TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida leaders chose their own way to commemorate Memorial Day this year.
Governor Ron DeSantis tried to strike the right tone between celebrating this holiday weekend and remembering what the day is for.
“I wanna wish everyone a happy Memorial Day weekend,” the governor said. “And I hope you enjoy yourselves. And as you’re doing that, I hope that you take some time to reflect on the reason we have Memorial Day. From the founding of our country all the way to the present, we’ve had people willing to serve this country in uniform, and give the last full measure of devotion so that we could be a free society.”
Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, tweeted “Thank you is not enough” to the veterans who gave their lives. Sprowls devoted another tweet to his great Uncle Willis, whom he said was killed at the Battle of the Bulge fighting the Nazis.
“Let’s make sure our children remember what it means to be an American, and how their freedom was purchased,” Sprowls wrote.
Florida Agriculture Commissioner and Democratic candidate for governor Nikki Fried tweeted “Today we honor our heroes who gave the ultimate sacrifice.”
Another candidate for governor, Congressman Charlie Crist, said “We are the land of the free because of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. On Memorial Day and every day, we honor the fallen service members who fought courageously for our nation.”
The origins of Memorial Day began immediately following the end of the Civil War in 1865 as a day for the nation to decorate the graves of those who died in the war with flowers, according to the VA.
Major John Logan, a Union veteran, established May 30 as “Decoration Day” in 1868. It’s believed Logan chose that date because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.
The first large “Decoration Day” observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery.
Many cities claim to have started observances in the years before, especially in the South, but in 1966, President Lyndon Johnson designated Waterloo, New York the official “birthplace.”
In 1971, Congress passed a law making Memorial Day an official federal holiday on the last Monday of May.
While Veterans Day honors all who have served, Memorial Day specifically commemorates the nearly 1.2 million Americans who gave their lives in service to this country.