My love story began on this Island. Maybe it was the touch of warm sand on Inkwell Beach or the sweet aroma from the Fourth of July cookout, but the love of this place that felt like home gave me courage. Courage to overlook the butterflies and ask the woman I was falling in love with to be my girlfriend. I felt an inner happiness when she said yes. She said yes again six months later, when I dropped down on one knee. But in that moment on the beach, two love stories came together.
My love for the Island had begun many summers before. And for the first time in eight years, I will be unable to make my annual trip to Martha’s Vineyard. My unit is being deployed to assist our NATO allies in Europe. And in less than five days, I will report for duty. On the week of July Fourth, I see this journey as an expression of another kind of love.
I remember this one summer, Jasmine and I invited about 16 friends to join us for the annual summer trip. Because there were so many of us, we all booked separate accommodations in several places along Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Haven. Jasmine planned an itinerary of group activities, including a bike ride. Everything started out great, we had a delicious breakfast at Biscuits, and in retrospect, it was a miracle to get reservations for that many people. We rented bikes from Anderson’s, and began our trek down Beach Road, starting from downtown Oak Bluffs and heading to the Edgartown Lighthouse. The ride was chill, we brought speakers in the baskets of our bikes to play tunes, and we made pit stops along the way to take selfies and pictures of the scenery. We arrived in Edgartown, and saw the breathtaking view of the Island from the top of the lighthouse.
On the ride back to Oak Bluffs, we were hit by what felt like a monsoon followed by torrential downpour. Our shoes were soaked, the roads were muddy, and since we put away the speakers, the only sounds we heard were thunder and lightning. The day didn’t go exactly as planned, but it remains one of my favorite moments on the Island. We completed the bike ride and celebrated with lobster rolls from Nancy’s — we made the orders to go so we could quickly change into dry clothes.
My time spent on this Island is another example that it is possible to fall in love with a place. Which brings me to the other kind of love I mentioned earlier. As a first-generation American, my love started long before my family and I were privileged to leave a refugee camp and arrive at a place that offered opportunity in exchange for hard work. My view of patriotism is proactive, it leads a young college student to pursue a career in education, a working single mother to fight for equal pay and affordable childcare, and first responders to put their lives in harm’s way to protect their neighbors. I am forever grateful for the love, acceptance, and community I have found during my summers on this Island. This is not a goodbye, it’s a “see you later.”
Silas Cooper resides in New York, N.Y., and serves in the U.S. Army’s 77th Sustainment Brigade, based in Fort Dix, N.J. He is also a cast member of the Bravo show “Summer House: Martha’s Vineyard.”