Hundreds filled the amphitheater at Sarasota National Cemetery to remember their loved ones who died in active service or are missing in action, at the cemetery's annual Memorial Day Tribute on May 27.
The tribute included spoken vignettes by the event’s Gold Star families, who were its stage guests. Akiel Reyes Melendez, a top-ranking cadet at Sarasota Military Academy, offered an opening speech as the event's master of ceremonies.
“Memorial Day is different from other military days of acknowledgement,” Melendez said during his speech. “Veterans Day honors veterans for the time they served in uniform. Armed Forces Day celebrates those in active duty. Memorial Day was established exclusively to honor and remember the men and women who died in service to our country, and did not live to be honored the other days of the year.”
It also featured performances by recording artist Lindsay Graham and a trio of musicians, Jae Williams, Kregg Edwards and Michael Shultz.
The placement of flags on each grave in the cemetery by Flags For Fallen Vets preceded the ceremony. Paul Sciacca Jr., whose father Paul Sciacca was a veteran of the Vietnam War, said he appreciated the gesture.
“They sacrificed a lot for us,” he said. “I love my dad a lot.”
“I don’t want people to forget that we need to live our dreams because they gave theirs,” said Yolanda Mercado, a Gold Star parent who spoke at the event.