Each year on Memorial Day, volunteers head to Oak Grove Cemetery in Vineyard Haven after first light and begin setting up the Avenue of the Flags to honor and remember service members who have died. Usually, it takes hours to set up the 450 American flags that line the roadway through the cemetery, but this year with the help of over 20 volunteers it was finished in a fraction of that time.

“It only took us about half an hour,” Commander Joann Murphy said proudly. “Last year we only had six people, and I was one of those six. God, I was tired by the end of it.”

Later in the morning, at 10:30 a.m., the annual Memorial Day parade set off from American Legion Post #257 to the Oak Grove Cemetery. Veterans, public safety officials and members of the local boy and girl scout troops marched, while Vineyarders lined the streets celebrating the marchers and what they stood for.

Commander JoAnn Murphy addresses the crowd. — Mark Alan Lovewell

Upon gathering in the cemetery after marching down the Avenue of the Flags, a solemn celebration was held for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Martin “Skip” Tomassian said he has participated in the annual Fourth of July parade for over 40 years, and the Memorial Day parade for nearly as long, albeit less frequently.

“This is a solemn day,” he said. “The Fourth of July is a celebration, but this is solemn.”

Boy Scout “cub master” Molly Scarborough said the event is an important lesson in reverence, one of the Boy Scouts’ core principles.

Honoring the fallen. — Mark Alan Lovewell

“Parades are all about reverence and respect,” she said. “They have a pretty good understanding [of the day] thanks to the school system...and they also understand that the rest of the day can be embracing what was fought for.”

Tisbury fire department chaplain and Grace Episcopal Church pastor Reverend Stephen Harding gave the commemorative address.

“Find something to serve that’s bigger than you are,” he told the crowd. “Something that serves the common good.”

Commander Murphy said her first time organizing as a commander was in 1999. This year’s large turnout surprised even her.

John Schilling plays Taps. — Mark Alan Lovewell

“I was amazed,” she said. “Maybe it was the nice weather, maybe with everything going on people wanted to stop and remember those who had fought for us.”

Commander Murphy said her favorite part of the ceremony is the National Anthem, performed by Natalie Gold. Years ago, when the scheduled singer was a no-show, Ms. Gold offered to step in at the last moment. Commander Murphy said yes, even though she had never heard Ms. Gold sing before.

“I’m standing there at the podium like, is anybody gonna show up and she tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘I can sing the National Anthem, but I can only do it a cappella,’” Commander Murphy said. “I didn’t even know what a cappella was at the time.”

Ms. Gold has been singing the National Anthem at the service ever since.

“She has a beautiful voice,” Commander Murphy said. “I can’t sing, just ask any of my old girl scouts, so if you can sing I think that’s beautiful.”

More pictures.