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Family and friends take ‘pride and honor’ in tribute to fallen Mass. soldier

Allie Emond held her daughter, Emilia, in front of a photo of her late husband, fallen Army Sergeant First Class Eric Emond at the Massachusetts Fallen Heroes Memorial. Eric Emond was one of the driving forces behind the memorial, which was rededicated Friday.
Allie Emond held her daughter, Emilia, in front of a photo of her late husband, fallen Army Sergeant First Class Eric Emond at the Massachusetts Fallen Heroes Memorial. Eric Emond was one of the driving forces behind the memorial, which was rededicated Friday.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

In an emotional tribute Friday, friends and family honored fallen Army Sergeant First Class Eric Emond by adding his name to the very memorial he helped create — one that pays tribute to Massachusetts military members who have died in service since Sept. 11.

Now Emond is among the 292 service members whose names are etched on the Massachusetts Fallen Heroes Memorial in the Seaport, according to Dan Magoon, the group’s executive director.

Emond, 39, a native of Fall River, died in a roadside bombing in Afghanistan on Nov. 27.

“The culmination of losing Eric in November, and actually memorializing him permanently, has weighed on us,” said Magoon, himself an Army veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq. “But it’s a sense of pride and honor that we can do this.”

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Hundreds gathered for Friday’s rededication ceremony at the memorial on Northern Avenue. The names of fallen service members are etched into one of five glass tablets standing near the base of a 50-foot obelisk; on the opposite site, a sixth glass tablet was erected in Emond’s honor.

At one point during Friday’s ceremony, Emond’s wife, Allie Emond, and the couple’s three young children stood in front of the tablet with his photo on it. She touched the clear glass, and her husband’s smiling face could be seen through the transparent surface facing her.

Allie Emond didn’t speak publicly Friday.

Having the tribute, Magoon said, “makes us very proud that his name is now forever etched in this memorial.”

Governor Charlie Baker read names listed on the memorial, which is located in the Seaport.
Governor Charlie Baker read names listed on the memorial, which is located in the Seaport.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Governor Charlie Baker, in his remarks, pointed to the deep ties between the memorials and the veterans and families they honor.

“These are made of stone and glass, but they live,” Baker said of the fallen heroes memorial. “And they live through the memories and the stories and the humanity that they stand for and represent.”

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Baker called it “one of the most blessed ways” the public can remember and honor military members who have died.

US Representative Stephen Lynch told the crowd that efforts must be made to help the families of service members who lose their lives.

“When a soldier serves, their whole family serves,” Lynch said. “And when we lose a patriot on the battlefield, we must never forget the immense sacrifice made by that brave man or woman, as well as their family.”

Among the Gold Star family members at the ceremony was Steven Xiarhos, Yarmouth’s deputy police chief, whose 21-year-old son, Nicholas, was a Marine when he was killed in Afghanistan in 2009.

In his remarks during the ceremony, Xiarhos called his son a “true American patriot” who wanted to serve his country. He became emotional recounting the final time his son returned to the United States.

“I will never forget the sight of Nicholas coming home to America, in an American flag-draped coffin, carried by six of his brother Marines,” Xiarhos said. “My heart was broken.”

He said fallen veterans cannot be forgotten, and the nation must strengthen its support for their families.

“For us, every day is Memorial Day,” Xiarhos said.

An honor guard held flags while standing at the memorial’s reflecting pool.
An honor guard held flags while standing at the memorial’s reflecting pool.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Emond was on his seventh combat deployment and had spent 21 years in the military when he died last year. His service included time with the Marines before he joined the Army, where he became a Ranger and later a Green Beret.

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He helped create Mass. Fallen Heroes in 2010, and the group now offers programs that help veterans and families access educational, employment, medical, financial, and other services.

When Emond died, two fellow service members were also killed: Army Captain Andrew Ross, 29, and Air Force Staff Sergeant Dylan J. Elchin, 25.

Last month, Allie Emond was in Boston to run in the Boston Marathon as part of a team to raise money for the veterans organization. She lives in North Carolina with her children; the couple met in Boston and started their family here.

“I want to do this to somehow honor my husband, and everything he did to start that,” she said in April.

The photo of Emond used on his memorial was taken while he was on a mountain during a deployment in Afghanistan, Magoon said, and includes details that recognize his service, including as a Marine and a Green Beret.

On the back of the original photo, which depicted a beaming Emond, was a note from one of his teammates, Magoon said.

“Essentially, it described Eric as a leader, it described him as a human being, not just a warrior, but someone another soldier looked up to,” Magoon said.

The original photo is now in the Emond family’s possession, he said.

“In the worst possible place on this earth, that was the face that he had,” Magoon said. “And that was the face that he carried all the time.”

Allie Emond was hugged by Major General Richard D. Clarke, commander of US Special Operations Command, after he spoke at the rededication.
Allie Emond was hugged by Major General Richard D. Clarke, commander of US Special Operations Command, after he spoke at the rededication.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com.

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