A ceremonial groundbreaking for the new Massachusetts Gold Star Families Bridge in Lynn drew over 100 people, including families of fallen military personnel, veterans, state and local officials on Saturday.
The pedestrian foot bridge at Lynn Heritage State Park crosses Route 1A, which is also known as the Lynnway.
It was designated in 2020 by the state legislature and Gov. Charlie Baker to be the state’s official bridge honoring Gold star families, one of the first in the nation.
The bridge, which connects the waterfront state park to the city’s downtown, will be refurbished and rebuilt to honor those who died in military service or as a result of their military service, organizers said.
“Our loved ones are no longer physically with us,” Gold Star mother Doris Syrakos, of Lynn, said in a statement. “Often all we have is a folded flag, medals, photographs, and memories. This bridge will perpetuate the memory of our loved ones.”
More than 25 Gold Star families attended the ceremony along with numerous public officials, including State Rep. Peter Capano, State Senator Brendan Crighton, State Rep. Daniel Cahill, and Essex County Sheriff Kevin Coppinger, said Sarah Sweeney, executive director of the nonprofit Military Friends Foundation.
The Gold Star Families Bridge Committee and the Military Friends Foundation, which works to care for military and Gold Star families in the state, partnered to host the groundbreaking.
The bridge not only recognizes those who have made “the ultimate sacrifice,” but their families as well, Sweeney and Capano said. There have been more than 33,000 Gold Star families in Massachusetts since World War II, including about 500 in Lynn, they said.
“There were many tremendous tributes to individual heroes who have lost their lives in our nation and this is the one of the first in the nation to recognize the families of these heroes,” Sweeney said in a telephone interview.
Capano, an Army veteran who also is vice chairman of the legislature’s Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs, said the groundbreaking went “very well” drawing a people from across the state to Lynn on a sunny, summer-like afternoon.
It was important for all involved “to have this groundbreaking in May as part of Military Appreciation Month and leading into Memorial Day,” Sweeney said by telephone after the event.
Some parts of the bridge need to be refurbished or repaired to make sure it’s a “tribute that’s worthy of those who we are honoring,” Sweeney said.
They are actively working with the state Department of Conservation and Recreation to get signage, as well as other educational opportunities.
Many people were involved in having the state designate the footbridge in memory of the fallen, Capano said.
“It’s a bridge but it’s also a monument — a tribute — for the sacrifices that were made and that there’s a cost to that that people have to pay,” he said. “This is a reminder to show that we remember, that we don’t forget.”