Veterans Day is different this year for the Leapley family. They lost their family member and World War II veteran Elwood Leapley last month.
"This was one of his most prideful things in his life, serving our nation, so we came out here to honor him," said Genevieve Graber, Leapley’s granddaughter. She says Leapley was instrumental in planning the Hill of Valor at Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery. The memorial honors veterans from all branches of military.
"Having family members in multiple different wars, and they came home, there's a lot of men and women who don't come home,” Graber said. “So this is the moment where we pray for those people as well.”
Shirley Rhynes came to the cemetery to honor her husband Harley Rhynes, a Korean War veteran, who died in Bakersfield in 1993.
“He didn’t really like to talk about the Korean War much,” Rhymes said. “That was I guess, one of the most important things in his life, being able to serve their country.”
Many said they chose to honor their loved ones on Veterans Day because they expect crowds at the cemetery Monday.
“You know as a nation, we take one day to actually acknowledge it together as a whole,” Graber said, “But individually, I think we do it more often than not."
High school sophomore Ashley Deweese says she called all her relatives who are veterans and thanked them for their service. “I have a lot of veterans in my family,” Deweese said. “So it means a lot to celebrate them and what they did to fight for our country."
For the brave men and women who served, Veterans Day is a time of reflection.
World War II veteran John Ortega remembers being aboard the USS Halford during the Battle of Midway in 1942. “There’s about eight or 10 of us that are still alive that served on that ship, and it was about 315 individuals on that destroyer,” Ortega said.
Remembering old friends lost from the greatest generation nearly brought Ortega to tears. "It means so much,” he said. “It makes me wonder where the guys are today.