Over 37,000 American flags were planted Wednesday on the Boston Common to honor every fallen military service member from Massachusetts, dating all the way back to the Revolutionary War.
“This event came about in 2010 as a way to sort of reclaim Memorial Day and remind people what Memorial Day is all about,” said Steve Kerrigan, cofounder and board member of the Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund, which organized the event and provides support to Mass. families of military service personnel that died after Sept. 11. “And that is about honoring the sacrifice of so many Americans who paid the highest price for our freedom.”
On a sunny day, volunteers placed flags into the ground along the hill at the 13th annual flag garden. In total, 37,360 flags were planted Wednesday, and the remaining 388 will be planted at a ceremony Thursday to commemorate those lost in the wars since Sept. 11, officials said.
Peter Cavieux, a former sergeant in the Army, said he could feel the presence of soldiers he served with in Vietnam looking over his shoulder as he planted the flags.
“For the guys we lost in Vietnam, whether they were from Massachusetts or not, I feel I‘m paying their debt and just trying to help remember them,” said Cavieux, 72, of Boston.
Stephanie Orsini, 52, of South Boston, was planting flags in honor of her husband, Joseph Fandrey, a Marine Corps lieutenant who died in a mid-air helicopter crash on May 10, 1996, in North Carolina.
Being at the flag garden made her “feel proud to be an American,” she said.
Christine Joseph, 56, of Lynn, served in Giessen, Germany, from 1984 to 1986 and came out to volunteer with John Hancock, where she works. She brought her 22-year-old son, Tyrese Joseph, along with her.
“I feel I need to be here,” she said. “Going into the army, even though that wasn’t the reason I went in, I realized how important it is to take a chance and serve your country.”
Mollie Wheeler, a nurse at the Jamaica Plain VA Medical Center, came to volunteer with two veterans who are part of a program at the center.
For Wayde Ski, one veteran that came with Wheeler, volunteering showed him there was still good in the world.
“Especially on an occasion where we have, you know, unfortunately shootings and bad stuff like that, it’s good to come out here and have a reminder that we still stand together for something, for a cause,” said Ski, 34, of South Boston, who served in the Army in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2006 to 2016. “It’s good to see a lot of people being patriotic. ... America’s got our problems, but we’re all family.”
As Wheeler, 36, of Barre, looked out at all the flags from the top of the hill, she became emotional.
“This is more than just putting a flag in the ground ... these flags are more than just a flag. This is absolutely standing for one person,” she said.