School children around the Island paid tribute Friday to the meaning of Memorial Day with March to the Sea traditions to remember those who gave the greatest sacrifice.

The events started in Chilmark, where soon after the school day began students from the Chilmark School stepped out of two yellow school buses and walked in a single-file line to the Menemsha Coast Guard station. The orderly line broke down once the students reached the station as excitement for the morning stirred. Teachers worked diligently to settle the crowd so that members of the Coast Guard could speak about the meaning of Memorial Day.

“Freedom isn’t free for all of us here,” petty officer Ryan Martyn said to the group. “Throughout our history in the United States, a lot of people have laid their lives down to make sure that we stay a free country. Memorial Day is basically us honoring those that have lost their lives to uphold freedom.”

Children had to battle with the wind on the Menemsha Harbor. — Albert O. Fischer

The group then walked down to the harbor, carrying white, pink, yellow and purple flowers that contrasted the gray, overcast sky. The gusty wind blew petals off the flowers, much to the chagrin of one student who fell behind the group to try to pick them up.

“When a piece of flower falls off, it’s okay,” a teacher said to the student as she urged him to catch up with his classmates.

Once everyone was settled at the harbor a representative from each class recited poetry and then Moses Thompson and Rasmus Mayhew played Taps on their trumpets. The fourth and fifth grade class wrote a poem called Our Flag which Rasmus recited on behalf of the class.

“We draw our courage from our flag,” Rasmus said. “It gives us our strength, our flag.”

After the duo played a solemn round of Taps it was time to release the flowers. But the wind made its presence known as it blew some flowers back onto the dock. The persistent students tried and tried but in the end the wind would not let up. Yellow and pink petals which did not make it to the sea dotted the dock.

“I wish that the wind had blown the other way,” principal Susan Stevens said.

At the Tisbury School students sang America the Beautiful. — Ray Ewing

At the Tisbury School, students from kindergarten to eighth grade lined up on the sidewalk as the school band practiced for the march to Owen Park. After a few minutes of chatter, brass and woodwinds, a whistle blew and the students fell in line.

When the parade reached Main street, the students were welcomed by a large audience, clapping and taking photos and videos.

Students then made their way to Owen Park, where another crowd met them and cheered. Principal John Custer began the ceremony with the pledge of allegiance, followed by the playing of Taps.

Then kindergartners led the way to the end of the dock, where they threw flowers one-by-one into the harbor.

“I love this event,” said superintendent Dr. Matthew D’Andrea. “It’s one of our favorite events of the school year.”

Tisbury School procession headed down Main Street on the way to Owen Park. — Ray Ewing

Tisbury school committee member Amy Houghton agreed. She said the event is especially meaningful to her as the daughter of a veteran.

“It’s got a special place for me in my heart,” she said. “And it’s great to be in-person.”

After speaking to the crowd, Mr. Custer shifted the hosting duties to eighth-graders Emily and Jane Coogan, who talked about the significance of the flowers placed in the harbor, representing the students’ gratitude toward the men and women honored on Memorial Day.

Former Veterans Affairs officer Jo Ann Murphy took the stage, urging those in attendance to treat Memorial Day as more than just a long weekend. She said veterans will place 450 flags in Oak Grove Cemetery on Monday.

“So if you’d like to see what it’s really about, come out and watch us place the flags,” she said.

Closing the ceremony, the band accompanied students as they sang America the Beautiful for two refrains under the lowered American flag.

Gesturing to the children as they stood under the flag, Ms. Houghton underscored the beauty of the long-standing tradition.

“I think that says it all right there,” she said.

Due to rain, Edgartown School students improvised in the gym. — Mark Alan Lovewell

In Edgartown, unexpected rain showers spurred a last-minute shift from the harbor to the school gymnasium, where rousing fanfares from the school’s Eagle Band announced the arrival of each grade as the children marched in with their flowers.

After passing in review before a file of seated dignitaries, including the entire town select board and police chief Bruce McNamee, students placed flowers on a cloth in the corner of the gym and took seats in the bleachers.

A salute to the flag was led by the fifth-grade class, the seventh-grade class recited Walt Whitman’s Oh Captain, My Captain and the eighth-grade class recited Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

Guest speaker James Hagerty, who is Edgartown’s town administrator, a former Oak Bluffs police officer and a decorated veteran — as well as a graduate of both the Edgartown School and the regional high school — wore his Marines uniform to address the town’s children.

“As most of you young men and women know, the world is a very scary place. I would argue that it gets a little scarier every day,” Mr. Hagerty said.

Edgartown School students recited Oh Captain, My Captain by Walt Whitman. — Mark Alan Lovewell

“Right now there is probably a 15 or 16 year old Ukrainian kid with an AK-47 manning a defensive position, waiting for another onslaught of Russian attacks,” he said. “A year ago that same kid was probably in school, probably played hockey, probably hung out with his friends, and probably did all the things kids do.”

Edgartown, in contrast, exists at a point of privilege and wealth, he continued, using the Memorial Wharf reconstruction as an example.

“We didn’t need to rebuild the wharf because of a Russian air strike. We didn’t need to rebuild the wharf because of a suicide bomber,” Mr. Hagerty said.

The town, and the rest of the United States, are kept safe from such attacks because of the country’s military strength, he said.

“Never forget those who have paid the ultimate price for the freedoms we enjoy on a daily basis,” he said.

The ceremony concluded with a performance of Taps on tenor saxophone by eighth-grader Syvius Rivera Rigali.

Pictures of Chilmark March to the Sea.

Pictures of Edgartown March to the Sea.

Pictures of Tisbury March to the Sea.