For a decade, the Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund (MMHF) has turned a section of Boston Common into a vast garden of flags every Memorial Day to commemorate the lives of the 37,000 Bay Staters who have given their lives in service to the country since the Revolutionary War.
This year, with the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to limit activity, the organization is instead encouraging residents to fly at least 37,000 flags on homes, businesses and other public places — and post photos of them to social media with the hashtag #HeroesFlagGarden.
"We believe canceling the large-scale volunteer flag planting of more than 37,000 flags was the safest course during the COVID-19 pandemic," Diane Nealon, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund, said. "We know how much the families we serve, our dedicated volunteers and the public will miss the full-scale Boston Common flag garden but we're asking them to throw that energy in to making sure we hang as many or more flags across the state to honor the fallen."
In any other year, more than 500 volunteers, including families of those killed in the line of duty and 9/11 families, would have gathered on the Common next week to plant the flags. For those who don't have a flag to fly this year, the MMHF has made a print-out available on their website to display in a window of a house or other location.
MMHF President Tom Crohan said that although things are different this year, the sentiment remains the same.
“While we aren’t able to bring in hundreds of volunteers and plant the 37,000 flags, we are still absolutely paying tribute, and trying to make sure the families we serve see a visual display of what is normally in the Common," Crohan said.
With reporting from WBUR's Paris Alston.
This article was originally published on May 11, 2020.