In two hours, 400 volunteers transformed a patch of grass on the Boston Common into a moving Memorial Day tribute.
After nine years, the field of American flags on the Common never gets old, and that’s exactly the point as 37,268 small American flags were placed on the Common by volunteers late last week, with a ceremony taking place on Thursday morning after the Flag Garden had been fully assembled.
The effort has been going on for nine years, and is sponsored by the Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund – which is a group of families who have lost loved ones in the war on terror since 9/11. Their effort focuses on those soldiers – with 296 flags placed for them at Thursday’s ceremony – but it also focuses on all of those lost in war from the Revolutionary War era on.
Gov. Charlie Baker said the first time he saw the display before Memorial Day some years ago, he had to stop his vehicle and come see what it was all about. Of course, he soon found out it was about honoring the sacrifice of thousands of military dead, from the Revolution to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“I think we can make the stories behind these flags sort of cliché; we shouldn’t,” he said. “The folks here today and the families represented by the thousands of flags in the Common have a daily struggle to not only put the pieces back together, but also to address the empty chair at the dinner table…Let’s never forget these families here. These families here had the fire, the grit and determination to build a new life after the loss of their loved ones.”
Mayor Martin Walsh added, “These flags bring into view something too often invisible – a sea of sacrifice.”
One interesting revelation is that the Boston Common Flag Garden has spread far and wide. From Chelsea – which just started their Flag Garden last year – to locales as far away as Houston and Louisiana, many have been impacted by the Common’s display.
In Baton Rouge Janet Broussard and other Blue Star Mothers were inspired by the Boston Flag Garden, and this year, will mark the fourth year they have done the same thing at the Louisiana State Capitol building. They planted more than 11,000 flags.
In Beachwood, Ohio, Karen Carmen read about the Boston Common display in a newspaper, and was moved to create a gigantic American flag painting that has been displayed at Beachwood City Hall for seven years.
And near Houston, Pastor Chuck Schneider took the idea back to his town after seeing it on the Common during a vacation to Boston. There, they honor more than 38,000 heroes who served and died since Texas became a state in 1836.
“They all saw this display in Boston and wanted to bring it back to their communities and cities,” said Thomas Crohan, president of the Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund. “I hope everyone in their own communities sign up to do something like this. It is significant.”
The flags on the Common were kept watch over all Memorial Day weekend to prevent vandalism and continue the tradition.