The pride and spirit of all in attendance at the Tisbury School Memorial Day ceremony was overwhelming, despite the absence of hugs, handshakes, and crowds of onlookers.
Normally, the folks at the school hold a huge March to the Sea, honoring members of the U.S. armed forces who lost their lives defending our country. This time, there was no big parade, no old friends and former service members embracing in remembrance of fallen friends or family — but the ceremony served as a powerful reminder of the ultimate sacrifice that so many military personnel have given, and the reason for that sacrifice.
Everyone at the school wore masks and stood at a safe distance from one another. To start the ceremony, Tisbury School Principal John Custer thanked all those taking part, and said he feels proud to be able to honor those who gave their lives for our freedoms.
While Custer said he is disappointed the school could not hold a conventional ceremony with a parade and marching band, he noted the importance of this holiday, and gave thanks for the opportunity to remember lost service members.
The ceremony kicked off with eighth grader Katie Ogden reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at the front steps of the school. Afterward, Tisbury Fire Chief John Schilling and school music teacher Ray Fallon played “Taps,” echoing each other at opposite ends of the front parking lot.
Then, standing under a shade tree near the flagpole, seventh grader Lulu White and school vocals teacher Jessica Sanseverino sang the National Anthem in harmony. After the anthem, eighth grader Josh Pereria lowered the Stars and Stripes to half-staff, in recognition of the American lives lost in battle.
As the flag fluttered down the pole, former veterans’ agent Jo Ann Murphy, Navy veteran Mike Fontes, and Air National Guard Chaplain David Berube saluted.
After the ceremony concluded, Katie said that she thinks it’s good to celebrate those who gave their lives, and remember their dedication to our country. “They all deserve to be celebrated and remembered for what they gave,” Katie said.
Lulu’s father, Will White, said he enjoyed the ceremony, and was proud of his daughter for singing the anthem. Lulu said that, although the ceremony was a bit different from years past, she still felt it was a great tribute to our fallen armed forces members. “It’s important to try and commemorate those who sacrificed so much,” Lulu said. “Sure, it’s different this year, but the spirit is the same.”
A different-looking March to the Sea
A couple of hours later, Tisbury School held its March to the Sea with a twist made necessary by the ongoing pandemic.
Traditionally, on the Friday before Memorial Day, Tisbury School students honor American veterans by marching from the school to Owen Park and dropping flowers into the harbor.
This afternoon, Custer stood by the school’s entrance, joined by Assistant Principal Melissa Ogden and Officer Scott Ogden. Tisbury School students and their families drove by periodically, dropping bunches of flowers from home into a bucket manned by Custer.
The principal explained that around 1 p.m., he would take the bucket to Owen Park and drop the flowers into the harbor himself. “It’s a longtime tradition,” Custer said. “We felt a definite responsibility, and desire, to do something.”
Cars rolled through, passing a line of evenly spaced American flags positioned by Ogden and Custer. He admitted the turnout wasn’t as big as he’d hoped. “I thought we’d get two-thirds of the school coming through here,” Custer said.
Those who did participate seemed cheerful. The students, many of whom wore face coverings, offered flowers through their car windows. They spoke lightheartedly with Custer, who thanked them for coming by, and offered words of encouragement. Each student enthusiastically accepted an American flag pin from Custer’s gloved hand, courtesy of the American Legion.
“A lot of kids are desperate; they want to see the school,” Custer said. The principal admitted that he and Ogden miss the students too. “It’s good to see them,” Custer said.