Spectators waved their small flags as they watched the veterans march down the road. The Dukes County Sheriff’s Honor Guard followed as a member called out: “Left, right, left, right!”
On Monday, the Martha’s Vineyard Memorial Day Parade was held in Vineyard Haven. It was hosted by American Legion Post 257. Veterans, law enforcement officers, and members of Cub Scout Pack 90 and Boy Scouts Troop 93 were a part of the procession. The parade began at the American Legion building and ended at the Oak Grove Cemetery, located across the street from the parking lot.
There were some worries about whether the weather would allow the parade, but after a weekend of rain and wind, there was only a light drizzle. The Tisbury Police Department supported the parade by escorting them through the streets. The sheriff and police chiefs of Aquinnah, Oak Bluffs, and Tisbury also participated in the parade. Dukes County Sheriff Robert Ogden said it was good to see everyone’s faces again, and to “remember our fallen heroes.”
The Tisbury Fire Department used their truck’s ladder to hold up the American flag as the flagpole’s rope broke, so the lowering of the flag could not be done.
The procession stopped in the section of the cemetery on State Road. Jo Ann Murphy, Legion commander, led the order of events. She also read the names of Martha’s Vineyard’s service members who passed away.
The Rev. Stephen Harding of Grace Episcopal Church led two prayers, one in memory of veterans who have passed, and one in memory of those killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, “for the memories revisited in private, or with those who would understand.”
Tisbury select board member Larry Gomez read the Memorial Day Proclamation by Gov. Charlie Baker, with words hoping “all Massachusetts citizens remember their [service members’] bravery.”
Cub Scout members Conner MacKracken and Grace DeSilva read the Pledge of Allegiance. This was followed by a performance of the national anthem by Natalie Wood, who has been singing it for Memorial Day for around 15 years now.
Maj. James Hagerty, who is Edgartown’s town administrator and a veteran of the U.S. Marines, was the guest speaker for the event. He recalled his uncle, Army Sgt. William Hagerty, the “Tisbury Kid,” who served and died in Vietnam. Hagerty said he named his son after his uncle. Hagerty keeps a copy of the story detailing his uncle’s death on his wall, and plans to explain the significance of it to his son when the right time comes.
Two veterans, part of the Firing Detail, shot their rifles three times in salute to fallen service members. The ringing shots were followed by “Taps,” performed on the trumpet by retired Tisbury Fire Chief John Schilling.
The event concluded with the placing of wreaths. The wreaths were placed in front of the memorials honoring Islanders who served in World War I, the Vietnam War, 9/11 victims, and the “unknown dead of the Union Army and Navy” of the Civil War. The first three memorials are located on the State Road side of the cemetery, while the Civil War memorial is in the part of the cemetery across from Tisbury School. The procession took one last march to the American Legion building to conclude the event..
According to Murphy, the Memorial Day Parade was originally held on a yearly rotational basis among Vineyard Haven, Oak Bluffs, and Edgartown. Now it is led exclusively in Vineyard Haven by the American Legion, while Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9261 in Oak Bluffs holds Veterans Day events, and Edgartown holds Fourth of July events. In 2020, there was no parade because of COVID-19, but a small, informal event was held. There were some difficulties in getting the parade prepared this year, but Murphy worked through it since “our veterans go through so much more than standing out in a little rain.”
Murphy said there was an importance in including the Scout members in the Memorial Day events. “If we don’t involve our children in remembering Memorial Day, who’s going to remember it when we’re gone? They need to know why we do this. We have to pass it on, because we don’t want anybody to forget.” Murphy said she can’t “thank everybody enough” for everyone who was a part of the parade and for the supportive spectators. “It was great to see the community come together, even on such a lousy day,” she said.
James Craig, who was an ensign in the Navy, said that Memorial Day was a tribute to the friends who didn’t come home, and is the most important of the military holidays to him. “To not do it last year was kind of heartbreaking,” he said about the parade, which happens “rain or shine.” Craig also said it is important to teach young people, like the Scouts, about the sacrifices people have made for their country.
Craig wore a bracelet in memory of a shipmate who was killed in the 9/11 Pentagon attack. He said a number of veterans wore the bracelets in memory of someone close to them who died. “We all have some friends that aren’t here today,” said Craig.