‘The ones who did not come back’

Memorial Day parade pays tribute to the veterans who died.


Spectators clapped and shouted words of support as the procession of veterans, first responders, and young scouts marched their way down Pine Tree Road during the annual Martha’s Vineyard Memorial Day Parade in Vineyard Haven.

Hosted by American Legion Post 257, spectators and participants moved from West William Street toward Oak Grove Cemetery’s Avenue of Flags, where the ceremony was held under a bright Monday morning sun. 

The Tisbury Police Department escorted the procession and managed the traffic for the parade. First responder leaders on the Island, such as Dukes County Sheriff Robert Ogden and Aquinnah Police Chief Randhi Belain, also participated in the parade. 

“We’re very proud to remember and honor our veterans,” Ogden said. 

The ceremony began with Legion Commander Jo Ann Murphy, who led the order of events, welcoming and thanking the crowd once everyone was settled in at the cemetery. There were some technical difficulties with the microphone that made segments of the speeches difficult to hear, but the event went smoothly otherwise. 

Members of the Girls Scouts and Boys Scouts helped with the ceremony — lowering the flag and leading the Pledge of Allegiance. A performance of the National Anthem was done by Natalie Wood, who has been performing it on Memorial Day for about 16 years.

Former Legion commander and chaplain David Berube led the gathering prayer, thanking God “for all those things that make us American.” He extended a message of gratitude to both veterans and active servicemembers. Later during the ceremony, the Rev. Stephen Harding of Grace Episcopal Church read the Firemen’s Prayer, which he addressed as “a prayer for all first responders.” 

This year’s guest speaker was Randy Dull, the new veterans service officer for Dukes County, and a retired U.S. Army staff sergeant. He said that Memorial Day can be a time for people to enjoy the company of friends and family over barbecue, but it is also an opportunity to remember those who “made the ultimate sacrifice.” Dull talked about servicemembers he served alongside who did not make it back, even if they did return to America. One soldier lost his life in Iraq. Another soldier, who survived an ambush by enemy troops in Afghanistan, “succumbed to his demons” and committed suicide. Dull choked up when talking about these men. 

After Dull’s speech, Murphy returned to the podium to read the names of veterans Martha’s Vineyard lost this year. This was followed by the placing of wreaths at the various memorials, from the Civil War to the September 11 memorial. One echoing shot from the firing detail was done in salute to fallen comrades. Retired Tisbury Fire Chief John Schilling played “Taps” on the trumpet. 

The ceremony concluded in front of the Merchant Marine Memorial at the Legion. 

Murphy told The Times the turnout was better than last year, but the number of veterans the community lost has also increased. 

“We’re losing World War II, Korea, Vietnam [veterans], believe it or not,” Murphy said. “But thank God for everyone who came out.” 

Dull said he was thankful for the amount of support the Martha’s Vineyard community provides to veterans. 

“I love how they back the veterans,” Dull said. He also said there was a good turnout for the veterans. “I can’t say enough good stuff about the veterans. We have a bunch of great guys.”

Memorial Day elicits different meanings for each person. Andre St. Germain, who was stationed in France while serving in the U.S. Army Medical Corps during the Vietnam War, feels the holiday brings out people’s belief in America. He participates in the parade every year. 

“It’s a very, very poignant event. It’s Americana,” St. Germain said. “It’s a ragtag group of people who really believe what they’re doing.”

For Walter Burke, who served in the U.S. Navy, Memorial Day reminds him of those he lost. All three of his brothers also served in the Navy, and the eldest passed away eight years ago. One event in particular he remembered was in 1967: the “horrendous fire” on the USS Forrestal, the aircraft carrier he was serving on. Burke said “all hell broke loose” when the fire erupted on the flight deck. 

“It killed 134 guys that day, with bombs exploding and everything else,” Burke told The Times. “I think of those guys a lot. The ones who did not come back.”



    • Hi, Quentin. I’m the photographer and it was my suggestion to the Times to run this in B&W. I’m sorry you feel that atmosphere was lost as a result. Respectfully, I feel the opposite; I feel the B&W is more consistent with and respectful of the atmosphere and tenor of this solemn occasion. I respect your feelings, of course, and wanted to share mine. Many thanks for taking the time to comment.

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