Thirty Seven Years and the crowds still turn out en masse. The dedicated committee members still work hard and with great passion to make sure their fallen comrades are never forgotten and that every detail of the event is set to perfection.
The dignitaries still travel to the neighborhood from far and wide to be part of this solemn and sacred, yet uplifting, ceremony. The weather; perhaps with assistance from Heaven above, always seems to cooperate. And it all happened yet again last Sunday at Medal of Honor Park for the 37th rededication of the South Boston Vietnam Memorial.
The annual rededication is a true test of love, loyalty and pride. These are things that South Bostonians, whether current or former, have always had in abundance. Just witnessing how the enthusiasm of last Sunday’s gathering is as strong as it was 37 years ago, as the neighborhood stood shoulder to shoulder with its Vietnam Vets and their families to honor its 25 fallen sons. It is a confirmation that, yes, very special people indeed reside here.
As is tradition, the day started off with the Memorial Mass at St. Brigid Church. After the Mass, the crowd moved across to the park for the ceremony. South Boston Vietnam Memorial Committee Chairman Tom Lyons opened the schedule of events, followed by the playing of the National Anthem. Everyone stood in silence and respectful attention and then came the opening prayer.
South Boston’s elected officials were joined by Governor Charlie Baker and Mayor Marty Walsh, who shared words spoken from the heart praising the Vietnam Veterans, who came home safely, as well as those 25, whose names are on the monument and were being specially remembered on this day.
The beautiful pomp and ceremony, as it always does, added a special feeling confirming just how important this rededication is and how much it means to so many. This year’s ceremony was also dedicated to the late Senator and Vietnam Veteran John McCain. His service was beautifully remembered in a speech by Congressman Stephen Lynch. With flags flying, carried by military color guards, the pipes and drums brought a rush of pride to the attentive crowd.
This year’s rededication was highlighted by Keynote Speaker General Joseph L. Lengyl, United States Air Force, who has one of the most impressive military resumes. He was joined by Medal of Honor recipients Tom Kelley and Ryan Pitts.
The traditional calling of the names of the 25 fallen South Bostonians, engraved on the Vietnam Monument, then began. As each name was called out, a family member placed roses on the site. And then ‘Taps’ was played, in what is always one of the most emotional parts of the ceremony.
As the rededication came to an end, some in the crowd started to leave, many stayed to talk and reflect on the day, shaking the hands of the many Vietnam Veterans in the crowd and thanking them for their service. But whether they left or lingered, it was clear that all who attended this memorial, which has become such an important tradition for so many, felt that they were a part of something very special on this September Sunday and they truly were.
Tom Lyons had the following to say about the ongoing tradition and how successful it continues to be. “The way the crowds continue to turnout each year (after nearly 4 decades), is a tribute to the pride of this neighborhood. It’s healthy for the veterans to see the support that they continue to get, and is very much appreciated by them. It also speaks to the character of South Bostonians that they honor their veterans so respectfully and so faithfully.”
Congratulations are once again in order for the members of the South Boston Vietnam Memorial Committee for who they are and what they have done and still do in keeping their promise to their fallen comrades and to the people who continue to turn out in such large numbers each and every year to support them and to honor those 25 fallen heroes.