On a warm Sunday morning, about 50 people gathered at Mount Hope Cemetery in Mattapan to pay tribute to men and women who have fought for their country, some giving their lives.
At the veterans monument, Al Halicki, 86, of Norwood said that he was a tank driver in General Patton’s Third Army in World War II and that he attends the same ceremonies each Memorial Day weekend.
“I’m here to remind people that we are free,” he said.
A member of the American Legion, which supports veterans and service members, Halicki said he planned on attending another ceremony at the National Cemetery in Bourne later in the day.
“We’re a free country and I’m proud of us,” he said.
More than 12,000 veterans are buried in Mount Hope Cemetery, tucked away on a quiet street and surrounded by trees.
On Sunday, the graves of service members were marked by American flags. Near the site of the ceremony, people could be seen visiting graves and planting flowers.
City officials at the ceremony included City Councilor Charles Yancey and Mayor Thomas M. Menino.
Menino spoke of the importance of the meaning of Memorial Day.
“This weekend isn’t just about going to the Cape, or having a family barbecue,” he said. “It’s about paying tribute.”
He reminded citizens who aren’t part of the armed forces that there are still ways to help others.
“I urge all of you to think about how you can follow the example of our military and serve your country and community,” he said.
Taking time to recognize the sacrifices of service men and women was a theme throughout the morning.
“We need to do more for our veterans,” said Francisco A. Ureña, commissioner of the city’s Veterans’ Services Department.
As the ceremony ended, a wreath was placed before the veterans memorial and two others near graves. A rifle squad fired off a salute and the American flag was raised, while the Frank Zarba Band played “Taps.” A rendition of the “Star-Spangled Banner” concluded the remembrance.
Chevelle Sloan, 46, of Dorchester, was at the memorial to support her partner, who was playing in the band.
This was her first time attending a Memorial Day commemoration. She said she thought more people should have attended.
“These great soldiers put their lives on the line to serve for our country,” she said.
For many others, this was an annual event.
“I used to put flags on these [graves],” said Edmund J. Puleo, 93, of Hyde Park.
Puleo said he had been a technical sergeant in the army during World War II. After he returned home, he said he began working in the weapons division of the Department of Defense, primarily with Navy ships.
“When they used to ask me what kids I had, I said every man in the Navy,” Puleo said.