by Rick Winterson
It was a solemn occasion, which was only right, proper, and fitting. After a Memorial Mass in St. Brigid Church last Sunday morning, September 9, South Boston’s Vietnam veterans, along with their families, friends, and invited guests, assembled around the Vietnam Memorial in Medal of Honor Park at M Street and East Broadway. The solemn occasion was the 37th Annual Rededication of South Boston’s Vietnam Memorial – the first such Memorial in America.
Tom Lyons called for the Colors to be presented. The National Anthem was rendered by the 215th Army Band from Fall River. The Boston Fire Department’s Pipes and Drums escorted the Colors. The Rededication’s Keynote Speaker, General (4-Star) Joseph L. Lengyel USAF, received the appropriate 17-gun salute. Other speakers included Congressman Steve Lynch, Gov. Charlie Baker, Mayor Marty Walsh, State Sen. Nick Collins, District 2 City Councilor Ed Flynn, City Councilor-at-Large Michael Flaherty, and Medal of Honor recipient Tom Kelley. Bob Morris closed out the program by reciting a memorial poem.
The dominant (and heartfelt) theme in this year’s Vietnam Ceremony was its dedication to the memory of U.S. Senator John McCain, who had recently died. McCain was perhaps the quintessential surviving Vietnam veteran, having suffered wounds, torture, and six years of imprisonment in the so-called “Hanoi Hilton”. While there, he heroically refused repatriation in order that more seriously wounded prisoners of war could be returned to America instead.
General Lengyel’s remarks were stirring. His father had also spent years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, after first being listed as “Missing in Action” for two years. The General brought his remarks around to South Boston’s Vietnam experiences and losses, concluding with an emphatic “Never Forget!” The speakers who followed were also eloquent. Tom Lyons pointed out that Gov. Baker was the first and only Governor of Massachusetts to attend the Rededication; Baker responded that the reason was the regard he has for South Boston’s veterans. A subsequent radio report said that after the Rededication, Gov. Baker stopped at the L Street Tavern for a pint. You are always welcome in Southie, Governor.
Bouquets were emplaced, as were red flowers – one for each of the 25 veterans, whose names are engraved on the black, glossy Memorial stone. “Taps” solemnly saluted the 25 war dead listed on the Memorial; a piped “Amazing Grace” imbued the Rededication with both sorrow and hope. Tom Lyons quietly thanked all who helped put on the 2018 37th Vietnam Memorial Rededication.