Community welcomes military veterans and families

Earlier this week, 25 Very Important Families (VIFs) joined the Bethany Beach community. Some would argue they’re the most important visitors to the area in the whole year. No, they’re not celebrities who are known to visit the area, such as Dave Grohl or Denzel Washington — they are 25 military veterans and their families who are taking part in a weeklong respite through the efforts of Operation SEAs the Day.

The mission of the non-profit organization created five years ago was “to organize and facilitate a beach week event for our wounded soldiers and their families as a means of showing our appreciation for their service and sacrifice. It is our hope that such a community-based gesture of support will be comforting and help ease their transition back into civilian life.”

With that goal in mind, they have worked with organizations such as the Wounded Warrior Project to find veterans in need to apply for a week’s stay in quiet beach community.

On Sept. 5, 25 VIFs, along with six alumni families, arrived in Bethany Beach. Those families included nine children 5 or younger, 16 kids ages 6 to 9, eight kids ages 10 to 12, and eight teenagers.

During their time in town, the families were able to enjoy a welcome reception, cookout and bonfire at Sea Colony and a family night, as well as a number of activities, such as kayaking, horseback riding and tennis clinics.

While the majority of events created for the warriors and their families are closed to the public, the community is being encouraged to take part in the “A Hero’s Welcome Home” motorcade that will take the VIFs to a concert at the Freeman Stage at Bayside on Friday, with people invited to stand alongside the route and show their support.

On Friday, Sept. 8, buses filled with VIFs will leave Sea Colony at 4:30 p.m., expected to arrive at Bayside between 5 and 5:15 p.m. The buses will be accompanied by local police and fire departments, the Delaware State Police and more.

Those who participate along the roadside are being encouraged to wear red, white and blue while they wave American flags as the motorcade goes by. The route will also be lined with hand-drawn posters thanking the veterans and their families for their service to their country, and welcoming them to Bethany.

Following the parade, the VIFs will go into the Cove at Bayside and enjoy dinner before attending the Bruce in the USA show.

The following day, the third annual Cripple Creek Classic Car Show will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., during which the community can enjoy walking around and ogling classic cars. The proceeds of the event are donated to Operation SEAs the Day, and the awards ceremony includes a Veteran’s Best Pick.

While the families will pack up and leave on Sunday, Sept. 10, after a farewell breakfast, the organizers said they hope they will take their time in Bethany Beach back home with them, and know that Bethany and the country thank them for their service to their country.