When they were children, living on adjacent streets in the Merrymount section of Quincy, Joe Dunford and Jim McConville played army with other neighborhood kids.
They divided themselves into armies called the Hillies and the Swampies, taking their names from the hill behind their school and some nearby marshland.
Dunford was 12 when he first served as the 8-year-old McConville’s commanding officer, in a pretend battle against the dreaded Swampies.
Nearly a half-century later, the playing fields of Quincy had been replaced by the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, and Dunford was once again McConville’s commanding officer. But now they were both generals, and war was not pretend but very real.
That Dunford, the 36th commandant of the Marines and 19th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and McConville, the 40th and current Army chief of staff, grew up just a street away from each other is not as surprising as it might appear.
Quincy, long known as the City of Presidents for being the home of John Adams and John Quincy Adams, has good reason to be known also as the City of Generals, producing no less than 18 in the US military since the Revolutionary War.
Quincy Mayor Tom Koch said the original plan was to honor Dunford and McConville.
“We did more research and were able to determine there were at least 18 generals from the city,” Koch said.
On Saturday, Koch will dedicate the Generals Bridge and Park, recognizing the city’s extraordinary military tradition. The monument includes 7-foot bronze statues of three four-star generals — Dunford, McConville and Gordon Sullivan, who served as Army chief of staff in the 1990s.
“There have only been 40 chiefs of staff of the Army, and for a city the size of Quincy to produce two in just two decades is pretty amazing,” Dunford told me.
Bronze busts of major generals Francis McGinn of the Army National Guard, Charles Sweeney of the Air Force, Stephen Keefe of the Air Force Reserve, and Air Force Brigadier General Ronald Rand will also be unveiled. Eleven other generals will be commemorated with engravings in the park’s stonework.
The bridge connects Burgin Parkway to a revitalized Quincy Center, bridging the city’s past and its modern incarnation. But, foremost, it celebrates a rich tradition of military and public service, which dates back to the War of Independence.
In separate interviews, Dunford, McConville, and Koch said as remarkable as Quincy’s record is for producing military leaders, it didn’t happen in a vacuum.
“Quincy makes a big deal out of Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Flag Day, Veterans Day,” Dunford said. “When you grow up in Quincy, and you see those events, honoring those who made a sacrifice, including the ultimate sacrifice, you internalize that public service, that patriotism, is something to be respected and emulated.”
The mayor’s father, Richard Koch, a World War II veteran, started the city’s Flag Day parade in 1952.
“People ask me, ‘What’s in the water in Quincy?’ But it’s not the water in Quincy, it’s the people,” McConville said.
In the same week that a monument in the capital of the Confederacy dedicated to an American traitor, General Robert E. Lee, came tumbling down, Boston is hosting Medal of Honor recipients at their annual convention, and Quincy will unveil a monument honoring military leaders who never dishonored the Constitution.
In a year that has tested American constitutional democracy, and as other reckonings take place, real patriots are being recognized and traitors shunned. It’s a monumental, welcome change.
And on Saturday, as generals are honored in Quincy, Medal of Honor recipients are cruising Boston Harbor aboard the USS Constitution, and those lost on 9/11 are remembered, the body of Marine Sergeant Johanny Rosario Pichardo will return to her hometown of Lawrence.
She was killed along with 12 other US service men and women while helping 124,000 Afghans, other nationals, and Americans escape the Taliban. She represented the best of us.
“We’ll be thinking of her,” Joe Dunford said. “It will be an emotional day on so many levels.”
Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.