Each year, hundreds of spectators pack Bay Pines National Cemetery, Largo Central Park or Veteran’s Memorial Park in Oldsmar for annual Memorial Day ceremonies to honor America’s fallen soldiers.
But this is not just any year. Mass gathering restrictions brought on by the coronavirus pandemic have made it impossible to hold such events this year.
But no virus is going to stop us from honoring our fallen heroes, so here’s a look at how some cities and organizations are finding ways to make it happen.
Bay Pines VA
The Bay Pines VA Healthcare System will commemorate Memorial Day with a virtual ceremony on Monday, May 25, at 10 a.m. Spectators will be able to watch the ceremony via Bay Pines’ Facebook page.
“During this challenging time, nothing is more important to us than the health and well-being of the veterans we have the privilege and honor of serving, their families, and those who support veteran’s interests,” said Paul Russo, director of the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System. “That is why we will be hosting this year’s Memorial Day Ceremony, virtually.”
Guest speakers for the event include local leaders from the Bay Pines VA, St. Petersburg VA Regional Office, and Bay Pines National Cemetery.
The keynote speaker will be retired Col. Thomas G. Bowman of the U.S. Marine Corps. Most recently, Bowman served as the deputy secretary for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs from August 2017 till he retired in June 2018.
For more information about the event, call 727-398-9531 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The city of Largo will hold a virtual ceremony Monday, May 25, at 7 p.m. The presentation will be hosted by Army veteran Lt. Chris Burke of the Largo Police Department and will feature Largo's Honor Guard, Mayor Woody Brown, and keynote speaker Chad Canaynay.
The event will be presented live on the city’s Facebook page or residents can watch it on Largo TV on Spectrum channel 639, WOW! channel 15 and Frontier Communications channel 45.
The city is also asking residents to share photos of loved ones who were service members that lost their lives fighting for our country. The photos will be shared during the ceremony and in a standing tribute at Largo Central Park. Submit your photos to email@example.com and include the name, branch of service, and dates served.
For more information, visit LargoEvents.com or call 727-587-6740, ext. 5014.
Unfortunately, the city of Oldsmar was forced to cancel its annual event.
“This is an extremely difficult action to take, considering the importance of honoring those who have given their life for this nation,” Mayor Eric Seidel wrote on Facebook.
“We can all honor those heroes this Memorial Day, even if we can’t gather to do so. Please make sure you honor them, virus or not, we will never forget them. Next year will be the biggest ever.”
However, there is another way to commemorate Memorial Day.
Oldsmar Cares, Tampa Bay Brewing Company, and Tierra Engineering are teaming up to present a Virtual Honor Our Heroes 5K Run on Saturday, May 23, to both honor fallen heroes and raise funds to expand Oldsmar Cares’ services for veterans and first responders.
So, anytime May 23, pick your favorite 5K course and hit the road. Email your name, when you ran, and your time to firstname.lastname@example.org. There are no age-group awards, but race registration includes an "Honor our Heroes" T-shirt that can be picked up at several drive-thru opportunities at Tampa Bay Brewing Company’s Westchase location.
For more information, visit https://honorourheroes5k.racehawk.com.