NewsPinellas County


Families remember fallen heroes at Bay Pines National Cemetery on Memorial Day

Posted at 4:56 PM, May 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-31 17:27:56-04

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Memorial Day is a day meant to honor and remember our country’s fallen heroes. Whether in-person or virtually, families across the Tampa Bay area found ways to pay their respects to America’s brave men and women.

“You don’t realize the impact of what people went through until you go through it yourself or somebody in your immediate family is affected by it, and then you see the numbers of people that come out here paying respects,” said Jean DeFrancesco. “Memorial Day is very, very important to us.”

Among a sea of red, white and blue, DeFrancesco remembered his father, his brother, and his son at Bay Pines National Cemetery.

“We try to come here every year,” said DeFrancesco. “It started with my son. He was killed 25 years ago, and that’s kind of when it hits you, when it’s one of your own. It just means a lot more to you for sure.”

Memorial Day is a time for DeFrancesco, his family, and everyone to honor those who served and gave all.

The Bay Pines VA Healthcare System commemorated Memorial Day with a virtual ceremony, honoring and paying tribute to those who served in harm’s way and paid the price for our freedom.

“I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t want to pay respects,” said Judy Roth.

Roth laid flowers at the cemetery for her husband, who served almost 30 years in the Navy.

“We honor those that have served us, and we appreciate what they’ve done, especially those that died serving,” said Roth.

People held moments of peace and laid flowers at the cemetery, while hundreds of flags were placed on graves. As families find a way to spend this holiday together, DeFrancesco reminds them to remember the spirit of those who served.

“I remember Memorial Day years and years and years ago. It was a day off. You went to the beach. You went and celebrated, but you didn’t really think about what you were celebrating. I know I didn’t as a youngster, but then when it affects you personally, then you see it out here in the people,” said DeFrancesco. “I would tell people it is a day to celebrate, yes, have fun, but by the same token, it’s a day to remember those who have given their lives for their country.”