Red, white and blue balloons were released into the sky Monday in the Historic Union Cemetery by ceremony guests, all representing fallen servicemembers.
An estimated 350 people attended the Memorial Day event in the cemetery, which had American flags planted in front of each headstone.
Guest speakers included local teachers and elected officials.
Jeremy Adams, a Bakersfield High School teacher, spoke of how Memorial Day should be not only honor servicemen and women, but also the families and those who suffered after their loved ones' death, and the freedom America has because of them. He said the American dream could be tied to those freedoms.
"As a lifelong teacher of American politics, what I know is that the American dream is not a lie, it's not a sham ... the American dream is not for some people," Adams said. "The American dream is for everybody. Rich and poor, black and white, and for those (who had) forefathers who came over on the Mayflower 400 years ago, to those who crossed the Rio Grande just yesterday."
Don Galey, chairman of the Union Cemetery historical board, said the day was one to remember the sacrifices made by veterans.
"You can never remind the public of that enough," Galey said. "We all have a friend or family member who died in service."
Anita Cowen, of Bakersfield, attended the ceremony and thought of her late husband, Donald.
He was a member of the U.S. Marine Corps during the Korean War.
"The service was very touching," she said.
Mary Rivas' husband, Alex, served in WWII as a member of the Army, and he is buried in the Historic Union Cemetery. The Bakersfield woman attended the ceremony to support servicemen and women such as her family members.
"It's important to honor (the veterans') memory, but also these families of veterans," Rivas said.
Rivas' brother, Doroteo Lopez, also was enlisted in the Army. He died in an accident in 1946, shortly after joining up.
"We never even got to see him in his uniform," she said.
Prayer, song and speeches brought shouts of "Amen" from the crowd during the service.
"We all know that our veterans saved America," Adams said. "But what we forget is that they did something even nobler: They made America forever worthy of being saved.
"... We owe it to our veterans to not just remember them, but to live lives every day that are worthy of them," Adams said.