Parade and ceremony honors Martha’s Vineyard veterans

The U.S. Coast Guard Station Menemsha color guard, flanked by Island veterans, leads the parade to Ocean Park. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

Flags waved in a crisp breeze under a cloudy sky Tuesday morning as Island veterans marched down Lake Avenue, to the applause of Islanders who lined the street, to Ocean Park for a ceremony that began at the 11th hour, on the 11th day of the 11th month, in commemoration of the time and date of the signing of the Armistice with Germany that ended World War I in 1918.

The marchers included Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, color guards from Coast Guard Station Menemsha and the Dukes County Sheriff’s Office, Oak Bluffs selectmen, a contingent of first responders from Oak Bluffs and Edgartown, State Police, and a representative from the Martha’s Vineyard Harley Riders. Family members and well-wishers gathered at the start of the short parade route at the head of Oak Bluffs harbor in front of Nancy’s restaurant for the start of the annual Veterans Day parade, one of hundreds of remembrances large and small across the country, to honor those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces.

At the end the short march, Peter Herrmann, a member of Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 9261 and long-time parade organizer and host, called upon Lt. Col. David Berube, USAF, a chaplain in the National Guard Reserves and Oak Bluffs police officer, for an opening prayer.

“As we gather today, we remember our comrades who have been deployed throughout our country and around the world on behalf of our nation and our freedom,” Colonel Berube said. “Give to them and their families a sense of your peace, be with those who are prisoners or missing in action, and be with the families of the fallen, Lord.”

Mr. Herrmann led everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance. Emily Hewson, a freshman at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, performed a solo of the National Anthem. Mr. Herrmann noted in his remarks that for the fourth year in a row, Oak Bluffs was designated a regional site for the observance of Veterans Day by the Veterans Day National Committee. He and Dukes County director of veterans services Jo Ann Murphy were responsible for submitting the application that led to Oak Bluffs being selected as one of 67 regional sites this year, and the only one in Massachusetts.

Mr. Herrmann introduced Ms. Murphy and noted her recent selection as the Massachusetts Veteran Service Officer of the Year by state Secretary of Veterans’ Services Coleman Nee, which brought applause from the crowd.

Ms. Murphy read a message from U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald sent for inclusion in the ceremony: “On Veterans’ Day, we pause to express our gratitude to those who have served our country, and to remember the sacrifices, large and small, physical and emotional, they have made. These individuals prioritized our country over themselves.

“We must continue to honor and provide them the benefits and services they have earned and deserve, no matter if those who wore a uniform never saw combat or never left U.S. soil. Each one is a veteran, and deserves to be honored, not only on Veterans Day but every day.”

Secretary McDonald also expressed appreciation for the support shown to the Veterans Administration by so many Americans, and offered special thanks to the Oak Bluffs Veterans Day regional site organizers.

“You recognize the bravery veterans have shown, and the many sacrifices they have made,” Mr. McDonald said. “We know we can rely on you to continue being an example of how all Americans should honor those who have defended our everyday freedom.”

Mr. Hermann invited Kristin Pucino-Gibson of Tisbury and her son Aden, 11, to place a wreath in front of the World War I memorial in memory of her cousin, Staff Sergeant (SSG) Matthew A. Pucino.

A member of the U.S. Army Special Forces’ Green Berets, SSG Pucino was killed in action on November 23, 2009, in Pashay Kala, Afghanistan. A gun salute followed the wreath-laying, in honor of soldiers who lost their lives during their service.

The ceremony concluded with “Taps,” played on the trumpet by American Legion Post 257 member Edson Rodgers, followed by a solo of “Amazing Grace” sung by Ms. Hewson.