The following is a speech presented by state representative Mike Moon at the Memorial Day Celebration in Aurora, organized by Ken Ackley.

A high school student was given an assignment to ask a veteran about World War II. Since his father had served in the Philippines during the war, he chose him. After a few basic questions, the student very gingerly asked, “Did you ever kill anyone?”

His dad grew quiet. Then, in a soft voice, he said, “Probably. I was the cook.”

Margaret Culbertson writes about her daughter when serving in Iraq: "At the end of a tough day in Iraq, my daughter, an airman, collapsed onto the first seat in the transport truck, forcing everyone else to climb over her. 'Private!' hollered the sergeant, 'Skinny girls get in the back, so when we men get on with our weapons and equipment, we don't have to climb over you. Have I made myself clear?' Suddenly my daughter perked up, 'Do you really think I'm skinny?'"

Kathy Wilson of Chaska, Minnesota writes about her husband’s tour in the steaming jungles of Vietnam -- not his first choice of places to spend his 21st birthday. However, the mood was brightened when he received a birthday cake from his sister. It was carefully encased in a Tupperware container and came with this note: “Dick, when you’re finished, can you mail back my container?”

Sgt. Dan Powell wrote of a time when his troops were inspecting several lots of grenades. While everyone was concentrating on the task at hand, he held up a spare pin and asked, “Has anyone seen my grenade?”

This goes along with the military’s long tradition of pranking recruits. Here are a few that may stir some fond memories:

A private was instructed to search in the mess hall for left-handed spatulas A recruit was sent to the medical-supplies office in search of fallopian tubes A private was ordered to retrieve a five-gallon can of dehydrated water (of course, the sergeant just wanted an empty water can)

In the United States, Memorial Day is celebrated on the last Monday in May and honors those men and women who lost their lives serving their country. Of course, what we celebrate as Memorial Day today, began at the end of the Civil War. Family members of the many soldiers slain in battle would visit the grave sites of their fallen relatives or friends and decorate the graves with flowers.

Just over 150 years ago, on May 5, 1868, General John Logan proclaimed this day a holiday through his General Order No. 11. The day was entitled Decoration Day and was first observed on May 30, 1868. The northern states celebrated this day every year, but the southern states celebrated a day similar to this on a different day until sometime after World War I.

In 1882, the name Decoration Day was changed to Memorial Day, and in 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday to be observed on the last Monday of May every year. Over the years, it has come to serve as a day to remember all U.S. men and women killed or missing in action in all wars.

I am truly grateful for the freedoms we enjoy today. Too often, we take our freedom for granted, not truly realizing the sacrifice which was involved in ensuring that these freedoms continue to be a part of all our lives.

I must be honest, when I was younger, I merely thought of Memorial Day as just another chance for a three-day weekend, a chance to go the lake or beach, or another excuse to have a cook out.

We likely know some people who may not yet fully realize what Memorial Day is all about. I encourage each of us to be patient and gentle in helping them to understand the significance to the day.

I want to humbly offer my thanks to those who gave their lives so that we may continue to live free.

While speaking on Veteran’s Day at a ceremony in Arlington National Cemetery in November 1985, Ronald Reagan said, "It is, in a way, an odd thing to honor those who died in defense of our country in wars far away. The imagination plays a trick. We see these soldiers in our mind as old and wise. We see them as something like the Founding Fathers, grave and gray-haired. But most of them were boys when they died, they gave up two lives -- the one they were living and the one they would have lived. When they died, they gave up their chance to be husbands and fathers and grandfathers. They gave up their chance to be revered old men. They gave up everything for their county, for us. All we can do is remember."

While addressing the annual meeting of the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce in 1961 Ronald Reagan stated, "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free."

Let's all pause and take a minute to remember a few from Aurora who died while in service to our country:

Kenneth Daugherty -- Army James Mowris -- Army Larry Phelps -- Marine Corps and Roy Winter -- Army

I’m reminded of our county’s namesake: U.S. Navy Captain James Lawrence, who in June of 1813 had just assumed his fifth command aboard the USS Chesapeake. He and his crew were not too familiar with each other. I’ll let you read the historical account of the battle and allow you to form your own opinion of it, but during the quarter hour encounter with the HMS Shannon, Captain Lawrence was mortally wounded. As his officers carried him to his quarters, the captain stated, “Don’t give up the ship!” His words became a rally cry for the Navy for years to come.

In addition, let’s remember:

Pearl Harbor, 1941 Normandy, 1944 Pork Chop Hill Korea, 1953 Tet Offensive Vietnam, 1968 Desert Storm Kuwait, 1991 The World Trade Center, 9/11 2001 Shock and Awe Iraq, 2003 Iraq War Surge, 2007 Afghanistan, today

After having taken a minute to remember, let's take one more minute to say "thank you" for all that was given, all that was lost and all that was gained for us to enjoy our hot-dogs, softball, picnics, swimming pools, beaches, iced tea and kids in peace in the greatest country on God's green earth.

A final thought and addition to the words above:

Over the years, the meaning of Memorial Day has faded too much from the public consciousness. From a solemn day of mourning, remembrance and honor to the men and women who died in providing the freedoms we enjoy, it has been reduced to a weekend of BBQs, shopping bargains and simply another day off work -- where only token nods toward our honored dead are given, if at all. Too many don't even know what the day stands for. I’m glad to see youngsters here today.

Any day is a good day to remember those who sacrificed for us. So, let's not forget those who made the ultimate sacrifice.