Veterans and Gold Star families gathered for a candlelight vigil at the Massachusetts Fallen Heroes Memorial Monday night to support one another after the Taliban reclaimed control of Afghanistan.
The obelisk fronted by glass panels contains the names of those killed in action following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The memorial in the Seaport District is surrounded by shallow pools of water, where candles were set out to mark the lives lost in combat.
City Councilor Ed Flynn, who represents the district where the memorial is located, spoke at the vigil.
“On behalf of the city of Boston I just want to say to all our veterans that this city supports you, respects your service, respects your sacrifice, as well as your family’s service and sacrifice during this difficult time,” said Flynn, himself a veteran.
Those in attendance said the sense of community provided by the vigil was important in an emotional, difficult time for veterans.
“It’s been just like a whirlwind of emotions,” said Nicole Lyon, 35, who served with the US Army in Afghanistan from 2011-2012, of the events of the weekend. “Just coming together as a community with other veterans, it’s really great to reflect on those that have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country, specifically in the war in Afghanistan.”
Lyon paused to look over the names on the glass during the vigil, and lingered there even after those in attendance began milling about. She said she recognized three of the names on the panels from her time in Afghanistan.
“It’s important to reflect on them, basically focus on those that didn’t make it back home,” she said.
Those in attendance Monday evening were given candles to hold on to. Some passersby stopped briefly to look on at the vigil and pay their respects.
Joe Kelley, whose son Michael was killed in Afghanistan in 2004, said it was difficult to watch the events of the weekend.
“It’s very emotional for us folks who have lost sons and daughters,” he said. “It’s good to be with these people and support each other emotionally.”
Kelley said he supported the decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan “to a point,” but seeing some Afghan soldiers defect “felt like somebody jumped up and punched me in the face.”
Kelley’s daughter, Colleen Dugan, and her three-month-old son were in attendance at the vigil Monday night.
Dugan said she “didn’t know what to think” the past couple of days, and she wanted to get out of the house and be around others with experiences similar to her family’s.
“We don’t have to talk about loss,” she said. “There’s an unspoken thing: our hearts are connected. We know the pain. We’re here for each other.”
“I’m hoping he didn’t die for nothing,” she said of her brother.