Enjoy the barbecue, the beach and the end of your lazy three-day weekend, but don't forget what today is all about. Originally called Decoration Day, the holiday was established in 1868 to honor military personnel who died in the Civil War. In 1971, Memorial Day was made a federal holiday by an act of Congress. It's observed on the last Monday in May and honors all Americans who have died in wars and conflicts. Here's a sampling of area events scheduled for today:
• Bay Pines VA Medical Center's Memorial Day ceremony begins at 10 a.m. at the Bay Pines National Cemetery, 10000 Bay Pines Blvd., St. Petersburg. Guest speakers include Wallace Hopkins, director, Bay Pines VA Healthcare System; U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young; and Sgt. Russell Pieper, U.S. Army wounded warrior, who served four tours of duty in Afghanistan. The event is open to the public. Clearwater High School Marine Corps JROTC Silent Drill Team will perform. Parking is available nearby and shuttles will provide transportation for guests from parking lots to the cemetery. The venue is handicapped accessible. A sign language interpreter will be available for the hearing impaired. For more information, call (727) 398-9426.
• Curlew Hills Memory Gardens, 1750 Curlew Road, Palm Harbor, will offer a Memorial Day program at 9:30 a.m. . The program will feature speakers, music and the placing of American flags at graves by local Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops. Call (727) 789-2000.
• The members of USS Cole Post 67, 512 S Lincoln Ave.,
Clearwater, its auxiliary and sons squadron, invite the public to attend Memorial Day ceremonies at 2:45 p.m. Refreshments will be served after the program. Call (727) 631-0067.
•Indian Rocks VFW Post 10094 will hold a Memorial Day service with honor guards at 11 a.m. in Serenity Gardens at the Wilcox Road entrance. After the service, veterans will hold a ceremony, including a reciting of fallen soldiers in the past five years, at the post headquarters, 14268 Walsingham Road, Largo. For information, call (727) 596-8959.
• A Memorial Day sunset ceremony, sponsored by the city of Largo, will be celebrated at Largo Central Park, 101 Central Park Drive. The program begins at 7 p.m. and will include bagpipers, a parade of colors and guest speaker Adm. Eric Olson. For information, call (727) 587-6740, ext. 5014.
•Memorial Day Service, 11:30 a.m., Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9236, 3435 Shoal Line Blvd., Hernando Beach. Snacks will be served. Call (352) 596-9236.
•Friends of the Riverwalk will conclude its weekend-long FreedomFest celebration with a solemn celebration on the main stage at Cotanchobee Park in Tampa. Visit http://www.thetampariverwalk.com or call (813) 314-5422.
•Florida National Cemetery Ceremony, 10 a.m., 6502 SW 102nd Ave., (exit 309 off Interstate 75), southwest of Bushnell. The speaker will be Thomas G. Bowman, senior adviser with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, VA Sunshine Healthcare Network. Randy Price of WQYK-FM 99.5 will serve as master of ceremonies. The Hernando High School Band will perform patriotic music prior to the ceremony; band members will also play echo taps with Gayle Williams. The Pasco County Sheriff's Office will provide a riderless horse. The Florida National Guard will provide the gun salute and posting of the colors. There will also be a flyover by Ye Mystic Airkrewe and a wreath presentation. Bring lawn chairs or blankets. Call (352) 793-7740 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.