SARASOTA COUNTY - Memorial Day weekend kicked off with a solemn tradition: placing flags at the resting site of those who served. Friday in Venice they did just that, along with song and ceremony.
Upwards of 1,000 Veterans are laid to rest at Venice Memorial Gardens. Remembering their service this weekend is a tradition. Before the Taps and the patriotic songs, they quietly walk with a keen eye for markers of those who have served.
"I think of what they did for us." WWII Navy Veteran Jo McMahon is one of 30 plus volunteers. She's come for the past 23 years. "We were the only ones who came. We just got in the habit and we come every year now."
Hundreds eventually make their way into the grounds under the pine and oak trees. "Over the years through word of mouth. So many people in the community want to make sure our Veterans are remembered," says June Parker who works for the cemetery.
It means a lot to those like Venice City Council Member Kit McKeon, a veteran himself who recently lost his dad, who also served. "I think it is wonderfully respectful. Obviously I am a littler prejudiced because my dad was a World War II veteran and a career Army officer. For them to come out and pay their respect is wonderful."
More than a three day weekend centered around the BBQ, an important reminder for those still standing and new generations. "It's nice to see the middle school next door with the Young Marines and their band and chorus to participate," says Parker.
"It's good for the young ones to realize they have something to be proud of," says McMahon.
For Jo it's a symbol of respect. One she knows she too will get here for years to come. "I am glad that they would remember me."
And several parades and remembrances are planned for this Memorial Day weekend.
On Sunday, a tribute to heroes parade will be held along Main Street in Lakewood Ranch. The parade begins at 5pm and will feature floats, bands and organizations.
Then on Monday, the annual parade down Main Street in Sarasota will begin at 10am. It will head west and end at Rev. J.D. Hamel Park.
Two other observances begin at 10am as well: one at Patriots Park in Venice, and another at Veteran's Park in North Port.