Just after 11 a.m. Saturday morning, people emptied out of stores and flooded the streets of Vineyard Haven as the 45-member Northeast Navy Marching Band from Newport, R.I., marched down Main street. In front of them, representatives from Coast Guard Menemsha and the Dukes County sheriffs department, veterans, Boy Scouts and more led the parade.
This Flag Day parade, which was organized by the American Legion Post 257, was held in honor of the 50th anniversary of the opening of Veterans Memorial Park. The parade started at St. Augustine Church, traveled down Church street, connected to Main street and turned onto Causeway Road before arriving at the park around 11:20 a.m.
In the park a small crowd gathered by a memorial plaque for a short ceremony lead by Dukes County veterans agent Jo Ann Murphy. The first speaker of the morning was the Tisbury town administrator, John (Jay) Grande.
“I think we should remember to cherish the flag, and be very judicious in terms of our ability to remember how to honor that flag,” said Mr. Grande. “I think this is a most appropriate way of beginning our summer on the Vineyard.”
After Mr. Grande’s speech, two Boy Scouts raised the American flag as the Northeast Navy Marching Band played the national anthem.
The ceremony continued under the flag as Ms. Murphy read a note from American Legion member Edson Rodgers that commemorated the members of American Legion Post 257, who constructed the park 50 years ago.
“The obstacles were many and the tasks were daunting. The land upon which this park was built was mostly swamp, and considered unusable. To complicate matters, there were multiple owners. Perhaps it was because of what many of these veterans had experienced during the war that they considered these challenges to be no big deal,” read Ms. Murphy.
Former American Legion commander Fred Thifault read the names of the American Legion members who were on the board of directors of the park commission 50 years ago.
“I would like to say that I am blessed to be able to be here 50 years later. It has been a wonderful experience and I would like to thank you all,” Mr. Thifault said in closing.
Ms. Murphy continued read a congressional record of Cong. William Keating’s recognition of the park on June 11.
“Instead of a statue or other traditional sculpture or war memorial, these men deemed a park with playing fields and a playground would be a more suitable tribute to their brave service to America,” read Ms. Murphy.
Ms. Murphy then handed the record to Mr. Thifault, who presented it to Mr Grande.
The Navy band played God Bless America to conclude the ceremony. Boy Scouts handed out American flags as children played in the park that veterans constructed 50 years ago.
View photo gallery: Parade to Veterans Park for Dedication Ceremony.