The BLOG: Politics

Mass. Fallen Heroes: Remembering and serving those who serve us

“America.” A simple but profound statement made by Greg Kelly, president of the board of Massachusetts Fallen Heroes and a combat veteran. As he paused, a loud showing of appreciation erupted from the audience at the sixth annual memorial dinner on Friday, Dec. 11. You know you are in good company when all you have to say is “America” to get the crowd excited. Emceed by Randy Price, another veteran, the gathering was in honor of fallen heroes and Gold Star Families, and to bring together supporters. The speakers reminded those in attendance of why our soldiers choose to serve. Governor Charlie Baker noted the heartbreak that is felt when our soldiers don’t return home. Colonel David Hunt, the keynote speaker, remarked about the government’s lackluster performance in providing for our troops.

What happens when our soldiers return home, and why aren’t we doing more for them? Col. Hunt referred to it as “skin in the game,” and he is correct. When it’s not our skin, we don’t seem to feel like it’s our game. Mass. Fallen Heroes is responding to this problem by developing programs and providing support to those returning home and for the families of those who do not. They are serving our veterans in ways that the government fails to.

Massachusetts has 209 fallen heroes. As many speakers mentioned during the event, more will follow since the War on Terror has no end in sight. They answered the call of duty to serve our country, so why aren’t we answering their call for help? Over 20 service members commit suicide daily across our country, commented Col. Hunt, because they don’t receive the treatment they need. Losing any veteran to suicide is alarming because we live in a country that is certainly able to provide for the care they require to heal. The government doesn’t seem to comprehend that the invisible wounds of war are just as damaging as those that are visible.

Families whose sons and daughters don’t return home are often left to find their way out of the darkness of mourning with little to no support. Governor Baker noted that while some find matters pertaining to war controversial, it is imperative that we separate the war from the warrior – a statement that should resonate to all of us. It is a simple task that needs to be done. Care for those who care for us whether it be at home or overseas. To me, all who serve are our sons, daughters, brothers and sisters. They stand watch over our country and protect freedom and liberty, but when they come home, it is our duty to assist them in reintegrating and healing. Yet, the government, for whom they so willingly take orders from, fails them when they return.

According to the VA, there are 350,001-550,000 veterans in Massachusetts. And over 6,000 service members have died in the War on Terror. IAVA, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America reports that some progress is being made. But only through constant advocacy and vigilance will more veterans be cared for and the memory of those who are gone live on. Our wounded warriors should not be the victims of a failed system. Mass. Fallen Heroes is ensuring that this doesn’t happen. Through their ongoing efforts to honor the fallen, they are developing a memorial to be dedicated in May 2016, in Seaport Square Park in South Boston to preserve the lives of those who served. As stated on their website, “The Memorial to the Fallen Heroes – an introspective celebration of life that will continuously change throughout the day by the sun, and will transition into an internally lit beacon during evening hours – can be viewed from various vantage points in the neighboring area and from the water.” What once was a dream is now becoming a reality for Massachusetts veterans and their families.

During the course of the evening, each of the speakers explained why they fought or how the loss of a family member changed them forever. Mass. Fallen Heroes executive director Dan Magoon spoke of the plans the organization has for the coming months while showing a video of the progress already made. The dedication to assisting returning veterans and the families of those whose loved ones did not return is an effort that comes out of adoration and respect for not only the military and our country, but the bonds that have changed their lives. They seek to ensure that these bonds are never broken and that their brothers and sisters know that they will be honored when they come home. I was proud to be in attendance and hear about the dedication that this organization has for veterans and their families and the love for America that is essential to their continued efforts to serve our country.