TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. - Many local Memorial Day events were canceled this year but there’s a unique spot in Tarpon Springs that honors fallen service members. It was put together by an army veteran who wants to remind everyone that freedom isn’t free.
You may not recognize the names of the servicemembers on crosses in her front yard, but Yvette Malpartida is here to make sure you do.
“The first five individuals on the front row, they were actually a significant part of our unit, as well as a significant person on the front row who was my mentor and helped me,” Malpartida told FOX 13 News.
Malpartida served nearly 20 years as a military intelligence analyst for the U.S. Army.
For the last several years, she’s spent Memorial Day memorializing those who didn’t make it home, hoping to teach one simple lesson:
“That freedom isn’t free,” she said. "And that the people who serve and go overseas, there’s not a guarantee that you’re going to come home. These individuals paid the ultimate sacrifice.”
Malpartida cut more than 30 and added names and photos of fallen servicemen and women.
“The first five individuals on the front row, they were actually a significant part of our unit, as well as a significant person on the front row who was my mentor and helped me,” she said.
Malpartida says since the memorial went up over the weekend, many who have driven by it have stopped and gotten out of the cars to check it out.
“A lot of people coming by and videotaping, and I have a bucket here for any other people here who know a service member, to put the name down,” she said.
She says she hopes to use those names to add to the list for next year.
Nearby Hillsborough County is home to more than 97,000 veterans, more than any other county in Florida, and that includes many gold star families, who Malpartida says this day is all about.
“Just to understand the Gold Star Families that have lost their loved ones, and take a moment out of your day, a silent remembrance,” she said. Say a prayer for them.”
If you want to see the memorial, it’s near the intersection of Castleworks Lane and Peninsula Road in Tarpon Springs.
Malpartida says because so many Memorial Day events were canceled because of the pandemic, she decided to keep the crosses up through Tuesday, May 26.