South Florida Marks Memorial Day By Honoring Fallen Heroes

May 29, 2017

Not all South Florida residents spent Memorial Day lounging by the pool or the beach. For many, this was a day of remembrance, dedicated to brave soldiers who gave their lives for our country. 

About 150 people gathered for a ceremony at the Woodlawn Cemetery in Miami. Volunteers and Boy Scouts had spent hours the previous day placing miniature American flags in front of more than 2,000 veterans’ graves.

Read more: Hundreds Honor South Florida's Fallen Servicemembers In Palm Beach

Mykal Alvaro, 14, was part of the effort. He said he took time at each headstone. “I paused and I stared at it, what job they were doing, like Air Force, Navy and what war they were at and year it was,” he said.

He said many young people don’t take the time to let veterans know they care about their sacrifices.

“It’s good to show respect and in my age, lots of people don’t,” he said.

Mykal Alvaro says he's been a Boy Scout since he was 3 years old.
Credit Holly Pretsky / WLRN

Rear Admiral Collin P. Green of the U.S. Navy delivered remarks  at the ceremony.  “I think there’s a tendency to think and lament that prior generations were greater… but I would beg to differ,” he said. “No matter the conflict, the war, the century, the core of who Americans were then, now and always will remain the same.”

British Consul General David Prodger also spoke, emphasizing the alliance between the United States and the United Kingdom especially in the wake of the recent attack in Manchester, England.

The Singing Miamians, a men’s choir, performed Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” and “God Bless America.” 

In Miami Springs, Bill Tallman took to the podium at another Memorial Day ceremony to share the project he's been working on. Through the years of attending Memorial Day services, Tallman -- a self-described "detail person" -- realized there was no information given about the people being remembered.

"It just really struck me that these names, there was no detail associated with them," said Tallman, who works as director of faculty affairs at the University of Miami and has lived in Miami Springs for 15 years.

In the past seven weeks, Tallman has researched the six men whose names are on the memorial on Curtiss Parkway, and along the way, found three more people from Miami Springs who died while serving. 

"It was a challenge and honestly, I feel like I've only scratched the surface," he said. 

Ralph Wakefield, 70, holds and American flag during the Memorial Day ceremony in Miami Springs, where he lives. Wakefield served in the U.S. Navy in Vietnam on the flight deck of the U.S.S. Independence.
Credit Isabella Cueto / WLRN NEWS

Tallman looked up information online and reached out to other "amateur historians" like himself to find out as much as he could about the nine men.

"A lot of people pitched in on this and it's really interesting when you pursue things like this, people pop out of the woodwork," Tallman said. 

He asked for volunteers during the memorial service and though he is unsure of what the next step will be to memorialize the nine men in greater detail, he said he wants the project to create a sense of community pride. 

"Those stories will live on and hopefully encourage and inspire other people to serve, whether it's serving in the military or just serving your community in some other kind of way," Tallman said. 

His father was an Air Force pilot and died in 1982 in a crash while training. Because of that experience, Tallman always thought of Memorial Day as a special holiday and not just as a long weekend. By honoring the legacies of men and women who served this country, he said, we can be sure their stories don't get lost in time.

"It's important to pause and just remember why we have this," he said. 

Tallman is collecting the information on his website, and invites anyone with sources to email him.