Editorial

On Saturday, Martha’s Vineyard will welcome President Barack Obama and his family back to the Island for what has become, save for one election year during his presidency, an annual summer vacation ritual. The Obamas could chose any number of vacation spots to visit, each with its own political calculus. Islanders may take pride that the first family has returned year after year, and see in their return visits an endorsement of the many qualities of Island living those who live here year-round, and seasonally, work so hard in a variety of different ways to preserve.

In that sense, the Obamas are no different from the thousands of other families Islanders welcome back in August. They return for the natural beauty of the shoreline and landscape and the sense of community that still prevails, whether it is a small gathering on an Oak Bluffs porch or taking in the Ag Fair and Illumination Night.

With Martha’s Vineyard once again the scenic backdrop for a presidential vacation we can expect that some members of the media will once again trot out all the well worn references to wealth, celebrity and power. It is so much more fun to sell the Vineyard to the rest of the world as an enclave of the elite.

Yes, there is no Motel 6, no Happy Meals. And it costs plenty to rent a house with a waterview in Chilmark for two weeks. Or buy a key to a private up-Island beach.

But if past visits provide any indication of how they will spend their time, Mr. Obama and his family will pretty much enjoy vacation on the Vineyard the same way other families do, although with much less fanfare and attention. There will be visits to the beach and golf courses, bike rides, and shopping, and dinners with friends at Island restaurants and in the intimate surroundings of Island homes.

And that Chilmark waterview of Vineyard Sound? It is accessible to anyone who wants to take a hike through the Menemsha Hills Reservation, owned and managed by The Trustees of Reservations. And the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank welcomes the public to swim, shellfish, hike, bike and horseback ride on many of its more than 70 properties comprising more than 3,000 acres. No key needed.

And if August visitors, including President Obama, members of his coterie, and the visiting media want to take a vacation detour, they could catch a glimpse of the other Martha’s Vineyard, the one more recognizable to the majority of Americans than the celebrity media tripe.

At the offices of the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority in Vineyard Haven, executive director David Vigneault could describe the plight of some of the more than 270 people currently on his waitlist for an affordable rental.

In the adjacent office of the Island Housing Trust, executive director Phillip Jordi can describe the challenge to provide homeownership opportunities on an Island where the average median income for homeowners is $64,000 and the median cost of a house is more than $500,000.

More than one waitress or waiter would likely be able to describe what it is like to work several jobs and shuffle between affordable winter and excessive summer rentals just to survive.

Sarah Kuh, director of the Vineyard Health Care Access Programs, could describe the effort to provide quality health care on an island where many people are self-employed.

On Circuit Avenue in Oak Bluffs or Main Street in Vineyard Haven, Island business owners are just as concerned about many of the things business owners on Main Streets across America worry about, and that includes the costs to provide health insurance to employees in Massachusetts, and subsidize those who do not provide it.

Martha’s Vineyard Community Services in Oak Bluffs, the Island’s umbrella social services agency, provides a glimpse of the other side of the summer postcard — the not-so-pretty picture of Islanders set against a backdrop of substance and domestic abuse. As a recent series of six reports by reporter Barry Stringfellow described, Martha’s Vineyard is not immune to the ravages of opiate abuse and addiction.

Six Islanders have died of opiate overdose since August 2013, according to Dr. Charles Silberstein, psychiatrist and addiction specialist at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. Island-wide, there was one heroin arrest in 2012 and 10 heroin arrests in 2013; in 2012 there were 13 arrests for oxycodone and percocet pills, in 2013 there were 15 arrests.

The national political debate about drug policy and punishment has real meaning to Island families affected by this scourge. A day spent in Edgartown District Court speaking to those on the front lines of the battle would provide some perspective.

No need to travel to the border to confront the immigration debate. Brazilian workers, some legal — their actual number is a cause of speculation — fill a considerable number of jobs on Martha’s Vineyard. Their contribution is unmistakable, but it comes with a cost.

We welcome our August visitors to Martha’s Vineyard. It is a great place to live, not as elite as some make it out to be, and for those who call it home, not every day is a day at the beach.

A series of events and circumstances presents Tisbury business and political leaders with a rare opportunity to shape the future appearance of their town and the Island’s transportation gateway. The challenge will be to incorporate road improvements planned by the state and the desires and plans of major property owners along Beach Road into a bold blueprint for the future.

Several key elements have begun to align. As Steve Myrick reported last week (Beach Road reconstruction plans spur zoning discussion), the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (DOT) plans a $1 million overhaul of Beach Road in Vineyard Haven, from the Wind’s Up watersports shop to Five Corners. Improvements include sidewalks and bike lanes. The road project is in a preliminary design phase and is expected to receive federal funding in 2017.

For more than 17 years, a prime piece of Tisbury commercial real estate, what has come to be called the “Boch lot,” about three-quarters of an acre on the water side of Beach Road opposite the Citgo gas station and next to The Times office, has sat virtually vacant but for a crumbling, long unused wood building and a boat building project.

The property is assessed at $1.9 million and generates close to $20,000 in annual property taxes. Commercial development could generate far more in taxes, along with jobs. Last week, Ernie Boch, Jr., a seasonal resident of Edgartown, said he would like to develop the property “into something nice and cool and useful.”

Perhaps mindful of the long regulatory battle his father faced soon after he bought the property and attempted to create a parking lot, Mr. Boch recommended that town leaders be proactive.

The property is subject to an overlay of zoning regulations. Any use would also require the approval of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC).

And then there is the Stop & Shop. Remember that? Following 10 months of MVC review, in May the company shelved plans to replace its decrepit Vineyard Haven supermarket with a new two-story, 30,500-square-foot market with parking for 41 vehicles in an enclosed area on the ground level under the market.

Company executives were left with little clear idea of what the MVC was ready to accept and may not be in any rush to reenter the regulatory blender. But we can assume that they would welcome the opportunity to replace the existing squat concrete market and adjacent building, a former Chinese restaurant, with a new market. And Island patrons would welcome it as well.

Also lying fallow is the property at 6 Water Street right on the corner of Five Corners that is now home to an auto rental business. In August 2008 the MVC approved plans for the construction of a three-story multi-use building to include office space, parking and apartments. The project, as near as we can tell, remains on the drawing boards.

Speaking about the planning process with reporter Steve Myrick, planning board co-chairman Daniel Seidman expressed frustration with the zoning regulations that govern development on Beach Road. “In the past, things have been done piecemeal,” Mr. Seidman said. “It’s been more reactive than proactive. It’s nice to say there is a road and there are bike paths, but if it doesn’t help the town in general, we’re just doing piecemeal work.”

Islanders are familiar with the hue and cry that even the prospect of change often stirs up. We are quick to the battlements at the prospect of it. Recall the fights over fast ferries from New Bedford; the roundabout; beer and wine service in Tisbury.

The ferries now come and go without striking dolphins, the cars go round and round without striking each other, and diners drink and eat with no apparent ill effects on the character of Vineyard Haven. Change need not be calamitous.

Mr. Seidman said the planning board is about to embark on a “visioning” process. The process will take the form of facilitated public workshops, hearings, and efforts to raise awareness about planning issues. Generating broad participation to include business leaders, MVC staff, and those outside the familiar planning network will take strong political leadership but will be well worth the effort and must be done. Paint a big picture.

Perhaps it is time to move the police station out of the center of town. Why not allow restaurants where patrons may enjoy a view of the harbor, like those found in seaside communities throughout New England. Work with Stop & Shop to come up with a plan that works for the town and company. And tackle Five Corners. The town would benefit from a bold and comprehensive process that ends with determined action.

In November, Island voters will be asked to elect nine members of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC). With less than two weeks until the July 29 deadline to file nomination papers, as of Friday no new candidates had stepped forward to place their names on the ballot, Janet Hefler reports in today’s issue.

This is unfortunate. The MVC could benefit from new perspectives and new faces.

The MVC operates with a $1.5 million budget and staff of 10 full-time employees. The commissioners have the power, through the MVC’s permitting authority, to supersede town boards and stop a development in its tracks, or send it on its way with significant conditions or none at all. It is an intoxicating responsibility.

MVC decisions are far reaching and reverberate throughout the Vineyard economy, often in ways that are not immediately visible. Behind every major construction project or development before the MVC there is a host of Island trades people and business people waiting for a decision, people who depend on a weekly paycheck and are part of the Vineyard’s tourism and construction economy.

It is possible that Island voters are pleased with the MVC. That seems unlikely judging from the many comments that have swirled around recent projects.

Unfortunately, Islanders tend to be in favor of the MVC when a project they oppose is being skewered and critical of the MVC when it is a project they favor, all the time unmindful of the fact that skewering is not the object of the review process, even if it sometimes feels that way to the applicants.

A more likely reason is that few people have the stamina or appetite for the minutiae that now characterizes MVC discussions. That could change. Commissioners could stick to the broad strokes and leave the details to local boards. With some discipline, meetings need not consume hours and hours.

Nancy Gardella, executive director of the 1,000-member Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce, told The Times she can understand why a small business owner, for example, especially one with young children, would be reluctant to run.

Ms. Gardella did not say what if any efforts the Chamber has taken to encourage members to run for the MVC, or to see that business interests are represented.

Lawyers and retirees are well represented on the MVC. Young working people with families, members of the building trades, retail business owners, all groups under represented on the MVC, should consider stepping off the sidelines and onto the field. Ten signatures is all it takes.

The incumbent members of the MVC deserve gratitude for their many hours of service. In many ways, it is a thankless task. The willingness of others to step up to the plate is not a rebuke.

Thursday night, the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) will review a proposal by the Island Housing Trust (IHT) to build a six-unit rental apartment building between the Stop & Shop Supermarket and AA Car Rental Company, a stone’s throw from Five Corners in Vineyard Haven. The 3,600-square-foot building containing six one-bedroom apartments would replace a derelict house.

The MVC will review the project as a development of regional impact (DRI). Why? Because they can.

The MVC could have voted to take a pass and send the project back to the town. IHT has a responsible track record developing affordable housing. The plan was developed in close consultation with the Tisbury Planning Board, Historic Commission, and Affordable Housing Committee. It is still subject to review by the zoning board of appeals.

There will be six 600-square-foot apartments, three of them handicapped accessible ground-floor units and three on the second floor, each with one bedroom and one bathroom. Photovoltaic panels on the southern roof will help reduce energy costs. There will be one parking space for deliveries and handicapped accessibility.

The commission voted on June 19 that the project required a public hearing because of its location near Five Corners. It is hard to understand the regional impact that may be attributed to six new tenants living near Five Corners unless the MVC has so broadened the definition of regional impact to include a Chilmarker having to pause to allow one of the new tenants to get out of the crosswalk.

In a report dated March 11, 2003, titled, “Looking at the Commission, Review of the Operations of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission and Recommendations for Improvements,” newly hired MVC executive director Mark London observed that many of the people he spoke to thought that the commissioners were too involved in the minutiae of projects — work that could more appropriately be done by the towns and by MVC staff.

“The net for referring projects to the MVC is too fine and requires referral of too many projects that don’t have a significant regional impact,” Mr. London wrote.

In his DRI recommendations, Mr. London wrote, “The commission should review fewer projects, but carry out the review in a more comprehensive way with a better process leading to better projects. The MVC should ensure that only projects of a truly regional impact are subject to the full public hearing process.”

This page agrees. The MVC should expedite the Water Street project and let IHT get back to the business of providing affordable housing.

In the broader context, Five Corners figured large in the MVC’s consideration of Stop & Shop’s proposal for a new market. One year of regulatory review and process and nothing to show for it. The regional planning agency would do well to examine what might be done to unravel this traffic Gordian knot, and come up with a plan for Five Corners.

Honoring the Fourth

In a Letter to the Editor published July 3, Nick Van Nes of West Tisbury claimed that the government was hiding the truth in its official account of 9/11. Mr. Van Nes said evidence of controlled demolitions “was overlooked by the government.”

The letter attracted sharp criticism. Several readers were highly critical of The Times decision to publish the letter.

Don Keller asked, “Why does this deserve publication? Nick is accusing our government officials and many other American citizens of murder … I understand that The Times wishes to allow for free expression of opinions, but there is a line. And this letter clearly crosses it. ”

Helene Brown commented, “Disappointed with MV Times that they would publish such an inflammatory and unsubstantiated letter, especially on the eve of July 4th.”

R. Scott Patterson wrote, “The MV Times owes everyone an explanation and an apology for publishing this letter! It is a joke and beyond reprehensible!”

The Letters to the Editor section is intended to be a forum for ideas and points of view

underpinned by respect for one of our country’s most cherished rights enshrined in the First Amendment, freedom of speech.

Presenting the views of letter writers to public scrutiny and comment, even those we might disagree with and consider not worthy of comment, is in line with the values we honor on July Fourth. Censoring those views is not.

This Fourth of July, in spite of deep and unsettling differences, most of us should put aside political differences and complaints to celebrate the existence of a nation that at its birth had little chance of survival. That it was born, and endured a cataclysmic civil war to remain 238 years later, an example — not perfect or without flaws — of hope for people around the world is a feat that deserves a national birthday party.

On Friday, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, edifices that honor George Washington, our first president, and Abraham Lincoln, our 16th president, will provide the backdrop for a spectacular fireworks display in our nation’s capitol. The mood will be festive, as it should be.

Throughout the year, a visit to the Lincoln Memorial provides a particularly sobering experience for any American. The immediate observation for one visitor was the number of people speaking in a variety of different languages, all in hushed tones which lent to the sense of reverence the memorial commands.

Today, Islanders will prepare with the rest of our country to celebrate the birth of a nation blessed by providence. It is easy to forget that our country once stood on the precipice of failure. When the issue was in doubt, there was a George Washington, there was an Abraham Lincoln, men of high-minded character who helped guide us forward.

Elsewhere today, we watch as Iraq disintegrates, Ukraine fractures, and cobbled together nations led by mendacious leaders across the globe spiral out of control. We can only pray that one day other people will be as fortunate as we are, and that our fortune will continue.

This morning, Oak Bluffs town leaders and representatives of several state agencies, including the Office of Fishing and Boating Access and the Division of Marine Fisheries, are scheduled to hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Oak Bluffs fishing pier. Islanders and visitors have already begun to make good use of the handsome structure, which expands on the town’s already inviting waterfront boardwalk and strolling opportunities.

The state picked up the cost of construction, about $1 million, using a combination of funding sources that included Mass saltwater license revenues and federal Wallop-Breaux Trust funds, money generated through excise taxes levied on sport fishing and boating equipment.

Under the terms of its agreement with the state, Oak Bluffs is responsible for day-to-day maintenance, public safety, and policing.

The idea for a fishing pier began with the rebuilding of the Oak Bluffs Steamship Authority terminal. The original idea was to incorporate a fishing platform into the pier. That plan disappeared after 9/11, due to security concerns, but not the idea.

For several years, a group of fishermen led by David Nash of Edgartown quietly pressed for a fishing pier. They found support among Oak Bluffs town leaders and in the Office of Fishing and Boating Access, led by longtime director Jack Sheppard, a man who has worked mightily over the years to provide public access to the state’s waterways for all citizens.

The fishing pier project ties in with efforts by Oak Bluffs leaders to revitalize the downtown area and generally enhance the town’s welcoming atmosphere. Work will soon begin on a multi-million dollar plan to rebuild the entire seawall and add a boardwalk at North Bluff.

In the years to come, Island fishermen will take advantage of the pier to introduce kids to the fun of catching a scup, lovers will stroll along its length in quiet conversation, and visitors will be able to sit on one of the many wooden benches and admire the view.

Today’s ceremony marks the end of a long navigation through a series of local, state, and federal permitting agencies. In all, the project took more than a decade, but the end result was well worth the effort. Oak Bluffs can take pride in the latest addition to its public projects and the entire Island will be the beneficiary.

A salute to Edson Rodgers

Islanders who attended the Flag Day concert by the members of the Navy Band Northeast from Newport, R.I., at the Tabernacle on Saturday night enjoyed quite a treat. The band performed a medley of tunes to the great delight of the audience, many of whom waved small American flags, purchased prior to the concert from entrepreneurial Boy Scouts.

American Legion Post 257 in Vineyard Haven organized the free concert as part of a celebration earlier in the day to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Veterans Memorial Park. The evening began with neighbors greeting neighbors and the excited chatter of children. It was a quintessential Island event that reflected the spirit and patriotism of our small community.

Wielding a conductor’s baton and smiling broadly, Lt. Commander Carl J. Gerhard stood erect in a finely tailored, white dress jacket and led the Navy band through its paces with the precision of an aircraft carrier takeoff. But the star of the show was retired Navy chief Edson Rodgers of Edgartown, who conceived of and organized the band’s Island visit.

It was no small task, given the logistics and paperwork involved. Navy Band Northeast is attached to the Naval War College at Naval Station Newport. The group performs over 500 engagements annually in an 11-state area. Band members travel in four 15-passenger vans and carry their equipment in a 26-foot truck.

Mr. Rodgers served with the Navy Band Northeast before he retired in 1987. Lt. Cdr. Gerhard, who will retire in two months, worked with Mr. Rodgers when he was one of the senior instructors at the Naval School of Music in Virginia. His affection for his former teacher was obvious when he invited Mr. Rodgers to bring his trumpet on stage and perform with the band.

At the conclusion of the performance of “My Way” — done “The Navy way,” Edson Rodgers said —  Mr. Rodgers received a standing ovation from the crowd and a salute from his former pupil. Both were well deserved.

What do the main streets in Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, and Vineyard Haven have in common? If you answered eyesores in prime business locations owned by the Hall family, you would be correct.

Let’s take inventory.

There is the “yellow house” on the corner of Main and Summer streets in Edgartown, a location in the heart of town that would quicken the pulse of any high-end retailer looking for a spot to catch the attention of the summer crowd. Instead of welcoming shoppers, it is inviting only to termites.

The house, built in 1850 and currently assessed at more than $2 million, has sat vacant since 2003, when a wrangle between the Halls and the town over the removal of a grand, old shade tree began. The Halls wanted to cut the tree. The town said no. We will spare you the details of the court case — which the Halls lost in July 2013 — and the expressions of good faith and a desire to work together and the names of architects engaged. One decade later and there it sits, neglected in one of the state’s wealthiest towns.

How is that possible?

In Vineyard Haven, moviegoers no longer regularly line up outside the Capawock Theater on Main Street to see the almost latest release. For years, in summer and winter, Islanders treasured the neighborhood experience of meeting friends in line and catching up on local news before the lights dimmed. The Capawock is a labor of love for Benjamin “Buzzy” Hall, projectionist, ticket-taker and family patriarch. His efforts to keep it alive deserve our gratitude. For now, it is mostly unused. A sign on the front advertises it as space for hire.

Tisbury selectmen would do well to question what is to become of this crumbling Main Street linchpin.

Then there are the Strand and Island theaters in Oak Bluffs. Islanders with fond summer memories of a movie and a stroll along Circuit Avenue with an ice cream in hand must cringe at the sight of these buildings.

There is no question that changes in technology and the business model have altered the neighborhood movie business for good. It would be unfair to fault the Hall family for closing the doors on a money-losing operation. But it is fair to ask, what next?

Oak Bluffs leaders have embarked on an effort to revitalize their downtown. The state of these buildings and the lack of action by the Hall family have given way to frustration.

“I’m fed up; we’re all fed up,” Oak Bluffs selectman Walter Vail said at the conclusion of the May 27 meeting of the Oak Bluffs board of selectmen, as Barry Stringfellow reports in this week’s issue.

The Hall family assures town leaders that they are doing their best to address structural and cosmetic issues with both buildings but continue to encounter unforeseen problems. Plans are in the works, engineers consulted, but there they sit, two sizeable buildings in the Island’s most vibrant tourist town left to crumble. Instead of anchoring the business district, they drag it down.

A consultant’s report titled Circuit Avenue Business District Peer Review and dated December 3, 2013, described part of the problem in Oak Bluffs. “Private investor cooperation is also part of the economic downturn in the Circuit Avenue village business district. New investments, such as the new ballroom, stand side-by-side with vacant movie theaters. These two vacant structures also grace the entry to the village. Dead space detracts from shoppers desires to walk any further. These two structures, located at the end of a rather empty walk from the ferry terminals, deter people from walking into the village. A major public/private partnership is needed to re-energize these structures. Oak Bluffs may even want to consider creation of a redevelopment entity with adequate financial resources to quickly act to ensure vacant structures do not become a drain on nearby merchants.”

In terms of the number of properties, the Hall family may well be the single largest owners of commercial property on the Vineyard. Certainly, they own some of the Island’s most significant properties. The consultant’s recommendation is applicable to all three towns.

It is time to look down the road past the lawsuits and the acrimony and the excuses and accusations on both sides. We want to believe that the Halls want what is best for their family and the Island’s interests. Now is the time for leaders in each town and the Halls to sit down and work to forge a public-private partnership that will benefit the community as a whole.

As a war-weary America contemplates the end of major combat in Afghanistan and a conflict with no certain victory lap, just a political off ramp, we recall a day 70 years ago when the nation was united in purpose and American soldiers led the invasion of Normandy that would ultimately free Europe from the horrors of Nazi tyranny and end the ambitions of Adolf Hitler.

Americans are familiar with the grainy, black-and-white newsreel images of D-Day, June 6, 1944. More than 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline. By the end of the day, more than 9,000 Allied soldiers were killed or wounded. The archival footage provides only a glimpse of an experience that few could have contemplated that day without hesitation about the task that lay ahead.

For Nelson Bryant of West Tisbury, a member of the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division, now 91, and Fred “Ted” Morgan of Edgartown, a member of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, now 92, the sights, sounds, and memories of that day so long ago remain strong.

Mr. Bryant, longtime outdoor writer for the New York Times, said that as the years go by his memories of the war consume a larger part of his thoughts. In his memoirs, a draft of which he provided to The Times, he writes, “A month or so before D-Day, I was surprised, delighted and deeply touched to be visited by a fellow paratrooper from the Vineyard, Fred B. (Ted) Morgan, Jr. of Edgartown. Ted, against whom I had played high school football on the Vineyard, had already — with the 505 Parachute Infantry Regiment — been in Sicily and Salerno. He was there to wish me well and to give me an idea of what lay ahead.”

Nelson Bryant lunged out the door of a shuddering C-47 at about 2:30 am on D-Day. As he described it, “Curving skeins of tracer bullets were hurtling past and after my ‘chute yanked me upright I heard for the first time the tearing snarl of fully automatic German machine pistols, so unlike the slower thumping of our B.A.R.s (Browning automatic rifles) or other automatic weapons.”

His third day in Normandy, while on patrol, he was shot through the chest with a 52-caliber machine gun bullet. Another member of his patrol was killed. After lying wounded for three days in a hedgerow he was transported to a hospital in the Wales countryside. While healing he learned that his unit had returned to Nottingham, and was soon going to make another jump.

In a telephone conversation Tuesday, Mr. Bryant said, “I never thought I would want to pick up a gun or shoot a gun again. But I couldn’t bear the thought of my buddies going into Holland without me.” Without permission, he left the hospital and joined his unit.

It was a young man steeped in what his notion of patriotism was.”

Nelson Bryant would make the jump in Holland and later fight in the Battle of the Bulge.

Asked about his wartime experience, he said, “I feel that at least once in my life I measured up as a man.”

In a telephone conversation Tuesday, Mr. Morgan, retired from a long and distinguished career in public service, said the events of 70 years ago remain vivid in his memory.

Mr. Morgan, who served as a medic, made four combat jumps, experiencing the horrors of war firsthand. “I saw anything and everything that could possibly happen to the human body and did the best I could to take care of people,” he said. “Many of them, of course, couldn’t live but many of them, I figure, medics like myself, saved their lives.”

Medics carried bandages and medicine, not weapons. “Being on the front lines is an experience very few people in a country like ours experience,” Mr. Morgan said. “The thoughts and the accomplishments and the deeds, they stay with you.”

The sheer number of wounded was sometimes overwhelming, he said, “but you had to do the best you could for each one.”

On Friday, Mr. Morgan will spend D-Day with his wife and daughter at The National World War II Museum, formerly known as the National D-Day Museum, in New Orleans, Louisiana. He is a frequent volunteer and will spend part of the day speaking to museum visitors and showing them around.

“I am a proud veteran of World War II,” Mr. Morgan said, “and I am fortunate to be alive and to do what I am doing.”

Martha’s Vineyard is fortunate to have Mr. Bryant and Mr. Morgan. Anyone who has the opportunity to speak to either gentleman on D-Day, or any day, may count themselves fortunate as well.

It is that time of the year when we ask, what do we get for our county tax dollars? Reporting on the annual county spending plan can be yawn inspiring, but it is wise to ask the Dukes County commissioners and the Dukes County advisory board that question. It lets them know we are interested.

The problem is too few taxpayers ask the question. The county budget has become the spindly rhododendron in the yard that you water, and not because it generates many flowers, or is even attractive. It is in the yard and you don’t want to dig it up and move it, or cut it, so you water it.

Dukes County taxpayers will chip in $500,000 to fund the $1.5 million county budget that begins with the new fiscal year on July 1. Their sizeable contribution will come in the form of individual town assessments.

Unlike a town budget that appears on an annual town meeting warrant and is reviewed on town meeting floor where interested voters (too few, we think) may question department spending, the county budget process occurs pretty much out of sight, and far from the consciousness of most taxpayers. County money comes right off the top of the tax dollar pot.

As Steve Myrick reports in this week’s issue, on May 21 the county advisory board (CAB) approved the county budget. The CAB, made up of one selectman from each town, rejected a hike in the assessment each town pays to the county and requested the county return $150,000 to the towns from surplus county funds. It was a good start.

Under the equalized valuation formula, Edgartown taxpayers this year paid $179,374. Chilmark, with the next highest assessment, paid $89,687, followed by Oak Bluffs ($69,825), Tisbury ($69,331), West Tisbury ($64,644) and Aquinnah ($18,998). That’s a lot of dough.

The need to reference county as opposed to Island taxpayers rests on the town of Gosnold, which includes Cuttyhunk, the one portion of the Elizabeth Islands that is inhabited year-round. It is part of Dukes County.

If Island taxpayers ought to question what they get for their money, how about the residents of Gosnold, who will be asked — no, strike that — told to chip in $6,908. It is not a lot of money, but it is likely that the fewer than 100 people who live on the islands year round would prefer to take that money and send out for pizza several times over the long winter months. That would at least provide something for their tax dollars they could bite into.

Longtime Edgartown selectman and finance board chairman Art Smadbeck has worked hard over the years to pare the county budget. Smart and ever optimistic, Mr. Smadbeck sees the county glass as half full.

Asked by Mr. Myrick what taxpayers will receive from the $1.5 million county spending plan, Mr. Smadbeck described the need to water the plant.

“We have a political entity that we’ve all inherited, that costs money to operate,” Mr. Smadbeck said. “It costs less money today than it used to cost. We’ve been getting the cost down. The value of the political entity is just that, it’s a political entity that can be used for rescuing the MSPCA if that’s necessary. It’s a regional entity that can be used for regional purposes such as finding a home for the Center for Living. Statutorily, we have to have the county, we have to pay for the county.”

Of the fourteen counties in Massachusetts that made it to the administration of Governor William Weld (1991-1997), four county governments were abolished outright. Five transformed into regional councils of government. Only Bristol, Dukes, Nantucket, Norfolk and Plymouth county governments remained substantially unchanged.

Asked the same question as Mr. Smadbeck, Melinda Loberg, newly elected Tisbury selectman and former county commissioner, ticked off veterans services, the county treasurer’s accounting services, and the parking clerk. And initiatives, nominally under the county umbrella. She also emphasized the benefit of the county structure which, she said, “will provide an opportunity for towns when they choose to do so, to work together like we’re hoping to do with the Center for Living.”

Of course, Island towns are capable of providing regional services and funding regional programs and even crafting inter-municipal agreements outside the county umbrella.

In recent weeks, determined to do what no county manager before her has done before and show the county has a useful purpose, county manager Martina Thornton has been making the rounds of selectmen meetings to seek support for special legislation that would allow the county to organize the regional purchase, funded with town dollars, of the former Vineyard Nursing Association building, now on the market for $1.6 million, for use by the Martha’s Vineyard Center for Living.

The Center for Living is an Island-wide organization that offers care and services for residents aged 55 and over, including a supportive day program for frail elders, as well as Alzheimers and dementia patients. The building is too large for their needs, but there is the thought that excess space could be rented out to help pay the freight.

There is no question that the center should have a permanent home. There is a question whether the VNA building is the right building and whether the county, or an Island social service organization should organize a purchase. It is not too early to ask questions.

Five years ago, Yvonne (Berube) Sylvia of Edgartown walked into the office of The Martha’s Vineyard Times carrying a large blue scrapbook. On the cover was a piece of tape, on which she had written: “Brother Edmund J. Berube. Born August 18, 1918. Killed March 3, 1945.”

The book, its pages frail and yellowed over time, contained photos, letters, documents and clippings Mrs. Sylvia had assembled to preserve the memory of her brother and to document his accomplishments.

By all accounts, Edmund Berube was a gifted athlete who excelled at track and basketball. He co-captained Edgartown High School’s 1935-36 championship basketball team and was president of his senior class. He worked at the Colonial Drug Store, owned by Len Henrickson.

He entered the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy in the spring of 1941. Just as in high school, Mr. Berube was very popular with his classmates and was elected president of his senior class. He expected to finish college and to return to Edgartown to work at the Colonial Drug Store.

As the fighting on all the war’s fronts grew in intensity, there was a dire need for men with the type of medical training provided by the College of Pharmacy. In 1943, Mr. Berube and the 72 other members of the class of 1944 learned that there would be no break, but that they would attend classes and graduate on October 27 as part of an accelerated wartime program.

Lewis Lappas of Boston, valedictorian of the first class of 1943, described the disruption the war had created in the professional and personal plans of his classmates as part of his graduation oration delivered that February. “We must lay aside our plans for further study, our hopes for marriage, for homes, for professional careers,” he said to his fellow graduates. “Undoubtedly these things will come to most of us in time, but not immediately; and they will come to none unless we gladly postpone them now in order to do our share in the re-creation of the kind of American world in which such things will again be possible.”

Two months after he received a bachelor of science degree in pharmacy, Mr. Berube joined the Navy.

The scrapbook contained 15 letters Mr. Berube sent to his sister between the time he arrived in the Pacific and landed on Iwo Jima with the Third Marine Division. The first envelope was dated October 7, 1944, the last, February 15, 1945.

Mr. Berube was with Marines who had already had experience fighting the Japanese. If he was worried or concerned because of what he had learned and consequently what he might expect, he never shared such anxious thoughts with his sister.

On February 13, five days before the first wave of Marines landed on the black volcanic soil of Iwo Jima, Mr. Berube sent his last letter to his sister. He criticized some of the movies shown to the troops but wrote not a word of the upcoming battle or non-stop bombardment of the island that he witnessed. He wrote about photos he recently received. “I really like your picture and also the one with Albert [her husband]. They really made me feel wonderful all over, it took me back to the days when you were in school in Boston and all the fun we had. That of course is one of the things we have to help us though blue days. I do not like to look back, but rather ahead to the future when everything can be done as you want and have your good times as normal humans. I hope some day I can walk into someplace out here and meet someone from Edgartown.”

Mr. Berube’s unit landed on Iwo Jima, on February 22. On March 3, a Japanese sniper shot Edmund Berube as he was crawling over a stone to help a wounded Marine. He was 26 years old and one of the 6,800 servicemen killed in a battle defined by its unrestrained ferocity.

At the request of his mother, his body was returned from Iwo Jima, in April 1948.

Edmund Berube is buried in Edgartown cemetery next to members of his family.

Last Tuesday, in Texas, Command Sgt. Maj. Martin R. Barreras, 49, of Tucson, Ariz., died at San Antonio Military Medical Center from wounds sustained when enemy forces opened fire on his unit May 6 in Herat province, Afghanistan.

Mr. Barreras was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Infantry, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, Fort Bliss, Texas. He had completed several combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. In March 2013, Mr. Barreras was assigned as the senior enlisted adviser for the 2nd Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment, and deployed to Afghanistan in December 2013.

Command Sgt. Maj. Barreras is survived by a wife, two daughters and a son.

His was the most recent combat death in a 13-year-old war that began in 2001 and has now claimed 2,322 lives and added to the sad weight of scrapbooks in homes across America.

Memorial Day is set aside for the nation to honor men and women who died in the military service of the country. On Monday most of us will go about the business of enjoying holiday activities but it would be well, if even for a moment, to remember the sacrifice Memorial Day is meant to commemorate.