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BC and Holy Cross Teaming Up to Remember Those Who Served

Washington, DC-area alumni visit the graves of fellow BC graduates as part of the Wreaths Across America event. (Photo courtesy of Brian Cummins)

By Sean Smith | Chronicle Editor

Published: Dec. 12, 2013

A group of Washington, DC-area Boston College graduates will join with their College of the Holy Cross counterparts this Saturday to honor alumni veterans buried in Arlington National Cemetery, as part of the annual Wreaths Across America event.

For two decades, Wreaths Across America — organized by a national non-profit of the same name — has encouraged people to take time during the holiday season to recognize the sacrifices of veterans and their families. Volunteers lay holiday wreaths at Arlington as well as veterans’ cemeteries and other locations in all 50 states and beyond. Wreaths Across America also sponsors a week of events including international veterans tributes, ceremonies at state houses and a weeklong “Veteran’s Parade” between Maine and Virginia.

Four years ago, Brian Cummins ’82, a retired US Army lieutenant colonel, recruited members of the BC alumni chapter in Washington to lay wreaths at the graves of BC alumni interred in Arlington during Wreaths Across America Day.

“BC has an outstanding tradition of ‘citizen-soldier’ military service to our great republic,” says Cummins. “I wondered how many people buried at Arlington have BC connections, and I got in touch with BC grads in the DC area to see if we could find out and honor them for Wreaths Across America.”

This year, encouraged by retired US Navy Chaplain Robert K. Keane, SJ ’71 — an administrator at Holy Cross who was the keynote speaker at BC’s Veterans Day ceremony last month — Holy Cross alumni in the DC area decided to link up with Cummins and the other BC grads to visit Arlington for Wreaths Across America Day.

But it’s no simple task to ascertain the location of a grave of a BC or Holy Cross veteran, Cummins says: “There are no records that tell you what college the deceased attended. So we mainly rely on word of mouth, from family or friends who tell us where someone from BC is buried, or web searches.”

Thus far, Cummins and his fellow alumni have honored 20 BC veterans at Arlington on Wreaths Across America day, including 1898 graduate Lt. General Hugh Drum, namesake of Fort Drum in upstate New York.

“Each year, we hear about a new location to visit — sometimes relatives are unable to make the trip and they’ll ask us to go on their behalf,” he says. “When we lay a wreath on a grave, we’ll say the prayer of St. Ignatius, and put a BC banner next to the wreath and take a photo. We’ll e-mail the photo to family who are unable to attend. That’s who we do this for, after all.”

Cummins says the addition of Holy Cross alumni this year will make the event even more meaningful. The two institutions share many characteristics, he says, including some forged in tragedy: During Wreaths Across America Day in 2011, he met a BC alumna who had traveled to place a wreath on the grave of her boyfriend, a Holy Cross grad and Navy veteran who had died in a plane crash many years ago.

“BC and Holy Cross are historically described as ‘rival Catholic schools,’ but there are far more things which bind us than separate us. We’re very happy to join hands in fellowship and honor our departed alumni veterans.”

About 30 alumni from BC and Holy Cross met up at Arlington National Cemetery on Saturday to place wreaths on the graves of alumni from their respective schools. (Photo courtesy of Brian Cummins '82)