2, 2023 at 10:52 PM PDT
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BEAVERTON Ore. (KPTV) - Tuesday night, baseball players at Sunset High School took the field to honor a ball player who used to play at the school. He was John Pelham, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2014 while he was serving with the Army.

“We’re absolutely all in with this,” John Barnes, who coaches the team, said. “The kids understand that we use baseball as a vehicle for life, and this a great skill to honor our veteran’s. This is a big event for them.”

“We’re going to go out there and play baseball the best way we can,” Charlie Holmes, a senior, added. “We’re going to have fun and try to honor John the best way we can.”

Wendall Pelham, John’s father who was at the memorial game wearing his son’s high school hoodie, admitted that although his son could do anything, he put his mind to, he wasn’t the best student.

“I mean, everything that I ever learned on child discipline,” he laughed, “I tried.”

Nothing worked, though, and his son was going to come up eight credits short for his senior year. However, he said his kid wanted to play ball, so he joined a program with the National Guard that helped him do what he needed to do to come back and make the team.

“He wanted to prove to all the nay-sayers that if you have the heart, you can anything you want to do,” Wendall emphasized, “America allows you that.”

He said his son played through his senior year, with what he described as a cannon for an arm, and bat speed to hit a ball a country mile.

John went on to play college ball, but eventually realized it wasn’t his calling.

“So,” Wendall said, “he went to his coaching staff and said, ‘I need to do something different.,’” he laughed, “and they’re like, ‘Like what?’”

Wendall said his son was to follow in his family’s military footsteps, and he had made up his mind that he would join the army. He told his father, who said he supported it.

After what Wendall described as an “illustrious military career,” in February of 2014, he said got a call from his wife while he was at work. She said two uniformed soldiers were on the doorstep and waiting to deliver a message, which led him to cut across rush hour traffic in record time.

“Don’t ask me how,” he smirked, “but I got in the left lane and all of the cars moved over.”

Once he got home, he said he greeted the soldiers, who pulled out a letter he said he’ll never forget.

It read, “the secretary of the army regrets to inform you that your son John A. Pelham was killed.”

He spoke with soldiers, where he said he learned his son insisted on going into combat. They said John wanted nothing more than to fill in for soldiers who were unable.

“John always was a warrior,” Wendall remembered fondly. “He had a warrior mentality.”

His son was killed in action.

“I look back at that day every day,” he said. “That’s how John, if he had to script it, would’ve died. In a firefight. In a combat zone. Protecting the country and protecting those around him.”

Now, Wendall says, the memorial game serves as a friendly reminder to all of us.

“Freedom is not free,” he said firmly. “Freedom has an extremely expensive cost. Not just in bullets, not just in armament, but in lives. This is true America,” he gestured to the crowd. “This is what it costs to be an American.”

For the sixth year, he couldn’t be happier kids are able to take the field in his son’s honor, “because we get to celebrate John’s life, and celebrate the gift he’s given to all of us. Freedom.”