Many Memorial Day events honoring those who have given their lives in service to our country have been canceled in Massachusetts amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. In lieu of traditional parades or large ceremonies, local groups and communities are going virtual this weekend.
The Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund remains committed to sending a powerful message of community support to bereaved families that even in difficult times, we remember and honor our fallen heroes.
"This year it just feels even more important in some ways because we're not able to keep with traditions," said Tom Crohan, president of the Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund.
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The organization's signature community building event is the Boston Common Flag Garden. For the past 10 years, hundreds of volunteers have planted more than 37,000 flags on the Boston Common to represent the brave Massachusetts service members who have given their lives defending the United States since the Revolutionary War.
While COVID-19 derailed plans for this weekend's beautiful annual display, the organization decided to ask Massachusetts residents to help replicate the tribute in cities and towns across the state by participating in a "virtual flag garden."
The organization said its goal is to have at least 37,309 flags displayed in windows and yards across the state.
Anyone wishing to support the virtual garden effort can click here to print a flag graphic and place it in their windows over Memorial Day weekend, along with any flags on front lawns.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh encouraged people to participate in this and other virtual events in honor of our fallen military heroes.
"Monday is Memorial Day. It’s one of the most important holidays in the life of our city and our country," Mayor Walsh said in a tweet. "I am asking everyone who can to do something special: Please join me in decorating the outside of your home with flags and patriotic symbols, in honor of our military heroes, for Memorial Day. Show your veteran neighbors that you care--that you know their sacrifice is the reason we have our country. I want to thank them personally today, on Memorial Day, and every day."
Mayor Walsh said in separate tweets that Boston has always been a city committed to service and that we must express our gratitude, give back in whatever way we can, and remember those that have sacrificed everything for our freedom.
Typically, a special ceremony is held in front of the Boston Common flag garden to read a roll call of the fallen heroes. This year, the “Remembering & Honoring Massachusetts Military Heroes” roll call of the fallen ceremony was held online Thursday.
Crohan says nearly 50 families logged on virtually, and that the roll call was incredibly symbolic, as one by one, names of service men and women who have died in the line of service since 9/11 were called by their family members.
"To those who show up every year at that ceremony and read off the name of their family member and choke their way through it, you are always in our hearts and in our prayers and you are especially on our mind this weekend," Governor Charlie Baker said in a video message.
While the Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund decided to postpone its Patriot Week events until September due to the pandemic and statewide shutdown, it will hold a virtual tribute on Sunday that will be livestreamed at 7 p.m.
Other observances throughout the state have included streamed ceremonies from the Solders' Homes in Chelsea and Holyoke, both of which have been hard hit by COVID-19. The Chelsea Soldiers' Home held their observance on Thursday, while Holyoke streamed theirs on Friday. Both can be viewed on their respective Facebook pages.
On Sunday, the eve of Memorial Day, buildings, bridges, flags and parks across the Commonwealth will be illuminated in gold to honor Gold Star Families in observance of Memorial Day, thanks to the Department of Veterans’ Services partnering with MassDOT, building managers, and Veteran Service Organizations across the state.
Click here for a full list of locations participating.
On Monday, there will be a Massachusetts Memorial Day ceremony with speakers and musical performers from across the Commonwealth, remarks by Gov. Baker and other legislative leaders, and a special “Tribute to the Fallen” by the Massachusetts National Guard.
This program will be streamed on mass.gov/MemorialDay.
Crohan says the weekend is about more than just honoring members of the military, but all those who have served our country.
"In some instances it's people with a different uniform with doctors and nurses and other health care and essential workers but by their side in many instances are men and women who have been called up to the military and the National Guard and reserves that are responding to the pandemic,” he said.