Ocean City Today

Nominations open for annual OC Hometown Heroes display

More than 100 active duty and military veterans from Worcester already honored
By Greg Ellison | Feb 08, 2018
Source: File Photo World War II veteran and Navy Fireman 1st Class Jerome Krause poses next to his Hometown Heroes banner during last years presentation ceremony at the Elks Lodge on Sinepuxent Road

(Feb. 9, 2018) Nominations for the fifth annual Hometown Heroes Military Banner Program are being sought by the Ocean City Elks Lodge, which each summer honors Worcester County’s members of the armed services with patriotic displays on dozens of Boardwalk light poles.

The Elks were approved to continue the tradition, which since 2014 has paid tribute to more than a 100 active duty and military veterans, during the City Council meeting on Monday.

Elk’s veterans committee member Pat Riordan said the 2018 class is open to any active duty military or surviving World War II and Korean War veterans from Worcester County.

“This program started out with active duty members five years ago … to pay tribute to the kids and give them some recognition,” he said. “Two years ago, we added World War II and last year we added Korean War veterans.”

The first year, the Elks hung 20 banners on the south end of the Boardwalk, but eventually the effort doubled in size.

“Then two years later we got it expanded to 40,” Riordan said.

Deciding to take a larger scope, the decision was made to honor the dwindling number of WWII veterans, Riordan said.

“They’re dying so fast, we want to get recognition … as fast as we can,” he said. “Last year, we didn’t have enough so we went to Korean War veterans because they’re starting to die off too.”

The goal this year is to divide the pool with half active duty members and half surviving WWII and Korean War veterans, Riordan said.

“I’m trying to get living WWII veterans identified,” he said. “They have to be living when their banner goes up because there are thousands of deceased WWII and Korean War veterans.”

The Elks have scheduled its annual banner dedication ceremony for May 3 at the Firefighters Memorial on the Boardwalk at North Division Street.

In 2017, Riordan said only half a dozen active duty military members from Worcester County were nominated for the program.

“They don’t have to live here now because they’re probably stationed elsewhere,” he said.

Although the Elks were inspired to initiate the Hometown Heroes program after learning about a similar venture Temecula, California, Riordan admits personal experiences also played a role.

“When I was a kid growing up, the Vietnam guys came back and they were getting spit on by everybody in the D.C. area,” he said.

Once qualifying military members and veterans are identified, Riordan said the next phase involves finding business, fraternal organizations or individual sponsors to offset production costs.

Despite being challenged to locate candidates last year, Riordan said many people have recently stepped forward with suggestions, including Bertha Purnell with St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Berlin.

“She’s got at least five Korean War veterans that are all in the Berlin area,” he said.

With approximately 10 active duty members also in the chute, Riordan said a waiting list could be formed.

“Last year, I had to scamper to get to 40,” he said.

After gracing light poles on the Boardwalk south of Fourth Street all summer, the banners are removed for later presentation to the veterans or their families.

“I take them down to clean them and get the salt and sand off,” he said.

The annual Banner Presentation Ceremony is scheduled for Oct. 20 at the Elks Lodge, on 138th Street and  Sinepuxent Avenue. The public is welcome to attend both the dedication and presentation events.

Nominations are being accepted on a first come basis. For more information, contact Riordan at 443-623-6162 or email 91454@mchsi.com.

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