Event of the Week: Memorial Day Weekend tributes

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Memorial Day is set aside to remember veterans who gave their lives for our country. And you can pay tribute this weekend.

Sunday at 3pm, fallen veterans and their families will be honored at the Sarasota National Cemetery.

And there are two parades scheduled.

Drums will roll at 10am Monday morning, and the Sarasota Memorial Day Parade will step off down Main Street starting at Osprey Avenue. Special tribute will be paid to World War II veterans.

“There are four of them who reside at The Pines of Sarasota, and the military academy brings them and they join the parade and they're honored at the ceremony," says Dan Kunkel, president of the Sarasota Patriotic Observance Committee.

There will be another World War II vet there who served at Iwo Jima. The parade ends at J.D. Hamel Park, where there'll be a special ceremony. "We've also come across a collection of last letters from soldiers who knew for sure they were not going to survive the next day or there was a high probability that they wouldn't, and they write these last letters home."

Some of those letters will be read at the ceremony.

And Sunday afternoon, Lakewood Ranch will hold its traditional Memorial Day Tribute.

It started about 6 years ago. "It's important because it symbolizes remembering the sacrifices our veterans have done," says George Johnston, past commander of VFW Post 12055.

The event started out very small 6 years ago. "It grew until last year, we had over 4,000 individuals and 42, 43 floats," says parade co-founder Gene Sweeney.

Folks from all over the community are in the parade. "We also have Rowlett Elementary coming, drum and bugle, which is their 3rd to 5th graders," says community services director Carlene Smithe.

"We will also have face painting, food vendors, a stage with presentations singing," says Lori Bafilone, director of community activities.

A remembrance of those who fought and died for us, and a celebration of the freedom their sacrifices gave us.

The Lakewood Ranch Memorial Day events will be Sunday from 5pm until 9pm.