Members of the American Legion in Tisbury participated in a Wreaths Across America ceremony Friday morning, a national military tribute with the motto, “Remember. Honor. Teach.”
In the face of a constant icy breeze, Legion members stood at attention in the Oak Grove Cemetery, and one by one they laid wreaths before the honor roll in recognition of the U.S. Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, Merchant Marine, and Navy. A wreath was also placed to honor prisoners of war, and those missing in action from all the armed services.
The effort is part of a national campaign started in 1992 by Morrill Worcester of Maine, and the nonprofit Wreaths Across America was incorporated in 2007. A photograph of the wreaths decorating graves at Arlington National Cemetery in the snow helped propel the organization into the national spotlight, and other cemeteries have joined the effort nationwide.
Following a moment of silence and prayer, the Rev. Bob Barnett, chaplain of the Legion, told those gathered his words came on behalf of all the Vineyard’s veterans.
“We remember those who have given their lives in defense of our country,” Barnett said. “We honor those who serve and have served in the armed forces, along with their families. We teach the next generation about the value of freedom. We know we live in a society made up of many people, many races, from many walks of life. We are all proud to be Americans. We’re one nation, with one flag. So let us be Americans worth fighting for.”
Barnett enumerated some of the freedoms Americans enjoy: freedom to vote for our leaders and freedom to publicly disagree with them; freedom of success or failure in “whatever endeavor we wish to pursue”; and freedom to “worship as we please.”
Quoting President Ronald Regan, Barnett said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” He went on to say freedom isn’t inherited, but fought for, and is to be guarded by successive generations.
“Friends, every one of us lives in freedom because of the sacrifices made by men and women in earlier generations on far-away battlefields in wars and conflicts that America had to fight to protect the innocent and the oppressed. We’re here today because many of you have answered the call of duty and served your county.”
The pastor added many Americans are now serving across the globe: “We honor them and their families for their sacrifices, and thank them for keeping out country safe from terrorism, from hatred, from injustice — those things that plague our world community.”
Ahead of the playing of “Taps” by retired Tisbury Fire Chief John Schilling, Barnett said, “We hope that each of us will cherish our freedom and live in a manner that treats everyone with dignity and honor. May we respect and defend the rights of all Americans, from every race and background, every religion and creed and political affiliation — even those with whom we disagree. Let the high price paid by our fallen comrades be the catalyst for justice, fairness, and sacrifice on behalf of others, and let their lives and their deaths propel us to love our country.”