The Real Patriots

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The New England Patriots adopted their name from the real Patriots who over two centuries ago stood their ground to fight to create a new nation.

Many of those real Patriots are buried in and around the Boston area. Some close to the very spot where they were slain, in places like Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill.

Other Patriots who came much later are buried in faroff places like France or Italy or Guam. You can usually find them in big military cemeteries. In fact, some of these cemeteries are really big.

Like the World War I Meuse-Argonne Cemetery in France, with over 16,000 Patriots buried beneath white headstones in long straight lines that seem to move in unison like bright white pillars towards the horizon, blending with the sky … and the heavens above. 

And somewhere in that big World War I cemetery is written:

When you go home,
Tell them of us and say,
For their Tomorrow, 
We gave our Today.


A plea to the survivors, or rather, those other Patriots who made it through the war. And the next war. And the next.

These are the Patriots, very much alive, who still visit these cemeteries. You can recognize them by their faded uniforms and caps. Some are graying, but some are actually quite young, around the same age as the football field Patriots. They’re usually very quiet and solemn when they go to these places. Most often it’s to visit someone they knew, some other Patriot who now lies beneath them in the field where footballs aren’t thrown and massive crowds don’t often gather.

Yet still they go, and stare, and whisper, and even pray, at the white stone that bears the name of their Patriot who gave his life in some far-off battle and who is now at rest forever beneath the grass so those other Patriots can play their games above the grass.

And sometimes these Patriots are present when their Patriot is laid to rest, or, rather, buried, with full military honors. It’s actually quite a sight — a flag is placed on the coffin by two soldiers, then folded precisely so only the stars are showing. They then hand this flag to the next of kin, usually the wife, who holds it, tightly, as the bugler plays Taps.

And it’s always Taps.

In fact, that’s the only music you’ll ever hear there. It’s the Requiem for the Fallen. And after the ceremony is over, the wife of the now-deceased Patriot takes the flag home, where it stays, often far from where her Patriot stays.

Then on Memorial Day, someone, usually a retired Patriot, plants a flag on the grave of the dead Patriot. And there it stays until it becomes so worn and faded that it has to be replaced by another Patriot with another flag. And another. And another.

And on and on it goes from one decade to another, one century to another, as the Patriots are remembered and honored by other Patriots, or just ordinary citizens who took it upon themselves to honor them. Because they know that these Patriots, lost in the flower of their youth, gave their lives so young so their countrymen could live so old, have children, and grandchildren, with many generations to come.


For their Tomorrow,
We gave our Today


And yet we have never met them. But nevertheless, we know them. They are the Patriots who have stood watch for us, defended us, and were killed in some far-off time and place with names like Yorktown, Gettysburg, Normandy, Inchon. Or Phu Bai and Binh Dinh in Vietnam, where Bob Steinsieck and Arthur Stroyman were killed. Bob graduated from Newton South High School in 1964, and was on the football team with Arthur, who finished South a year later. They were both on the Newton South hockey team with Paul Dunne, and were classmates with Bob Ferris. Paul and Bob were killed in Vietnam, too.

There’s a plaque honoring all four in the main lobby of Newton South. I participated in the dedication ceremony about a decade ago. So did Arthur’s parents, and Paul’s brother, and younger family members of Bob and Bob. So too did Newton South students, several of them athletes just like Arthur and Paul and the two Bobs.The bugler played taps. He played the national anthem too.

It was moving.  It was sad. But it was noble. Very noble.

And when this columnist spoke last week at Newton South the inevitable question was raised on standing for the national anthem. So the students heard for the first time of those Newton South grads who fought and died long ago in a far-off place called Vietnam …

“Remember them. Remember them when you go out onto that field or court. But Remember them.” The Real Patriots.

And they applauded.

There is hope.


Tom Mountain is the Republican State Committeeman for Newton, Brookline, Wellesley.