Saturday, March 17th, 2018

Gold Star Families honor loved ones at State House Tree Ceremony


Loralei, 5, and Lani, 11, have been looking forward to the annual tree dedication ceremony because it gives them a chance to remember their father, Gregg O’Brien, who died in 2014 after serving in the Army, their mother said.

“They love to hang their ornament every year,” said O’Brien, 33, of Everett.

The dedication, organized annually by the Military Friends Foundation, pays tribute to Gold Star families, whose loved ones were killed during combat, and others who have lost family members in the military.

“It’s celebrated in a happy way, and instead of making it a sad time, they’re doing something nice for us,” she said. “It’s a great time of year because it brings everybody together to talk about the happy memories instead of the sad ones.”

Marie Carreiro, a Gold Star mother, said the State House ceremony has brought her comfort as she grieves the death of her son, Luke, who served with the Army in Iraq.

“Last year, I attended this event with the encouragement of a dear friend, and it changed my life,” Carreiro said in remarks to hundreds who gathered in Memorial Hall for the afternoon ceremony. “ I stood up here and I couldn’t even say my son’s name, and when I left the podium, I was hugged and shared stories and tears with some of you, the strongest people I know.”

Governor Charlie Baker, acknowledged that December is emotional for many who have lost family members to combat.

“I can’t imagine there’s a more difficult time of year to be a Gold Star family than around the holidays,” Baker said, who posed for photos with family members before speaking.

Baker recalled his own holiday gatherings to celebrate and laugh, but noted “for Gold Star families, it doesn’t work like that.”

Kelly Dirkee-Erwin, 48 of Waltham, came to honor her grandfather, John T. Mulhane, who died while fighting in World War II. She attended with her mother and uncle, who now are both in their 70s.

“This is only the second time they’ve ever been able to commemorate their father in public,” she said, after hanging an ornament on the tree. “They cried last year a lot because it was the first time.”


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