Memorial Day committee plans May 27th ceremonies

Memorial Day committee 2013:  First row, from left to right, Mike McLoud, John O. Scannell, Donald Newell;  back row: Frank Cahill,  Mike Hegarty and Steve Bickerton.Memorial Day committee 2013: First row, from left to right, Mike McLoud, John O. Scannell, Donald Newell; back row: Frank Cahill, Mike Hegarty and Steve Bickerton.Dorchester veterans are planning to honor the city’s war dead— and victims of the Marathon bombings— at this year’s Memorial Day observances at Cedar Grove Cemetery. The ceremonies at Cedar Grove ­— which date back to the 1870s— draw thousands of people to the historic cemetery on Adams Street.

This year’s keynote speaker on May 27 will be Sergeant Major Kellyane O’Neil, a Boston native who is currently assigned to Womack Army Medical Center in Fort Bragg as the Patient Services Sergeant Major. The McKeon Post is the “host post” for this year’s ceremonies with Frank Cahill of Saint Mark’s VFW serving as officer of the day.

Cahill says his remarks will include a discussion of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and the Gettysburg address. Work is now underway to refurbish the Benjamin Stone statue, which marks the Grand Army of the Republic plot, where many of Dorchester’s Civil War veterans and war dead are buried. The annual observances at Cedar Grove always include a ceremony at the statue— which memorializes Benjamin Stone, Jr., who led a company of Dorchester soldiers in the 11 Massachusetts regiment. Stone died in 1862 from wounds suffered in the Battle of Second Bull Run. He was one of 97 men from Dorchester who died during the course of the four-year conflict.

The cemetery on Adams Street has been the site of such ceremonies since 1868, when Civil War veterans attached to the Stone Post named for their fallen leader marched there to observe what was then known as Decoration Day. The cemetery has been the scene of speeches and memorial salutes ever since, with generations of Dorchester families gathering to pay their respects to family members and neighbors who have made the ultimate sacrifice over the nation’s history. Past speakers at the cemetery have included generals, service men and women and one future president: then-Senator John F. Kennedy.

A parade of veterans groups will step off from the McKeon Post parking lot near Florian Hall on Hallet Street at 10 a.m. The parade will follow a route up Hilltop Street, onto St. Brendan’s Road, onto Milton Street. The procession will turn right onto Granite Avenue to Gallivan Boulevard and then turn into the cemetery via Adams Street.