No one was prepared for the havoc COVID-19 wreaked in the months after public health officials declared a pandemic and civic leaders directed everyday life be brought to a standstill.
UMES senior Dustin Edelman, however, was not flustered by the sweeping lockdown that closed schools and government offices, emptied streets, canceled sporting events, and made isolation and Zoom a way of avoiding danger while vaccine research ramped up.
Edelman served 3½ years in the U.S. Navy, a majority of the time assigned to the U.S.S. Scranton, a Los Angeles-class submarine.
“Living with bare necessities aboard a sub is what you’re accustomed to,” said Edelman, who is on schedule to earn his bachelor’s degree in hospitality and tourism management Dec. 17.
Consequently, going into quarantine “was no big deal” to Edelman “Being in cramped quarters, not expecting to have a lot of luxuries – it’s something I got used to. I had no choice” after enlisting.
Edelman was among UMES students who in November 2019 helped stage the “Veterans’ Gala,” a fund-raising banquet the pandemic forced into hiatus a year ago.
The scholarship event returns this year – Thursday, Nov. 11 at UMES’ Henson Center starting at 6 p.m., where individual tickets are $75 and a table for eight is $600. (Acquire tickets online at: https://app.mobilecause.com/vf/VetUMES2021)
At 36, Edelman is more than a decade removed from his stint in the Navy, where he was a cook who routinely worked several consecutive six-hour shifts while on deployment. (His longest was six months.)
Upon returning to civilian life, the Salisbury native initially tried his hand at retail food service but eventually gravitated to hospitality. He realized that without a college degree, his resume lacked the credentials to compete for promotions.
To get back into the swing of being a student, Edelman enrolled at Salisbury’s Wor-Wic Community College, where he studied hotel-motel-restaurant management. He found a robust support network for non-traditional age students, especially military veterans.
With an associate’s degree in hand, he came to UMES, where he understandably encounters a higher percentage of students who entered college immediately after high school.
“You find yourself in a leadership role without really trying to be a leader,” Edelman said of doing class projects. “I’ve had a great experience here (at UMES).”
He has carried a full course load while also working fulltime at an Ocean City hotel. He’s anxious to graduate and begin climbing the career ladder.
“Going through this experience, it’s given me a better sense of how to interact with younger people who I know I am going to encounter in my career,” he said.
Edelman said his tour with Navy also gave him a greater appreciation of sacrifices made by older veterans he met growing up as well as the isolation they might feel when others are unaware of their service.
“I think every person should serve in the military,” he said. “It’s an amazing experience.”
“It gives you a sense of responsibility and forces you to set goals, and strive to succeed in life,” Edelman said.