A crowd of Island residents and visitors applauded veterans Friday morning as they marched in formation from the Oak Bluffs Harbor to Ocean Park. Under a clear blue sky in unseasonably warm weather, Island residents who served in the U.S. armed forces, including many members of town fire and police departments, were honored in a ceremony to celebrate Veterans Day.

Lieut. Col. David Berube, an Air National Guard chaplain and an officer in the Oak Bluffs police department, opened the ceremony with a prayer. Island veterans agent Jo Ann Murphy read a proclamation from Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald.

Selectmen Gail Barmakian, Walter Vail and Michael Santoro laid a wreath at the base of the veterans monument in Ocean Park, followed by a trumpet rendition of Taps played by Tisbury fire chief John Schilling, and a three volley salute from a U.S. Coast Guard honor guard from Station Menemsha.

Parade through Oak Bluffs ended in Ocean Park where veterans gathered under clear blue skies. — Steve Myrick

Mike Downs, an Oak Bluffs native who joined the U.S. Marine Corps and became a brigadier general, was among those saluting veterans along the short parade route. He finished his military career as the commanding officer at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, and now lives in Virginia.

“Since I served 31 years, one month, and 17 days in the Marine Corps, it means a lot to me,” Mr. Downs said. “It gives me a chance to reflect on those that I served with, especially those who sacrificed. They answered the call when asked and did their duty.”

George Balco of Vineyard Haven looked back on his service in the cold war era, when the Cuban missile crisis and the division of Berlin made the world a frightening place. Mr. Balco served in the U.S. Army 3rd Armored Calvary, commanding a tank platoon. The uniform shirt he wore to the parade was 60 years old, he said.

“It brings back a lot of memories,” Mr. Balco said. “I learned a lot in the service. I learned how to say sir in a lot of connotations. It served me well in business.”

Again this year, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs designated Oak Bluffs as a Veterans Day regional site, recognizing the observance as a model for other communities to follow.

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