ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Kenneth J. Marrin, post commander 507 Lynn VFW 1993-1994 walks the parade.
By GAYLA CAWLEY
LYNN — A little rain isn’t going to keep the city of Lynn from honoring the fallen.
Those were the words of Michael Sweeney, director of Lynn veterans services, at the second of two Memorial Day services in the city on Monday. He spoke at a rain-soaked outdoor ceremony in the Pine Grove Cemetery Sunken Garden, following a parade that started at Market Street and ended at the cemetery on Boston Street.
Sweeney stood at a podium in front of a field of 605 flags, representing the fallen from Lynn.
“There’s a flag for every person we’ve lost since World War I,” Sweeney said. “There’s 605 flags, each representing a person, a family, and a story, and that is what Memorial Day is about. It is not about parties. It certainly isn’t about sales at the store … The boots you see in front of us remind us that we’re still a country at war.”
Five pairs of the boots in front he pointed out represented Lynn’s five fallen service members lost since 9/11 — SPC Antonio Syrakos, LCpl Walter O’Haire, PO2 Andrew Clement, SPC Gabriel Palacios, and SPC Justin DeArco.
“In a day like today, we remember the fallen, but we also need to remember that we’re a country at war, whether people want to believe it or not,” Sweeney said.
Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said she was curious as to the number of flags that were set up, which she thought must have been done deliberately.
“Knowing Mike Sweeney as I do, I was quite sure he would give us an explanation, and the explanation is that 605 Lynners went off to serve their country and 605 Lynners never had a chance to come back and enjoy civilian life again, and 605 families were left to grieve,” Kennedy said.
“So, Mike, thank you for honoring them. Thank you for all you do for our veterans and to everybody who’s here today, I appreciate that you know and will recognize the true meaning of Memorial Day.”
State Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) said putting together the flags and boots to represent what has been lost in the city was really powerful. He said that veterans and those that have served reflect that “uncommon valor was a common virtue.
“That’s what it’s all about — putting your lives on the line to make sure that your friends and family continue to live in the greatest country in the world, and I want to thank you for your service, thank all of the veterans here for their service, and make sure everybody here understands that, that we never forgot the sacrifice and struggle and commitment that people that have served this country have done,” McGee said. “And Memorial Day is the day to remember it.”
City councilors eye EpiPen plan
Earlier in the day, the Polish Legion of American Veterans (P.L.A.V.), Post 56 & Auxiliary also hosted a Memorial Day ceremony, where names of the fallen from West Lynn who served in World War II and the Korean War were read. The remembrance was pushed inside from Breed Square, where the names appear on the monument, to the basement of St. Michael’s Hall.
“Everyone in this room knows war has a cost,” Sweeney said. “It hasn’t changed. In the last 100 years, the city of Lynn has given more than its share of blood and its young men and women. When we see that cost, it’s up to us to redouble our efforts to make sure that days like today are not forgotten, that we remember the fallen, that we remember their names, we say their names.”
Also honored at the ceremony was James DePhilippo, the event’s MC and former president of P.L.A.V. Post 56. Sweeney said for 30 years, DePhilippo has been a fixture of every event honoring veterans in Lynn.
Peter Capano, city councilor and chairman of the veterans committee, said the ceremony was about honoring those in Lynn “who have given their lives for our country so that all of us can enjoy the freedoms we have here today.
“I want to emphasize, as I do every year that it is because of the veterans that we enjoy so many of the freedoms in this country that others around the world just do not have — the right to vote, the freedom of assembly, religious freedom — all freedoms that are protected by the men and women of the armed forces, and today we honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice in protecting those freedoms,” Capano said.
State Rep. Daniel Cahill (D-Lynn) asked those present to join him in a challenge.
“Every time a name is spoken today, or you drive by a memorial and you see a name on it, think of what that person would think about this country and this community, and what you are doing to make it better, and whether or not their sacrifice was truly worth it,” Cahill said.
“And if you feel, if there’s any inkling that you think, well, you know what, I can do more, then we have to do more because those folks did the ultimate. So, that’s something to think about and carry with you all year.”
A prepared statement from U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass) was also read, who said he couldn’t attend because he is in Southeast Asia traveling with members of the House Armed Services Committee to study the nuclear threat from North Korea and the rise of China.
Moulton said he served in Iraq with some of the best Americans he would ever meet, those who put their lives on the line for a better Iraq and a safer America. As he travels through Southeast Asia, specifically Vietnam and Korea, he said he “can’t help but reflect on the brave men and women who sacrificed everything here on behalf of our freedom.”
He also acknowledged the men and women the country has lost in current conflicts — more than 6,700 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, including more than 130 from Massachusetts.
“The veterans and heroes that we remember today put serving their country — their countrymen, and our future — before themselves,” Moulton said in a statement. “They gave that last full measure of devotion so that we could have the rights and freedoms that we enjoy today.”
Gayla Cawley can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.