Families of soldiers lost in war plant flags on Boston Common and recall their bravery

People walk through a portion of the Boston Common covered with American flags, in Boston, Wednesday, May 23, 2012. Relatives and volunteers planted the 33,000 flags in the historic park in advance of the Memorial Day weekend, in tribute to Massachusetts soldiers killed in conflicts as far back as the Civil War. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
The sea of flags on the Common commemorates Massachusetts servicemembers killed in conflicts as far back as the Civil War.
Steven Senne/AP

Marine Private Daniel McGuire was born in Middleborough and grew up on the Cape. He played a little bit of lacrosse and loved theater. He was the oldest of four boys and was 19 when he was standing at his post in the middle of the night in Fallujah, Iraq. It was Aug. 14. 2008, a year and a day after he enlisted. His post was attacked, and he was fatally shot.

“The key is, for us as parents, I don’t need you to pay constant tribute to my son, I can do that, but just don’t forget him,’’ said Mark McGuire, who planted a US flag today for his son in a flowing display of 33,000 flags covering a grassy hill at the Boston Common near the Soldiers and Sailors Monument. About 200 volunteers on Wednesday planted the flags, one for each Massachusetts servicemember killed in action since the Civil War.

A final 159 flags were added today for the Massachusetts servicemembers killed since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

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An hour-long event at the Common, the “Massachusetts Military Heroes” ceremony, was attended by a crowd of about 300 people, including Governor Deval Patrick, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, Attorney General Martha Coakley, and about 20 families of servicemembers killed in action.

Family members read off the names of the 159 in a “roll call.”

McGuire, 49, of Mashpee, had a message for the crowds that are sure to head in his direction this Memorial Day Weekend.

“They just need a big banner on the bridge, saying, ‘It’s not about the barbecue.’ Swing by the national cemetery in Bourne. ... You don’t need to know anyone there. Just ride through.”

Mayor Thomas M. Menino sounded a similar theme.

“There are people going down to the Cape or going to the mountains,’’ he said, standing at a lectern in front of the display of flags. “They forget, they forget the sacrifices made by so many men and women so we could have the freedom in America today.’’

Thomas Crohan, vice president of the Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund, which organized the event, drew the crowd’s attention to the Soldiers and Sailors Monument that serves as a centerpiece to the sprawling Common.

“Its plaque reads in part, ‘To the men of Boston who died for their country on land and sea, the grateful city has built this monument that their example may speak to coming generations,” Crohan said. “We hope these flags speak to the current generation, as a solemn reminder of the enormous sacrifice made by the heroes we honor today.”