Governor Charlie Baker, Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, and other officials joined Gold Star families from across Massachusetts at the State House on Wednesday to dedicate a Christmas tree in honor of those who died while serving in the military.
Families decorated the tree in the State House’s Memorial Hall with ornaments and photos honoring the fallen service members.
“This is a time for renewal and commitment and turning the page,’’ Baker told the families. “That’s what Christmas is all about, right? That’s what this season is all about. . . . You will never be alone here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”
Betty Crawford of Beverly carefully wrote the name of her son, Stephen Fortunato, on a white ceramic star she planned to hang on the tree. Fortunato was killed in 2008 by a roadside while on patrol in Afghanistan. He was 25.
“I really think it’s wonderful that his memory is preserved in the Massachusetts State House,” Crawford said. “He fought for his country and this state and just to know that he’s being remembered is a nice thought.”
Polito stood by the tree, adorned with ceramic stars and photos of loved ones, as she thanked the Gold Star families for their sacrifices.
”The quality of life and the freedom that we have, the opportunities that we have, to live the way we do, have come from you, have come from your loved ones and your sacrifices and your willingness to support their desire to wear the uniform to serve this country,” she said.
This was the first year Carolyn Burns of Deerfield attended the annual ceremony. Her daughter, Meaghan Burns, 23, was one of two women who were shot and killed in what authorities have described as a double murder and suicide involving three Navy corpsmen.
“We’re just doing all that we can to honor her, and this is her favorite season. So we’re trying to bring some joy into a very dark time,” Burns said.
Bentley McCarthy, 7, of Swampscott, never got to meet his cousin, James Anthony Ayube II of Salem. Ayube, who served in the Army, was killed in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan in 2010.
“He was brave and he liked to help people,” McCarthy said.