Bay Pines VA to Hold Annual Memorial Day Ceremony on May 27 - Bay Pines VA Healthcare System
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Bay Pines VA Healthcare System

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Bay Pines VA to Hold Annual Memorial Day Ceremony on May 27

April 15, 2019

Bay Pines, Fla. — The Bay Pines VA Healthcare System (BPVAHCS) will commemorate Memorial Day with a ceremony on Monday, May 27, 2019, at 10:00 a.m. at the Bay Pines National Cemetery (BPNC) to honor U.S. servicemembers who died while on active duty.  The BPNC is the only National Cemetery in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, and commemorates the largest observance of Memorial Day with more than 4,000 expected attendees. Veterans, their families and friends, and the public are invited to attend.  

“We will never cease to honor the immense collective service and sacrifices of the heroes who have laid down their lives in service to this nation to keep it safe and free,” said Mr. Paul Russo, medical director of the BPVAHCS.

Guest speakers for the event include U.S. Representative Charlie Crist, 13th Congressional District of Florida, and local leaders from the BPVAHCS, St. Petersburg VA Regional Office, and the BPNC. The event will also feature traditional military tributes and music provided by the Suncoast Symphony Orchestra.

Retired U.S. Army Master Sgt. Scott Neil will provide the keynote address. Following the events of 9/11, Neil conducted numerous successful special operation combat missions as part of the Commander’s In-Extremis Forces. He was one of the first to lead the Direct Action and Counter-Terrorism charge into Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Horn of Africa. His contribution and experience in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks were recently portrayed in the movie 12 Strong. The movie is the declassified true story of the horse soldiers who were part of special operations in Afghanistan during the first days after 9/11.   

In addition, Neil actively participates with the George W. Bush Military Service Initiative and Team 43, a collaboration of former Veterans and the former President and his staff. This collaboration focuses on the power of outdoor recreational sports such as mountain biking and golf. President Bush recently painted a portrait of Scott, and his story is now featured in the former President’s best-selling book “Portraits of Courage.” 

Prior to the ceremony, on Saturday, May 25, volunteers from the community will mark more than 35,000 graves at the cemetery with U.S. flags to honor the men and women who served the Nation. Driving directions to the BPNC and a campus map are available here. Parking for the ceremony is available nearby. Shuttles will provide transportation for guests from parking lots to the National Cemetery. The venue is handicapped accessible. A sign language interpreter will also be available for the hearing impaired.  

The ceremony will be held rain or shine. Please plan appropriately for inclement weather. For further information about the event or to volunteer to help mark graves, please contact the cemetery office at 727-319-6479. This event is open for media coverage. For advanced information, please contact the Office of Public Affairs at 727-398-9531 or email  

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The Bay Pines VAHCS is one of the nation’s leading VA healthcare systems, employing over 4,300 medical professionals and support staff dedicated to providing the very best care to Veterans residing in southwest Florida. The organization is one of the largest VA health care systems in the country in terms of patients served and is accredited by The Joint Commission, Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, and several other nationally recognized accrediting organizations.

The Bay Pines VAHCS operates nine facilities to include the main medical center located in Bay Pines and outpatient clinics located in Bradenton, Cape Coral, Naples, Palm Harbor, Port Charlotte, Sarasota, St. Petersburg, and Sebring.