Memorial Day Exercises
Manchester Essex Regional High School
Friday, May 27, 2011
Address by former U.S. Ambassador and Mayor of Boston Ray Flynn.
Students, faculty and veterans. Thank you for inviting me to be your Memorial Day speaker.
I can honestly tell you that this was the finest high and middle school Memorial Day tribute I have ever attended. The band and choral group were spectacular.
This patriotic North Shore community, is like so many other cities and towns throughout our great nation, which will conduct memorial exercises to honor those who were called on to defend our country in its time of need. Many of these heroes never returned home, and it is those men and women we honor today.
As was stated in the introduction, I served as U.S. Ambassador to See, which is the government of the Catholic Church worldwide.
In my capacity as the official representative of the people and president of the United States, I was frequently called on to participate in historic events in not only Italy, but in countries throughout Europe and the world. Often time these special events were held to commemorate a famous battle and perhaps a turning point in the war. From North Africa, Sicily, Anzio, Nettuno, Monte Cassino, the liberation of Rome, Northern Italy, France, Germany, the Bulge and other great battlefields in Europe, I had the privilege and solemn honor to witness and even be part of these moving remembrances of 50th Anniversary of the end of the war while I was living in Rome.
My brother Dennis, who was a decorated combat soldier in Viet Nam would sometimes join me. One such memorial service took place in a U.S. military cemetery in Nettuno, Italy. Thousands of young Americans had been buried there after any one of the many battles against the Nazi's in World War II. President Bill Clinton was guest speaker and laid the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Many veterans of the battle, came to Italy for the various events. Some were with their children, but some were alone. After the moving ceremony and lunch, the secretary of state said to me, "ambassador, we're about to head back to Rome. Your brother can have my seat on the helicopter with the president. I'll take the back up one." I excitedly told Dennis, but he went over to Secretary Christopher and thanked him, but said he was talking to an old soldier who lost 3 of his buddies here. "He's alone," my brother said. "We'll take the bus back".
The veterans walked around the cemetery and an official named Bevalaqua from B. C. gave them a list and location of all their killed comrades. The joy and sorrow when they located their buddies head stone, was so emotional to watch. Boys 17 and 18 years, some with crosses, others with the Star of David, all with small American flags. Everyone commented how well the sacred grounds were kept.
Former Governor and war veteran Hugh Carey of New York joined us and invited us a veterans post and museum nearby. The men were given a brochure about the history of the battles in the area, and the men talked about it as if they were fought yesterday. Nobody wanted leave. For most of them, it was the first time they had been back since the war. "Look, here's a picture of Audie Murphy. Anybody see the movie? I was in the same company".
One veteran asked to be dropped off at the airport. But your plane to the U.S. doesn't leave till tomorrow morning. "I know, but I don't want to miss it. I'm glad I came, but I want to get back home." I promised him that I would drive him to the airport early the next morning. He stayed at the ambassadors residence that night. At 4 am, Dennis woke me up. "Ray, Jack is waiting downstairs. He said he has to get home. He keeps reading the brochure your friend Governor Carey gave him".
Jack didn't say a word on the ride to the airport. I said to my brother,"Dennis, he can identify with you. Ask him about what it was like 50 years ago, just about this same time of the year( June 5th)". "Ray, if he wants to talk about it, he'll tell us. If he doesn't, he won't." Some guys don't want to talk about the war."Jack obviously didn't, Dennis didn't either.
But its great that more than 900 young Americans from Manchester-By-the Sea and Essex, Massachusetts would stop and pay their respects today to our fallen heroes. It says a lot about the young people of America.
God bless America and God look out for all our veterans.