Memorial Day observances in South Boston actually stretched over four days, making it into a very full weekend of remembrance. This is appropriate: Memorial Day (originally called “Decoration Day”) began 150 years ago in Waterloo in upstate New York – a key stop on the North’s Underground Railway.
On Friday morning, the Fallen Heroes (Iraq, Afghanistan) Memorial was dedicated on a plot of ground within John Hynes’ Seaport Square mega-development. This Memorial consists of a simple but stately pentagonal obelisk, representing the five American combat arms. At its base, there’s a reflecting pool and steps, in and around which bright flowers were left. The Fallen Heroes Memorial is a result of dedicated volunteer efforts by local firefighters, police officers, Gold Star families, and veterans.
One of Boston’s most impressive Memorial Weekend sights is the Garden of Flags – more than 37,000 American flags planted by volunteers, cascading down the western slope of Boston Common, below the Common’s Civil War Memorial. Hushed passers-by speak quietly and take endless photographs of this striking sight. South Boston’s Andrew Square Civic Association has decorated the large planters in Andrew Square in a similar manner.
On Sunday, the 29th, the Thomas J. Fitzgerald VFW Post #561, commanded by Ed Flynn, assembled in their Fourth Street quarters for a Memorial Weekend observance, which began with a march down Fourth Street and up to the Vietnam Memorial in Medal of Honor (M Street) Park. A well-drilled Color Guard was provided by our High School ROTC. Congressman Steve Lynch, Rep. Nick Collins, and the Hon. Ray Flynn were honored guests. A wreath was solemnly placed along with flowers, “Taps” was sounded, and brief remarks of remembrance were given by Congressman Lynch.
Unfortunately, drenching rain forced the cancellation of the Memorial Day Mass and ceremony on Dorchester Heights on Monday morning. But loyal Ed “Butch” Shiflett made sure a memorial wreath was laid later in the day, after the rains had passed over.
Memorial Day in America solemnly commemorates our war dead – those who died in combat for our sake. To paraphrase a line from our National Anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner”, we are “The land of the free”, because we are “The home of the brave”.
And sadly, some of those who died in combat never made it back home. That recalls the plaintive Scottish ballad “Loch Lomond”. The words “… and I’ll take the low road …” symbolize a Scottish soldier killed on foreign soil; “the low road” actually means that soldier’s grave. There’s a pious belief that the soul of a Scottish soldier killed in another country is instantly transported back to Scotland. “And I’ll be in Scotland afore ye.”
Please don’t ever forget.
Bugler Tom Florentino sounds “Taps”, as the Medal of Honor Park observance ends.