As per tradition, the Vineyard began its Memorial Day traditions on Friday led by the youngest members of the community, leaving their elementary schools to walk down to the various harbors and toss bouquets of flowers into the sea.

Kindergarten through fifth grade students at the Chilmark school started the day with a morning trip to Station Menemsha, where they heard about the meaning of Memorial Day from active U.S. military members. Following introductory remarks, Coast Guard petty officers took questions from the students, including: “how fast does your boat go,” “what is that bell behind you” and “how long do you stay here.”

One lucky student got to ring the historic Coast Guard bell, and then the march proper began, as teachers herded the group, slow and steady, to Dutcher dock, each child clutching a small bouquet of flowers.

Edgartown students prepare for their tradition at Memorial Wharf. — Jonathan Fleischmann

Thus gathered, a representative from each grade read a Memorial Day poem.

“Stars represent states / Soldiers help us find freedom / Hope is important,” read Enza, grade one, her own composition.

A moment of silence followed, then a performance of Taps by fourth grader Lorenzo Doyle, before the class tossed their flowers into the water.

In Edgartown, the students walked out of school at 1 p.m. and made their way to the Korean War memorial at the court house before gathering at Memorial Wharf. The student band played renditions of Caped Crusader and American Spirit March, led by band leader Ian Lisi.

Chilmark students march from Station Menemsha to Dutcher Dock. — Albert O. Fischer

“It’s so great to see fifth through eighth graders play together,” Mr. Lisi said later. “This is the only opportunity all year to have all ages in the same band.”

The seventh grade class recited Walt Whitman’s O Captain! My Captain!,  followed by the annual recitation of the Gettysburg Address by the eighth grade class.

This year’s guest speaker was Lt. James Craig, a former member of the Edgartown police department currently serving in the Marine Corps. Over the course of his career, Lieutenant Craig remarked that he has participated in countless Memorial Day events.

“The sense of loss is all the greater now that I’ve experienced a full life,” he said.

On the way to the water in Tisbury. — Jeanna Shepard

The older he gets, he said, the more he realizes what his departed colleagues will never experience. The lesson, he said, is to live life to the fullest in their stead.

“May you always live a life worthy of [their] sacrifice,” he told the crowd.

To cap off the ceremony, the seventh graders gathered up the remaining flowers brought in by the elementary school students and tossed them into Edgartown harbor. Demyen Heio performed Taps before students marched solemnly back to school.

In Tisbury, a commanding strike of the drums by the school band signaled the beginning of this year’s March to the Sea. Decked out in red, white and blue, and clutching flags and flowers, Tisbury School students of all grades marched from campus to Owen Park.

Feeling the moment. — Jeanna Shepard

Fifth grade trumpet player Isaac Rendon initiated the tossing of the flowers into the harbor with a performance of Taps, alongside instrumental music teacher Kathleen Cadorette. Kindergartners then led the way down the dock and were the first to drop bouquets in the water, creating a sea of bright color drifting past the boats.

“This is truly one of my most favorite events on the Island,” said parent Tricia Colon, who was watching the event with her daughter Esme Colon, a former Tisbury School student now finishing her freshman year at the regional high school. “It’s a great community thing before everything gets crazy [in the summer].”

After all the flowers were sent adrift, students, teachers and onlookers gathered on the lawn for an address by principal John Custer, eighth graders Zachary Biorci and Leena Khelafla, and retired U.S. Army sergeant JoAnn Murphy.

Edgartown school students gathered at Memorial Wharf. — Jonathan Fleischmann

The rest of the ceremony was a musical affair.

Mr. Biorci took the gazebo stage to sing the national anthem, and the school’s band accompanied the student body in a vocal and American Sign Language performance of America the Beautiful.

As families collected their students and conversations turned to cookouts and other holiday weekend festivities, Mr. Custer stood admiring the scene.

“I marched in this back in 1976 as a kindergartner,” he said. “When you turn from Spring street onto Main street and you see some of the same people waving from the same spot, that’s when it all hits me. It’s just a wonderful tradition.”

In memory. — Albert O. Fischer

Chilmark March to the Sea pictures.

Edgartown March to the Sea pictures.

Tisbury March to the Sea pictures.