May 28, 2012


Paying his respects: At Mass. National Cemetery, groundsman serves his countrymen (Thomas Caywood, May 29, 2006, Boston Herald)

Morris Monette Jr. of Falmouth never stormed a beach or waded through a rice paddy under fire.

But the 38-year-old Massachusetts National Cemetery groundskeeper knows about the sacrifice of veterans. He's dug graves for thousands of American heroes in his eight years tending the leafy Bourne burial ground.

Monette has stood shivering on raw January mornings sawing grave sites out of the frozen earth with a trenching machine. He's planted flowerbeds to beautify the final resting place of more than 40,000 veterans and their spouses.

"My father, all my uncles were in the service," Monette said yesterday as he directed Memorial Day traffic through the winding roads of the 749-acre cemetery.

Friends ask how he can work with a sea of the dead under his feet. He says that digging and filling graves day after day has mostly anesthetized him to the melancholy wafting over the grassy meadows.

Even so, Monette admits that burying Marine Lance Cpl. Michael Ford of New Bedford in late April got to him. "He was only 19. He was never married or had any kids. That bothered me," he said.

Ford was killed by a roadside bomb after only a month in Iraq's bloody Al Anbar province.

Marine Lance Cpl. Patrick Gallagher of Fairhaven, 27, also was buried at the Bourne cemetery last month. He was killed in a truck rollover in Iraq.

"I try not to think about it too much," Monette said.

We all try not to, which is why Memorial Day is worthwhile.

(Originally posted: 5/29/06)

Posted by at May 28, 2012 12:59 AM


This may be a stretch, but is the title a reference to that wonderful lyric from the Rolling Stones' "Salt of the Earth"?

Say a prayer for the common foot-soldier,
Spare a thought for his back-breaking work;
Say a prayer for his wife and his children
Who tend the fires and who still till the earth.

Posted by: John Barrett Jr. at May 29, 2006 9:53 AM
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