With a misting rain coating the grave markers around him, Carlos Arredondo held a folded American flag and a letter for the crowd to see Monday at The Gardens at Gethsemane Cemetery.
An 11-year-old girl from Texas had sent both, he said, after running a 5-kilometer race, flag in hand, in honor of his son Lance Corporal Alexander Arredondo, a Marine who was killed in 2004 while serving a tour of duty in Iraq.
With Gold Star families filling many of the chairs at the West Roxbury cemetery’s 50th annual service, Arredondo called it a “blessing that a young girl in Texas knows about our sons and daughters.”
“That,” he said, “is how Alex lives on.”
Scenes of remembrance like that one played out across the city and the country on Monday to mark Memorial Day, honoring members of the United States military who lost their lives serving their country.
In West Roxbury, hundreds crowded under several white tents for the annual event, the sixth straight with rain, Alan J. MacKinnon, the president of the Garden Cemetery, jokingly noted.
Despite the wet weather, officials celebrated what Mayor Martin J. Walsh called a “time-honored” ceremony, started five decades ago by Commander Richard F. Gormley, a retired Marine and veteran of the Vietnam War. The cemetery is the final resting place of roughly 1,365 veterans, according to MacKinnon.
“There was no big crowd 50 years ago,” Gormley told the crowd. “Fifty years goes by very fast.”
Walsh, in thanking the crowd for being there, also thanked the families of those who have served “for sharing this sacred day with us.”
“Every year we gather here on this spot to remember some of the most extraordinary members of our community,” Walsh said. “All of our fallen heroes have helped lay the path that have allowed our city and our country to move forward.”
State Senator Michael F. Rush of West Roxbury, a lieutenant commander in the US Naval Reserves, urged the crowd to remember those who have died for their country and those who are still serving.
“We are still a nation at war,” Rush said, adding that there are soldiers, sailors, and other service members “standing watch around the world.”
In Lexington, Korean War veteran Bob J. Tracey, 85, laid wreaths at the town’s war memorials during its parade.
“I think about all the fellas that I served with and some that I lost over in Korea,” said Tracey, a Lexington resident and member of the local VFW post.
In Dorchester, veterans gathered at the John P. McKeon AmVets 146 to honor fallen service members and commemorate their service in the annual Cedar Grove Cemetery Memorial Day parade.
Flag-raising and wreath-laying ceremonies kicked off the morning’s events. Families stood along the parade route, small children carrying American flags in tow, all waving to the marching veterans.
Taking to the podium at the cemetery, Governor Charlie Baker stressed that Memorial Day is not just about honoring “those we lost, but it’s also an important day to remember and honor and thank their families who gave them permission to put on that uniform, to put themselves in harm’s way, with the potential that they might not come home.”
Mentioning two service members from Swampscott who lost their lives in Iraq, Baker said both were their parents’ only children.
“Think about that for a minute,” Baker said. “[They] lost their only child to the defense and service of this nation.
“They, and hundreds of thousands of other moms and dads, were proud of the fact that their child chose to serve this nation, wear the uniform, put themselves in harm’s way,” he said.
Holidays are hard, Baker said, because they come with family rituals and traditions.
“Now this particular holiday [Memorial Day] is also about family,” he said. “But it’s about family in a very different way than most of them.
“On this Memorial Day, and on every Memorial Day, please keep those who paid the price, and their families, in your thoughts and prayers.”
Following the wreath laying, Mary Sweeney, of Dorchester, stood outside Post 146 with her mother, Mary, and brother, Matt. The wreath laying was dedicated this year to her father, Matthew J. Sweeney, a World War II veteran and Boston police officer for more than 30 years who died in November at the age of 92.
“It meant a lot to us . . . that they selected my dad,” said Matt Sweeney.
According to Matt Sweeney, his father was sent to France, where he worked his way to Germany, “and by the time he got the Rhine, they sent him home.”
“He was over there for two years,” Sweeney said. “He had a lot of great stories.”
Patty Curran, who has lived in Dorchester all her life, said she comes to watch the parade every year.
“Our entire family would stand on this corner and clap for our grandfathers and uncles who marched in the parade,” said Curran, standing just outside the cemetery.
Now with two young children, she is seeking to impart that tradition to them. She said she’s been bringing the children since they were born.
“I think it’s always important to celebrate our local heroes and the men and women who have fought for our country,” Curran said. “Especially to teach my children how important it is to support the local community.”Globe correspondent J.D. Capelouto contributed to this report. Matt Stout can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @mattpstout. Aimee Ortiz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @aimee_ortiz.