Spectators of all ages cheered as veterans, law enforcement officials, members of the Coast Guard and Boy Scouts marched to the beat of a drum and patriotic music during the annual Memorial Day parade Monday morning. Under overcast skies with light rain, a crowd gathered at the American Legion in Vineyard Haven for the parade, which ran along the edge of Oak Grove Cemetery before turning into the avenue of flags.
In the cemetery, the parade came to a halt as two members of the Oak Bluffs Boy Scouts Troop 93 raised the flag to half mast. Jo Ann Murphy, director of veterans services for Martha’s Vineyard, led a brief ceremony honoring the men and women who have served in combat.
The ceremony began with a prayer by the Rev. Lieut. Col. David Berube, thanking those who have given their life and also those who continue to serve. “As we honor those who paid the ultimate price, we also remember those currently serving around the world, especially those in harm’s way and those who are prisoner or missing in action,” he said. “Give to them and their families, and to the families of the fallen, a deep and lasting sense of your presence, your comfort, your peace and your love.”
After a recitation of the pledge of allegiance, Ms. Murphy invited the morning’s guest speaker, Coast Guard Senior Chief Jason Olsen, to the podium. Mr. Olsen has served in the Coast Guard for 18 years and is currently chief of station Menemsha.
He spoke about the meaning of Memorial Day as a day to remember the sacrifices that servicemen and women have made for their country. He spoke about the holiday’s history, and how we continue to celebrate today. “On this Memorial Day, we pause to observe and remember all those who have given their life in service to our nation. We honor their sacrifice by dedicating ourselves, every day, to our nation and to the principles for which it stands,” he said.
Ms. Murphy read aloud the names of new additions to the Avenue of Flags, as well as the names of all the veterans from Martha’s Vineyard who have died in the past year. After the names had been read, wreaths were placed on the World War I monument, the World War II, Korea, and Viet Nam monuments (the latter honors the four Islanders who lost their lives in that war), the directory and the 9/11 memorial.
After the laying of the wreaths, Jeff Pratt of the Tisbury fire department took the podium to read the fireman’s prayer. Before reading he thanked retired Tisbury fire captain and veteran Ed Colligan, and paid his respect to Boston firefighters Edward Walsh and Michael Kennedy who died in the line of duty earlier this year.
A firing detail shot three rounds into the air to salute the fallen soldiers, followed by a ceremonial playing of Taps.
The parade marched back toward the American Legion, stopping at the Civil War monument where another wreath was laid and Reverend Berube offered another prayer.
As the parade prepared to depart the monument, Ed Rodgers played Battle Hymn of the Republic on his trumpet. The entire audience joined in, singing along in unison.
Back at the American Legion, one last wreath was placed on the monument for members of the merchant marine who served in World War II.
By coincidence, Monday was also Ms. Murphy’s birthday, and to conclude the ceremony, the entire crowd joined in song one more time to sing happy birthday to her. After the ceremony, members of the crowd stepped forward to hand flowers to the veterans, and to Ms. Murphy.