When they were younger, Michael Ball and Robert Flynn used to watch the Memorial Day Parade stream into Cedar Grove Cemetery and then listen to speeches given from a temporary stage set up on the main lawn.
On Monday, the two US Marines, veterans of the nation’s most recent war in Afghanistan, were given the honor of addressing their neighbors about the valor of their fallen comrades.
In his remarks, excerpts of which are printed here, Ball — a Lance Cpl. who served two tours in Afghanistan — noted that Dorchester’s tradition of honoring our war dead is one that we “share with people young and old in big cities and small towns.”
”It is hard not to mention the kids who at 13, 14, 15 years old watched those towers fall in New York City and prayed the war wouldn’t end before they had a chance to do something … men like my 17 brothers from 2nd Battalion / 6th Marine Regiment who paid the ultimate sacrifice during the summer of 2010.
“The post 9/11 veterans are a special group of people. There was no draft. They are the one percent that volunteered to protect our nation during a time of war. They have been fighting a long war wrought with skepticism and disbelief in the cause, yet still they fight. The government and media sit in their nice offices and argue over the politics of it all, yet they still fight. They come back and receive very little support from the VA health care system yet still they fight. It is amazing to me that they are fighting at all, in an age where the social norm is worrying about SAT scores and college finals these brave men and women opted for the more dangerous and challenging route.
"They chose to join the most powerful military in the world knowing that they would deploy to the Middle East and through the high tech age we live in now knew they would be involved in a hard-fought war, yet still they fight. They chose to believe and answer the call of duty. They had the wild, wild courage of youth. They seized certainty from the heart of an ambivalent age: they stood for something.
“That is what we are here to remember: the true heroes from every generation who gave up their today for our tomorrows. And for that we owe them something. We owe them first a promise that just as they did not forget their missing brothers neither, ever, will we. Also we must always remember that peace is fragile and we as a nation can never become complacent. We must stay vigilant knowing that we have adversaries in this world and the only way to meet them and maintain peace is by staying strong.”