Fallen But Not Forgotten
On December 17, in the midst of an ice storm, Boston College alumni and friends gathered at Arlington National Cemetery to place wreaths on the graves of members of the BC community interred there. Despite the forbidding weather, dozens of Eagles were joined by alumni from other Jesuit universities, including Holy Cross, Fordham, and Le Moyne, for National Wreaths Across America Day.
This special initiative honors veterans at more than 1,100 sites by decorating their graves and remembering their service; BC has participated for the past decade, under the leadership of retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Brian Cummins '82, P'08, '11.
In 2004 when Cummins returned from his final deployment in Iraq, he became curious about BC graduates who had served in the U.S. military and might be interred at Arlington National Cemetery. BC, like most universities, does not typically keep such records, and only two alumni were known to be buried there. Cummins was sure there must be others. He began to work with the BC Alumni Association to identify additional soldiers. Gradually, family members and friends came forward with names. "Every year, we learn of a few more," says Cummins, and now some 25 alumni and family members have been discovered.
Each year, these brave men and women are remembered with more than a simple wreath. "We say a prayer in their memory and share a photograph with family who can't be there," says Cummins. "We honor them as part of the Jesuit university community, as service members, and as Americans."
Here, two members of BC's University Advancement staff who participated this year share their experiences:
Meagan Flint, Associate Director, Alumni Chapters:
While approaching the grave site of Captain Joseph X. Grant '61, we saw a man sharing a prayer at his tomb. The gentleman turned out to be Grant's comrade in battle and good friend, and he was overjoyed to see Grant's alma mater honoring him. He helped us place the wreath and read the Medal of Honor citation.
Grant was a truly heroic soldier who saved many lives in Vietnam. His friend told us that Grant, despite being a Medal of Honor recipient, was just like everyone else, remembering a time when Grant stole part of his milkshake, and the guys got into a joking scuffle over it. His story really humanized Grant; it was humbling to remember that our military men and women have civilian lives outside of duty.
Jean Chisser, Associate Director, Alumni Special Services:
The Wreaths Across America event was amazing. To see the cemetery with wreaths at each and every grave, along acres and acres of rolling hills and small white markers, was very powerful.
Near the end of the morning, I was walking with Army National Guard Col. George Harrington '80 to find the marker for a BC alumnus. George had one extra wreath over his arm as he walked. We came across a young woman with two small children standing at a grave that did not have a wreath. There was a sign posted that said a Gold Star family would be placing a wreath there today. She asked George where he got the wreath because all the trucks nearby were out of them. George offered it to her. She started to cry, gave him a big hug, and explained that the weather held her up this morning so she got to her husband's grave later than she had hoped. Her husband, a Navy Seal, died two years ago. She thanked George and all of us who were there, saying how much she appreciated his thoughtfulness. He explained that he was there with a group from Boston College, and he couldn't imagine a better place for the wreath.
We walked on, tears filling our eyes at the real sacrifice of this young widow, and feeling like our paths were meant to cross.