Volunteers planted more than 37,000 flags – one in honor of each of the Commonwealth’s fallen veterans – at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument on the Boston Common in honor of Memorial Day weekend, marking a full return to the tribute, which was scaled back last year due to the pandemic.
Since 2010, Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund has been the driving force behind the Memorial Day Flag Garden, and this year, the nonprofit organization partnered with staff and volunteers from Home Base, a Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Program to create this tribute, with financial support from John Hancock.
During a My 26 ceremony on the Common, Stephen Kerrigan, president and co-founder of the Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund, expressed his gratitude to the organization’s board and myriad supporters, as well as the volunteers who planted the Flag Garden, especially Joe Connell, who leads the effort.
“Literally, these flags wouldn’t be here if he didn’t drive them here,” Kerrigan said of Connell.
While in past years, it took around 700 volunteers two hours to erect the Flag Garden, according to Kerrigan, this year, it took about 100 volunteers 10 hours to finish the job.
Gov. Charlie Baker, who was also on hand for the ceremony, said he missed the event in 2020 when it was skipped due to the pandemic.
(Last year, the Flag Garden was limited to about 1,000 flags, spaced six-feet apart in keeping with social distancing, with no public events held.)
“The debt that’s paid by the flags here and the folks they represent can never be repaid, but the one thing I have heard time and time again from Gold Star families in my conversations with them over the years, is through the tragedy, I hope you never forget and you always take time to honor those who have made possible through their sacrifices all that we hold dear,” Gov. Baker said.
The flags were on display through Tuesday.