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Tampa Bay area organizations move Memorial Day ceremonies online

Posted at 5:00 PM, May 25, 2020

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla.—COVID-19 forced people to come up with new ways to honor the country’s fallen heroes on Memorial Day.

Many organizations for the first time moved their ceremonies online.

“He was killed in Afghanistan on August 8, 2010,” said Annette Kirk.

PHOTOS: Tampa Bay area organizations move Memorial Day ceremonies online

Her son, Paul Cuzuppe II, was a private first class in the army. He died while serving the country he loved.

“Every day is Memorial Day for us, where we’re remembering our loved ones," said Kirk.

This Memorial Day, many groups got creative, streaming their services online rather than holding them in person. Sarasota National Cemetery, Florida National Cemetery and the Bay Pines VA all livestreamed.

“What’s in the heart, that’s not virtual. That’s real,” said Maj. Gen. James “Hammer” Hartsell.

Hartsell was a part of Florida National’s virtual ceremony. He also helped place a wreath at Bay Pines National Cemetery after the online service.

The Bay Pines VA service reached more than 26,000 people on Facebook with more than 9,000 views by the afternoon. The traditional Memorial Day service at Bay Pines National Cemetery can draw in hundreds of people.

“I think it communicated an interest from folks who probably wouldn’t have come here, but they did access it, and hopefully it’ll set a stage where next year, they’ll be here in person,” said Bay Pines keynote speaker Thomas G. Bowman.

Still, as people find their own way to spend the holiday, a Gold Star Mother wants people to think of the heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice.

“It’s OK to have that barbecue and that picnic and spend times with the ones you love,” said Kirk. “Just remember why you have that freedom and the cost of that freedom. The cost is on this wall.”