TAMPA, Fla. — Memorial Day may mark the unofficial start to summer, but it's truly a day to honor the people who fought for our country and are no longer with us.
Today, we reflect on the American patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect and defend our freedom.
Around Tampa Bay, the holiday was observed through different memorial services and celebrations, both in-person and virtually.
Here's a look at how our community honored those who served and have died.
Curlew Hills Memory Gardens of Palm Harbor held its 33rd annual Memorial Day Service where members of the public were invited to come pay their respects. Guests also heard from highly-decorated US Army veteran Major Peter C. Fraser, who spoke about his service during his 30+ year career.
MacDill Park Memorial Day service
People gathered for a ceremony at the Gold Star Families Memorial Monument at MacDill Park in Tampa. The service included a speech by Vice Commander of U.S. Central Command Vice Admiral James Malloy, a wreath-laying ceremony, a 21-gun salute and the MacDill Honor Guard, which played Taps.
The 'Garden of Gold' is an exhibit that displays flags that pay tribute to the fallen loved ones of Gold Star families. It was unveiled Sunday to Gold Star families in Hillsborough County at Veterans Memorial Park but remained open throughout Memorial Day for visitors.
On Sunday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis put out a proclamation "in recognition of all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation." In the statement, the governor asked that all Floridians pause for a moment of silence at 3 p.m. Monday in memory of the fallen heroes of our armed forces.
While not in the Tampa Bay area, many watched online as President Joe Biden honored America’s war dead at Arlington National Cemetery by laying a wreath at the hallowed burial ground. He was joined by first lady Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff in a somber ceremony at the Virginia cemetery's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which is dedicated to the fallen U.S. service members whose remains have not been identified.
While this was in recognition of a living service member, not someone who had passed away, we should also mention a Vietnam Veteran from St. Petersburg was awarded a Silver Star during a special Memorial Day ceremony open to the public on Monday. More than 50 years ago, John Kieffer led a mission that saved his combat veterans' lives.
Congressman Charlie Crist presented Kiefer with the prestigious award at War Veterans Memorial Park in St. Pete. While honoring Kieffer, Crist also made sure to recognize the military service members who died for our country.
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