Veterans honored at Mount Hope

Junior ROTC member Miasia Kemp, 14, of Mattapan walked through the F.R. Kelly Lot at Mount Hope Cemetery in Mattapan. (Jessica Rinaldi for The Boston Globe)
Junior ROTC member Miasia Kemp, 14, of Mattapan walked through the F.R. Kelly Lot at Mount Hope Cemetery in Mattapan. (Jessica Rinaldi for The Boston Globe)Credit: The Boston Globe

Gordon Gaul knew it would be a day of tears. At Mount Hope Cemetery, where 14,000 veterans are buried, he shifted his sunglasses and walked slowly, alone past the small gravestones festooned with American flags searching for his father’s grave.

Gaul comes to visit the grave on Memorial Day and on his father’s birthday. For Gaul, a Roxbury resident, serving in the military runs in his blood. He was 9 when his father, Gordon Gaul Sr., a World War I veteran, died, and Gaul served two years as a Marine in Vietnam.

As he walked, he said he was thinking about the cost of freedom.

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“Freedom is the cost of war. People just don’t understand,” he said, as tears fell on his cheeks. “Life here in America is not free, because we got these brave guys that go out there every day and protect our freedom.”

Yards away, about 75 people gathered for the annual Memorial Day ceremony at the cemetery to honor the fallen troops, and surviving veterans. The observance, organized by American Legion District #7, Suffolk County, featured color guards, a firing squad, and a band that played military signature anthems such as “The Army Goes Rolling Along.”

Speakers included Boston’s Veterans’ Services Commissioner Francisco Urena, Massachusetts Veterans’ Services Commissioner Ken Turner, and Boston city councilors Felix Arroyo, Michael Ross and Charles Yancey. Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who typically speaks at the event, was not in attendance.

Urena urged veterans to share their stories and experiences with their friends and neighbors. Looking out at the thousands of gravestones marked with small American flags, he said, “We remember them for what they stood for, for who they were and for who they continue to be.”

Turner said America’s democracy and society was a foundation that soldiers have protected for centuries.

“What is it that inspires and enables ordinary citizens to rise to the challenge of battle? To be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice of their lives in the service of their country. What is it that motivates them to respond and contribute wherever or whenever they are called upon to do so? The answer is values,” Turner said.

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