Despite the presence of snow cones, hamburgers, a rock-climbing wall and a mechanical bull, Damian Ford's favorite part of Governor's Day was seeing his dad march with other soldiers.
As commander in chief of the Utah National Guard, Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. is required by state law to annually review his troops in a pass-and-review ceremony. Yet the day wasn't his, Huntsman said.
"This is your day; this is your families' day," Huntsman told soldiers Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium. "And today is a reminder of the sacrifices you've made for life and liberty around the world."
Andrew Hogan, 15, of Salt Lake City, was at the event watching his brother's children Damian Ford, 7, and Tabitha Ford, 4 while their father marched with the other troops holding the Utah state flag.
"Today is about honoring the troops in Utah for all they've done for us," Hogan said. "We're just glad we can be here showing our support for my brother."
Tabitha Ford frantically waved an American flag above her head and cheered when the announcer introduced her father, Sgt. Ronald Ford. Once that was done, she and Damian didn't hesitate to point out to their uncle the bouncy house off in the distance. Governor's Day was also about having fun as a family, they said.
Huntsman recognized and thanked the National Guard for its willingness to serve. He said the Guard has been called locally, nationally and internationally to serve in roles such as firefighters, role models or soldiers, and in each position members have served with dignity and honor.
"Governor's Day is a great tradition, and it's good exposure to the Guard," said Sgt. Maj. Eric Anderson. "Usually families only see the downside of the military, with long deployments and difficult work for soldiers. But here they get to see the thanks for their sacrifices."
During the ceremony, Anderson received an award for First Sergeant of the Year within the Utah National Guard. Seven individual awards were distributed during the ceremony, as well as two unit awards, a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star.
The number of soldiers and airmen at Governor's Day seemed small, Anderson said, because 300 members from his unit are serving in Afghanistan. About 600 soldiers and airmen of the Utah National Guard are currently serving overseas, Huntsman said.
Since the war on terror began seven years ago, the Deseret News has reported the deaths of 48 soldiers with ties to Utah.
"We pray for you today and everyday," Huntsman told the troops. He later asked the crowd to "keep (the troops) all in your thoughts and prayers."
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