by Rick Winterson

Last Sunday, May 28, the Thomas F. Fitzgerald Post, VFW No. 561 (Veterans of Foreign Wars) conducted its annual Memorial Day ceremony. This involved a solemn laying of the 2017 ceremonial wreath at the South Boston Vietnam Memorial – the nation’s first such memorial – in Medal of Honor (M Street) Park. The event was led by Ed Flynn, Commander of the Post.
Occurring exactly 100 years after the U.S. entered World War I in 1917, it seemed that this year’s wreath laying was especially significant. World War I was called “The war to end all wars” soon after it ended. In part, this was due to many weapons of war that were used for the first time – gas warfare, the machine gun, exploding artillery shells (instead of cannonballs), the first aerial bombings, armored tanks, submarines, and so on. More important, the WWI casualty count was extraordinarily high – almost 20 million (20,000,000) deaths. And more than half of these were civilians, not soldiers.
This year’s wreath laying marked a century of war since 1917. And in the spring of 2017, America is still hard at it.
At 9:30 last Sunday, the Color Guard from the South Boston High School JROTC Battalion (Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps) stepped off from the Fitzgerald VFW Post No. 561. This is an extremely sharp, well-drilled group, led by Cadet Commander Christian Badgett. A contingent of perhaps 100 guests of the Post followed, piped to Medal of Honor Park by Kevin Conroy.
An invocation was offered. Post Commander Ed Flynn delivered dedicatory remarks. The Colors were presented, memorial bouquets and a floral wreath were solemnly emplaced, and Tom Florentino blew “Taps”. Congressman Steve Lynch then spoke of the immensity of the veterans’ sacrifices; Giselle Sterling (USMC), Boston’s Commissioner of Veterans Services, focused on the devastation of PTSD among veterans,
After the Sunday morning ceremony, the Fitzgerald Post hosted a brunch. Clerk of Court Michael Donovan spoke briefly. The JROTC Color Guard received an award from Post No. 561 Commander Ed Flynn.

Cadet Battalion Commander Christian Badgett accepts an award from Post Commander Ed Flynn.

South Boston’s Congressman Steve Lynch speaks at the Vietnam Memorial.

Bouquets and a commemorative wreath are emplaced by VFW Post No. 561.

Post Commander Ed Flynn, USN (Ret.), front and center, opens the 2017 wreath laying ceremony.

Bugler Tom Florentino solemnly renders “Taps” at the Vietnam Memorial.

The place of wreath laying: South Boston’s Vietnam Memorial – the first in the nation.

South Boston is on Parade, following the colors to Medal of Honor Park.

The South Boston High School JROTC Color Guard bears the colors to the wreath laying.