CRISFIELD — Veterans Day is more than just a day off in Somerset County as local organizations take seriously their duty to honor those who served.
In addition to a breakfast and the return of a scholarship fundraising dinner there will be a dedication of a marker to honor families of the fallen in service to their country.
Starting Thursday morning from 7 to 9 a.m. the Crisfield 1044 Elks along with American Legion Stanley Cochrane Post 16 will conduct the "bivouac drive-thru" breakfast at the Elks Lodge on Crisfield Highway.
Formerly held inside and served by intermediate school students with accompaniment by the Crisfield High School band, this is the 17th year for the breakfast but the second year it will be held as a drive-thru due to continued concern about the spread of COVID-19.
All veterans and active duty personnel including U.S. Coast Guard members are invited to take part.
At 11 a.m. by the flagpole in front of the Crisfield Library, a Gold Star Memorial will be unveiled as a tribute to the families whose loved one paid the ultimate sacrifice. Sponsored by Post 16 and the Somerset County Garden Club, this is a project promoted by the National Garden Clubs Inc.
The Gold Star is reminiscent of the star on banners families would hang in their window at home so people could see that they had a loved one die in service to their country. This will be the second Gold Star marker in the state, and it is similar to the Blue Star Memorial located in Princess Anne outside the Somerset County Tourism office, with the blue star a tribute to those who served.
There will be music by a Fife & Drum Corps, and prayer offered by Blancia Rose Faith and Healing Chapel Pastor Vernel Cottman, himself a veteran.
The guest speaker will be Courtney Dryden Rogers, a former Air Force intelligence officer and targeting officer who served in Operation Just Cause in Panama. On July 28, 1968 when she was 9-years-old, her father, Ralph Marion Dryden Jr., of Princess Anne, was on a midday supply run near Da Nang, Vietnam, when his helicopter was observed burning while in flight.
Landing attempts were aborted to stay clear of a village but on his last approach to a rice paddy the helicopter went out of control, crashing with all five aboard killed. Major Dryden was 35. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery not far from a previous assignment when he flew Marine 1 for Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson.
Mrs. Rogers, who later joined the Tennessee Air National Guard and was elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives, said her father’s stateside service could have kept him out of enemy territory while serving in Vietnam but in July 1964 he requested a waiver because it was not good for the morale of his men nor his credibility to not do his part.
She said in 2018 during a talk in Easton to families of Vietnam service members killed in action that her father loved both the Marine Corps and aviation.
During the ceremony up to a dozen local families representing the fallen from World War I to the Iraq invasion will be specifically recognized. In the event of rain the program will be moved inside the library which is also supporting the marker project as is Veteran Builders.
For those who can’t make the program but want to say thank you to a veteran, the Crisfield Elks has a "Buy a Vet a Burger and a Beer" promotion on Thursday. Donate or have a meal at the lodge, then add to the total a contribution to pay it forward to a veteran or someone on active duty. This will also be extended to local police, fire and EMS personnel as well as front-line workers.
Any unspent funds will go to the Elks National Memorial as well as local programs that help veterans.
Another way to support veterans is to attend the UMES Silver Star Scholarship Salute to Veterans Gala at the Henson Center where the $75 ticket helps children of veterans and enlisted students. For more details click on tickets or visit UMES.edu and click on the events tab.
For something less serious, on Saturday at the Crisfield Elks, there will be Veterans Appreciation "Fall Brawl" Mug Bog from noon to 4 p.m. Gate entry is free to all veterans, first responders and active military with ID. "The Veteran" monster truck from Wilson Extreme Motorsports will be featured and giving rides.
AJ the DJ will be at the By The Way bar during the event, and afterward from 4 to 8 p.m. The Landmark Band will perform with admission $5 with a mud bog wrist band, or $10 without.