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Finneran: A Gray and Somber Day

Friday, June 02, 2017

 

Garden of Flags at Boston Common

It was neither the weather nor my mood. Rather, it was the stunning sight of Boston Common and the heartbreaking hill of flags commemorating our fallen sons.

It was Tuesday of this week, fresh off the Memorial Day holiday and weekend. I was in between appointments with clients and I was walking across Boston Common. The weather was fairly mild and the clients were happy so I was not pre-occupied or distracted.

The sight of those many flags, and the thoughts of those forever-grieving families stopped me in my tracks. I was not alone. Businessmen, always in a hurry for their next appointment, stopped and stared. Tourists did too. You could sense the take-your-breath away reaction of people who would ordinarily be oblivious to the sights and sounds of the City. 

The scene was almost spiritual. Indeed, it was if the Common had become an outdoor cathedral. 

I have walked among the headstones at Normandy. God’s hand rests there just as it does at Arlington National Cemetery and countless other overwhelmingly sad military resting places.

And yet for all the sadness, for all the regrets at what might have been, one can feel the peace of these places, sacred, special, and far removed from the follies of mankind.

I noted that President Trump visited Arlington National on Memorial Day. Good for him for doing so. In fact, I think that all Presidents should walk there---frequently, quietly, and alone, away from the braying crowds and probing cameras. All Presidents should reflect on the young men and women whose lives were brought up short by a foe’s bomb or bullet, in the midst of mortal combat, in the service of our nation.

The headstones tell brief but powerful stories. Many were so young. Eighteen, nineteen, and twenty-year-old boys---for that is what they were---cut down before their proper time. They may have been deemed men for certain legal reasons but they were just boys. Very few, if any, wanted to be heroes or to gain their eternal rest in a place far from home. They were sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, friends, neighbors, classmates, and teammates. They were probably very scared for that is how combat veterans describe a battlefield. It is utterly frightful.  All are scared and all just hope to go home.

Yet a duty and a sense of honor impelled them to join, to march, and to fight, sometimes to the last bullet and sometimes to the last man.

I suspect that the flag displays and Memorial Day exercises are a special consolation to the families who lost loved ones in the nation’s wars. A grateful nation pauses to remember and honor the sacrifice of those who lost their lives so that we might live our lives in peace and freedom. While the grief of the empty place at the dining room table is a rending reminder, comforting too are the notes of comrades, the decoration of graves, and the placement of flags. 

Nothing, of course, can truly erase the memory and the pain of opening the front door to the knock of two or more servicemen, or perhaps the parish priest or the temple rabbi, or the reading of the telegram’s words which begin “The President of the United States regrets to inform you......”.

There is much sadness on Memorial Day as certain memories revive. There was much sadness on Boston Common this past Tuesday as well. Prayer and reflection too. 

May they all rest in peace.

THE MASSACHUSETTS MILITARY HEROES FUND SUPPORTS THE FAMILIES OF UNITED STATES SERVICE MEMBERS WHO WERE KILLED IN THE NATION’S WARS. DONATIONS MAY BE SENT TO THE FUND AT 727 ATLANTIC AVENUE, THIRD FLOOR, BOSTON, MASS. 02111.

Tom Finneran is the former Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, served as the head the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, and was a longstanding radio voice in Boston radio.
 

 

Related Slideshow: 25 Ways to Celebrate Veterans in New England - 2017

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