Echoes of Sept. 11 followed the solemn marchers in the Memorial Day veterans' parade on Monday. More participants joined, and more flags were hung than in years past. Even the crowds were larger on the Edgartown streets.
"In the wake of 9/11, Memorial Day should have special significance to most Americans," declared Fred B. Morgan, Edgartown selectman and World War II veteran. Mr. Morgan addressed a gathering at Memorial Wharf, the first stop on the parade route through town. Over his head, a large American flag crackled in the breeze.
In front of him, a crowd formed a large circle. Island veterans, representing every branch of military service, were dressed in uniform. Some wore tarnished badges, some wore military shirts now a bit too small. Nearby stood the Island's Cub Scouts in freshly ironed blue uniforms, holding their post's banner.
The crowd extended across the parking lot, back to the picket fence at the Old Sculpin Gallery.
Mr. Morgan gave a solemn speech, reminding his audience that this wasn't just about remembering soldiers who had made the ultimate sacrifice in times of war. "Many will spend today remembering family members, friends, firemen, policemen and all other personnel involved in 9/11."
Of those soldiers overseas involved in the Afghanistan war against the Taliban, Mr. Morgan said: "Our duty is to honor those who serve and pray for their safe return."
The parade began in front of the Edgartown town hall. More than 200 onlookers gathered along the sidewalk, some standing on the second floor of the town hall and gazing down as the veterans assembled.
Once the 19 members of the Colonial Navy of Massachusetts, based in Fall River, had gathered, the parade began, heading down Main street to the water.
Young and old cheered as the parade made its way to Four Corners, the intersection of North and South Water streets and Main street. Riflemen within the Colonial Navy fired their muskets, the sound rocketing from the walls of downtown shops.
At Memorial Wharf the Rev. Robert Edmunds opened with a prayer: "Almighty God, we seek your blessing this day upon all members of our Island community who have left this safe harbor in defense of our nation."
After Mr. Morgan's remarks, the parade then turned and marched back up Main street. The veterans stopped at the World War II and the Korean and Vietnam monuments on the courthouse lawn. Wanda Williams, town clerk for Edgartown and herself a veteran, placed a wreath.
Mr. Edmunds read from the memoir of a soldier: "We were miserable and cold and exhausted most of the time, we were all scared to death. But we were young and strong then, possessed of the marvelous resilience of youth, and for all the misery and fear and the hating every moment of it the war was a great, if always terrifying, adventure."
The parade then continued up Main street, passing the World War I monument at Pease's Point Way and Main street and continuing to Memorial Park, built 101 years ago and dedicated to Edgartown's veterans of the Civil War.
At the Old Westside Cemetery, the marchers gathered near the grave of the unknown soldier. Mr. Edmunds gave a prayer and then a shorter parade marched to the Edgartown town hall and disbanded.
After the parade, the veterans were in a quiet mood. Allan (Buddy) deBettencourt, 65, a Vietnam veteran, said he was touched by the morning march, especially by the large turnout. "What a beautiful day for the parade," he said.
Elmer Santos of Edgartown, a World War II veteran, said: "This was very good indeed."
To get to the Vineyard in time for the parade, Ron Vallee of Swansea, a member of the Colonial Navy, rode the Schamonchi through heavy fog from New Bedford. "We really do enjoy coming over here," he said. The members of the Colonial Navy dress in red and white striped shirts and resemble marchers from another century, their pipers and drummers playing old-time tunes. The marching corps will be back for the Fourth of July parade.