KAYSVILLE -- It may have been the fifth annual Kaysville City Memorial Day program, but for the Larkins family honoring those who died and served in the military has been a tradition lasting more than four decades.
Tristan Geddes of Clifton, Idaho, and her sister Tanzee Kallas, of Evanston, Wyo., travel to the Kaysville City Cemetery every year on Memorial Day to place flowers on the gravesites of their great-grandfather, grandfather, father and uncle. They meet up with their mother and other family members. A bonus is the city's program, they said.
Retired Air Force General Robert C. Oaks was the keynote speaker at Monday's program, where more than 300 people attended.
"It's a big deal," Kallas said. "Memorial Day is Memorial Day. You come to the cemetery and hear lots of stories."
Oaks, a Utah native, spoke to the crowd about the history of Memorial Day and told them not to confuse it with Veterans Day.
It was started during the Civil War when the graves of soldiers were decorated with flowers and it grew rapidly across the country, he said. It was first known as Decoration Day, but later the name was changed to Memorial Day and included all those who died in military service, not just those who died during the Civil War, he said.
Memorial Day is the day to honor those who died who served in the military, while Veterans Day is the day to honor all those who served or are serving in the military, he said.
Oaks spoke about what it means to be an American and said the United States is not great just because of the military but because of all those who live in it.
"There is no greater calling than to serve one another, and we all do it," Oaks said.
He went on to say, "Our freedom is something to be cherished."
He read a few stories written by a World War II B-17 navigator who participated in bombing raids over Germany.
He told how on the last mission by the navigator, he was shot down. Once the navigator was safely on the ground in Holland, he got help from a Dutchman and others. It took him two months to get safely back to England before he was flown back home to New York.
He was one of the fortunate, Oaks said. "More than 30,000 airmen were killed or missing in action from the 8th Air Force that was stationed in the United Kingdom. Many are buried in Europe, the Philippines and other parts of the world.
"Today we bring our casualties home to bury them near their families," Oaks said. "That has not always been the case. We've left our finest blood to commemorate their service in other countries."