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Honoring the ‘Guardians of the Republic’

Memorial Day preparations at Cedar Grove Cemetery: JROTC Cadets from TechBoston Academy assisted World War II veteran First Sgt. John Scannell in decorating graves with flags this week. Pictured above are Scannell and Cadet Cathiana Ladouceur.Memorial Day preparations at Cedar Grove Cemetery: JROTC Cadets from TechBoston Academy assisted World War II veteran First Sgt. John Scannell in decorating graves with flags this week. Pictured above are Scannell and Cadet Cathiana Ladouceur.

“To whom much is given, much is expected. We have a tremendous debt of gratitude owed to our fallen heroes. However, simply being gracious is not enough. We must memorialize them. We must remember them. We must honor their sacrifice by living by the example they have set.”
Lt. Greg Kelly, Cedar Grove Cemetery remarks, 2012

Dorchester Day is just two weeks off and the excitement is building for the June 2 parade. Dot Day is an occasion to celebrate our community’s remarkable history and its vibrant present – a chance to showcase and revel in all the things we love about this place.

But — with all due respect— the most important gathering of the year in our neighborhood takes place this coming Monday (May 27) when a smaller, but still strong crowd will gather at Cedar Grove Cemetery for the annual observance of Memorial Day.

Dorchester’s salute to our war dead dates back to a time when Dorchester was still an independent town: 1868, two years before the town’s citizens agreed to be annexed into the city of Boston. Dorchester had already done more than its share in service to the Republic. The Civil War took a heavy toll on what was then a small, agrarian town of some 2,000 souls. From that population, 97 men were killed in battle or died of disease during the course of the southern rebellion— a casualty rate three times that of the Union Army as a whole. It’s no wonder, then, that the deep wounds of that conflict prompted our community’s Decoration Day observances at Cedar Grove to eventually become the city’s longest-running ceremony on what we now call Memorial Day.

This year’s ceremonies will begin with the traditional march of veterans and marching bands from the McKeon Post to the cemetery, beginning at 10 a.m. The keynote speaker at this year’s observances will be Sergeant Major Kellyane O’Neil, a Boston native stationed at Fort Bragg. The Cedar Grove services will begin with a service at the Benjamin Stone statue next to the Grand Army of the Republic plot where many of Dorchester's Civil War dead are buried.

Cadet Thahia Lopes of TechBoston Academy JROTC at Cedar Grove this week.Cadet Thahia Lopes of TechBoston Academy JROTC at Cedar Grove this week.There will be other ways to observe this solemn day in and around the neighborhoods: Immediately following the Cedar Grove ceremonies, veterans — both American and Vietnamese-born— will gather at Dorchester’s Vietnam Memorial on Morrissey Boulevard for a traditional ceremony. The memorial lists the names of 78 Dorchester men who were killed during the Vietnam War.

On Sunday, May 26, a Memorial Day ceremony will be held at Mount Hope Cemetery, 355 Walk Hill St., Mattapan, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event will include a short parade from inside the cemetery gate up to the WWI and WWII Monument where the ceremony will be held.

Also on Memorial Day, Mayor Thomas M. Menino and City of Boston Veteran’s Services present “Remembrance 2013: A Musical Tribute to Our Heroes,” a free concert featuring the Metropolitan Wind Symphony and the Boston City Singers at Christopher Columbus Park at 6:30 p.m. The park is located in the North End at 110 Atlantic Avenue on Boston’s waterfront.

-Bill Forry