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Memorial Day Flag Garden in Boston Common canceled due to coronavirus; group asks residents to hang flags at home

George Rohlfing, a volunteer for the Massachusetts Military Hero Fund, placed flags in the annual Memorial Day Flag Garden on Boston Common in May 2017.Keith Bedford/Globe Staff/file

The Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund is asking residents to honor fallen service members from their homes in place of the annual Memorial Day Flag Garden on the Boston Common, which has been canceled for the safety of volunteers during the pandemic.

Instead of the sea of red, white, and blue usually seen on the Common, the goal of the initiative is to move the color to homes and businesses across the state as residents print out and display the makeshift flag provided by Military Heroes, which hosts the annual event that has taken place for the past decade, on their windows.


“Ultimately, it just seemed like the right thing to do," said Tom Crohan, president and cofounder of the organization. “After lots of deliberation, we made the decision not to step from honoring and remembering those fallen, but [this year’s event] is an acknowledgment of the reality we face.”

With the event growing from just a few members in the first year to hundreds of volunteers planting flags every Memorial Day, the organization realized the difficulty in complying with public health guidance. More than 37,000 flags are planted in the Common by more than 500 volunteers annually, a symbol honoring every fallen Massachusetts service member dating back to the Revolutionary War.

“The spirit of paying tribute, honoring, and remembering remains," Crohan said. “And it is as important, but it will just have to look different.”

“We know how much the families we serve, our dedicated volunteers, and the public will miss the full-scale Boston Common flag garden but we’re asking them to throw that energy into making sure we hang as many or more flags across the state to honor the fallen,” said Diane Nealon, executive director of Military Heroes, in a statement.

At the ceremony each year, members of the community gather to hear the names of the fallen service members called out in honor of their sacrifice, Crohan said. A plan to host a virtual reading of the names is in the works, and possibly a smaller gathering if it can be coordinated within public health guidelines.


“There is a name behind each one of these flags, and there is a family that has been left behind," Crohan said. “For them, knowing that the community, whether it be friends or strangers, have heard their loved one’s name is extraordinarily meaningful.”

The Military Heroes Fund is asking people to print out the flag, hang it on windows from May 21 to May 25, take a selfie with the flag, or make a short video talking about the importance of Memorial Day, and post it on social media with the hashtag #HeroesFlagGarden.

Matt Berg can be reached at matthew.berg@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mattberg33.