Finneran: A Gray and Somber Day
Friday, June 02, 2017
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.
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Operation Stand Down's Boots on the Ground Memorial
Operation Stand Down RI (OSDRI) will host the 2nd annual Boots on the Ground for Heroes Memorial this Memorial Day weekend from Friday, May 26 at 8 a.m. to Monday, May 29 at 2 p.m. Overall, OSDRI will place nearly 7,000 boots in the field by the Temple to Music at Roger Williams Park throughout the weekend.
On Sunday, May 28 there will be a Patriotic Concert by the RI National Guard 88th Army Band. The concert will begin at 6:30 p.m.
The event will honor all of Rhode Island's American heroes, who were killed in action defending the country during the war on terror, by marking their lives with a boot, flag, and name placard.
North Kingstown Wreath Laying and Parade
North Kingstown, RI
The North Kingstown Wreath laying ceremony will take place on Monday, May 29 at Civil War Memorial at North Kingstown Town Hall as well as at Veterans Memorial Park. The wreath laying ceremony will begin at 9 a.m.
Following the wreath-laying, there will be a Memorial Day parade at 10 a.m.
PHOTO: Presidio of Monterey/flickr
The Charlestown Parade begins on Sunday, May 28 at 1 p.m. starting from the Cross Mills on Old Post Road and ending at Ninigret Park.
Once at the park, there will be ceremonies and a performance by the Wakefield Concert Band at 3 p.m.
Ellsworth Maine Memorial Day Parade
Beginning on Monday, May 29 at 10 a.m. local marching bands will play patriotic tunes, ride on colorful floats while dressed in red, white and blue.
The parade will follow School St. to Main St. before ending at City Hall.
Foster Parade and Wreath Laying
The Foster Memorial Day Parade and wreath laying will kick off at 8:45 a.m. on Monday, May 29 from the Foster Center and North roads and go to the Ben Eddy Building.
Following the parade, there will also be a speaking program and the unveiling of a monument that is dedicated to World War II veterans who were originally from Foster.
Seekonk Memorial Day Parade
The Seekonk Memorial Day Parade kicks off at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 27 from Seekonk High School and ends at Dr. Kevin Hurley Middle School.
After the parade, there will be hot dogs and hamburgers at American Legion Post # 311 on 351 Fall River Avenue.
PHOTO: Fleet W/flickr
Avenue of Flags at Pawtuxet Memorial Park in Warwick
The Avenue of Flags at Pawtuxet Memorial Park in Warwick consists of over 300 American flags lining the streets in the park.
Hours for the Avenue of Flags are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. starting on Saturday and ending on Monday.
It is FREE.
Memorial Day Service at Togus National Cemetery
Togus National Cemetery will host a traditional Memorial Day Service on Monday, May 29 beginning at 8 a.m.
The service will pay tribute to fallen soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines with a wreath laying ceremony and much more.
PHOTO: Togus National Cemetery/ nps.gov
Pawtucket Veterans' Council Ceremony
The Pawtucket Veterans' Council Ceremony will take place on Monday, May 29 at 11 a.m. at Veterans Memorial Park at Roosevelt Avenue and Exchange Street.
Events will be led by Capt. James Hollis, Commander Raymond Welch, Penny Trottier, Bob Balthazard, president of the Fleet Reserve, John Gallo, Maurice Trottier, Leo Courtois and Ted Gerrard. Commander Jack Lucas will act as emcee.
North Providence Parade
North Providence, RI
The North Providence Memorial Day Parade begins at 1 p.m. on Monday, May 29 starting at North Providence High School on Mineral Spring Avenue and ending at Governor John Notte Jr. Park.
The parade will be followed by a short ceremony and then food and entertainment in the park from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Battleship Cove Memorial Day Ceremony
Fall River, MA
Battleship Cove in Fall River will host an observance at noon on Monday, May 29 to honor and remember the men and women who dedicated and dedicate their lives to protecting the country.
The ceremony will consist of the raising of the flag from half-staff as well as a 21 gun salute.
The ceremony is FREE and open to the public.
In 1868, the United States government formally instituted Memorial Day as a national remembrance of the fallen soldiers from the Civil War of 1861-1865.
At Mystic Seaport, Decoration Day ceremonies are set in 1876. In the morning, visitors are invited to the Fishtown Chapel to witness the memorials laid for local Civil War soldiers.
At midday, all are welcome inside the Greenmanville Church for a brief service complete with sermon and hymns. A colour guard will lead everyone to the waterfront, where wreaths are laid for the artillery and the Navy.
In the afternoon, there will be a presentation by the musicians of the Museum’s Chantey Program illustrating the different roles of music on the home-front, in camp, and on the field – or sea – of battle during wartime.
Memorial Day Remembrance at Hubbardton Battle Field
At noon on Monday, May 29, battlefield flags will be raised to full-mast and tribute will be paid at the battle monument to the soldiers of Hubbardton.
The ceremony will go from 12 p.m. to 12:15 p.m.
Shrewsbury Memorial Day Parade
The Shrewsbury Memorial Day Parade will start at 9:30 a.m. on Monday from the Richard Carney Municipal Office Building and will make several stops along the way.
The parade stops at the Soldier's Statue in front of the Police Station on Maple Ave, the War Memorial at the Town Center and at the Veterans Lot at Mountain View Cemetery.
Following the parade, there will be a keynote address from retired Army Colonel John P. Collins (pictured).
Veterans Memorial Day Cruise
Celebrate Memorial Day on the water with this Memorial Day cruise on the Songo River Queen II.
Veterans or Active Duty Service men or women, and their immediate family get on for free.
The cruise goes from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Free Admission for Vets to Tower Hill Botanic Gardens
Tower Hill Botanic Garden is allowing veterans and military personnel in for free on Memorial Day with a valid military ID.
Up to five family members will receive 20 percent off their entry fee.
Visitors can enjoy the spring blooms of the gardens, hikes through the surrounding woodlands, the fully accessible Garden Within Reach, views of Mt. Wachusett, art exhibits, the Garden Shop, Twigs Cafe, the Wild Rumpus Stickwork Exhibit by internationally renowned artist Patrick Dougherty, and more.
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