A group of veterans, along with many of their Island friends and neighbors, gathered in Vineyard Haven's Oak Grove Cemetery on Memorial Day, to honor those who died in military service to their country.  Taps echoed along the Avenue of Flags, carried by a gentle breeze under hazy sunshine.

Following a short parade featuring veterans, Island police and fire departments, as well as Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, guest speaker Paul J. Brawley, a commander in the United States Navy Reserve, addressed the gathering. He chose to quote three men known for their contributions to U.S. military history. 

Parade marched through Tisbury on way to Avenue of the Flags in Oak Grove Cemetery. — Mark Lovewell

He recited the words of Civil War veteran and Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, who said: “Every year in the full tide of spring, at the height of the symphony of flowers and love and life, there comes a pause and, through the silence, we hear the lonely pipe of death.”

He noted the words of General Douglas MacArthur: “The soldier above all other people prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.” 

And he read an August 1776 dispatch from General George Washington to John Hancock, president of the Continental Congress. Gen. Washington had just ordered the evacuation of Manhattan, and was facing 25,000 British troops with an inexperienced militia of 5,000.

“How it will end only Providence can direct, but dear God, what brave men I shall lose before this business ends.”

Dukes County veterans agent Jo Ann Murphy read the names of all the Island veterans who have died since last Memorial Day.

Paul J. Brawley, a commander in the United States Navy Reserve. — Mark Lovewell

Those named who served in World War II were Kenneth Evans, Curtis Jones, Carl Barrie, Charles Sanders II, Robert Kelley, Joseph Palermo, William Hanna, Thomas Rivers, Margaret Peak, Meverell Good, Shirley Ward, Leonard Alper, Robert Carroll, George Magnuson Jr., Norman Reed and F. Andrew Leslie. 

Those who served in Korea were Donald DeSorcy, Geroge Brown, James Spanfeller Sr., Edward Colligan, Elmore (Buddy) Mayhew, Ernest Medeiros, Nicholas Cristea, and Charles Blank.

Those who served in Vietnam were Harold Hill, Carl Widdis, Timouth Fullin, Robert Plante, Herbert Tilton III and Daniel Mayhew.

Boy Scouts salute the fallen. — Mark Lovewell

Also honored were Bernard Holzer and Kendall Willoughby.

Another one of the speakers during the ceremony was Michael Blake, who served 16 years with the 9th U.S. Cavalry. Mr. Blake operates the non-profit organization Carry the Fallen, raising awareness about suicide among veterans.

“The fight's not over for a lot of guys,” Mr. Blake said. “In our country, 22 U.S. veterans kill themselves every day. Twenty-two men and women who served our country honorably take their own lives.”

After laying wreaths at memorials for war veterans at the head of the cemetery, veterans marched in formation back to the American Legion Post 257, pausing along the way to lay a last wreath at the Civil War soldiers memorial, and hear a final rendition of Taps played by veteran Edson Rogers and Tisbury fire chief John Schilling.