Three ceremonies marked the true meaning of Memorial Day Monday morning in Key West and the Lower Keys.

Sure, the last Monday of May is a day off and the unofficial start of summer, but Key West’s military groups pause every year to recall the reason behind the holiday with three reflective events.

Memorial Day is held to honor the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military.

The Navy League hosted its annual ceremony at 9 a.m. at the USS Maine Memorial in the Key West Cemetery.  At 10 a.m., a ceremonial laying of the wreaths took place at the Veterans Memorial at Bayview Park, and at 11 a.m., the American Legion hosted a ceremony at the Southern Keys Cemetery on Big Coppitt Key, which was bedecked with American flags.

According to, Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day. It originated in the years following the Civil War, which ended in the spring of 1865 and claimed more lives than any conflict in U.S. history. The war required the establishment of the country’s first national cemeteries. By the late 1860s, Americans in various towns and cities had begun holding springtime tributes to the fallen soldiers, decorating their graves with flowers and reciting prayers.

Memorial Day became an official federal holiday in 1971. 

Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.