(May 10, 2019) It was a “postcard perfect” day in Ocean City, American Legion Adjunct Sarge Garlitz said, as hundreds gathered last Thursday to celebrate 40 service members as part of the 2019 Hometown Heroes Military Banner program.
The Ocean City Elks Lodge #2645’s sixth annual banner dedication ceremony, held near the Firefighter’s Memorial on the Ocean City Boardwalk, honored 28 locals, living World War II and Korean War veterans, and 12 active-duty servicemen from Worcester County.
Banners of men and women in active duty service have been raised along the Boardwalk from May to October every year since 2014 to celebrate their service to their country and recognize them as “Hometown Heroes.”
Two years ago, the Elks Lodge expanded the program to include veterans from World War II and the Korean War, using photos that were taken during the war. In October, the honorees will be presented with their banners during a ceremony hosted by the Elks Lodge.
Pat Riordan, of the lodge’s veterans committee, helped organize and emcee the event.
Garlitz said the idea for the program was borrowed from a similar remembrance ceremony Riordan saw seven years ago during a golf trip to Temecula, California.
“He’s done one heck of a job to keep it going,” Garlitz said. “It’s not going to stop. It doesn’t get any better than this, except it’s going to get better next year because Pat’s not going anywhere.”
The dedication ceremony is held each year in conjunction with Ocean City’s Springfest festival in the inlet parking lot. The banners are taken down and presented to honorees each October.
The honorees were encouraged to speak during last week’s observance, although many veterans were humble about their service. Some, however, were happy to share their experiences and appreciation for the event.
One of the honorees, WWII veteran John D. Carrigan, 95, of Ocean Pines, who enlisted when he was 17 years old, shared some of his experiences about his deployment to China.
“We were all scheduled to go to Japan until Uncle Harry dropped a bomb and we stayed in China for two years,” Carrigan said. “We had all of our gear packed. They said we would have lost between two million and three million Marines had we all gone to Japan … we’d have never gotten up that hill. They were waiting for us with everything they had.”
Seeing his banner, located next to Tony’s Pizza on North Division Street, made him smile.
“I’m happy to be here … I see my banner right over by the pizza place and that’s my favorite food,” Carrigan said.
Kurt Massey, praised his grandson, Jared, 20, of Ocean Pines, who is active duty in the U.S. Air Force. Jared Massey is currently stationed in Utah.
“I’m so proud of this young man for going in the service right out of high school. He’s done boot camp, he’s done technical training and at Air Force base, is an ammo handler so we can have confidence that things are in good control,” Massey said. “Fifty-eight years ago, I was in the Marine Corps deployed to Guantanamo Bay during the Bay of Pigs. A lot has happened in the last 58 years. This man will continue on and help keep us safe.”
Korea veteran Bill Nieller, 93, of Ocean City, also served in the U.S. Air Force.
“I want to say thank you for a lot of us veterans to the town of Ocean City, for keeping this thing going,” Nieller said.
The night before, World War II veteran Francis Russell, 95, of Ocean City, was celebrated at the Elks Lodge for his service, and offered advice the following day during the ceremony.
“I want to thank Pat Riordan and the Elks for sponsoring this,” Russell said. “It’s the reason why I’m here and I thank him for the honor.
“[Also,] if anybody gets a chance, you have got to see the World War II Museum in New Orleans. It’s well worth the trip … and young people, join the military. Your country needs you,” he continued.
For more information on the program, call Riordan at 443-623-6162 or email email@example.com.
Hometown Heroes 2019 Honorees:
John J. Alex, corporal, World War II, U.S. Army Air Force
John Andrews, major, World War II, U.S. Army
Robert Banks II, master sergeant, U.S. Air Force
Floyd E. Bassett, corporal, Korea, U.S. Army
Alan Brittingham, staff sergeant, Korea, U.S. Marine Corps
Jerome Callahan, private first class, Korea, U.S. Army
John D. Carrigan, sergeant, World War II and Korea, U.S. Marine Corps
William M. Clark, CT3, Korea, U.S. Navy
Thomas Clarke Sr., sergeant, World War II and Korea, U.S. Army
Upshure E. Coard Jr., specialist, Korea, U.S. Army
Dave Coffland, FT3, Korea, U.S. Navy
Ronald W. Hager, sergeant medic, Korea, U.S. Army
Jack H. Heineman, engineer third class, Korea, U.S. Navy
William E. Justice III, sergeant, Korea, U.S. Army
William G. Kelso, ET-2, Korea, U.S. Coast Guard
Kenneth Lewis, staff sergeant, World War II, U.S. Army, P.O.W.
Luther “Luke” Loveless, private first class, Korea, U.S. Army National Guard
Margaret Madden, SK3 V10, World War II, U.S. Naval Reserve
Larry Moses Moore, seaman, Korea, U.S. Navy
Bill Nieller, staff sergeant, Korea, U.S. Air Force
Thomas O’Keefe, corporal, Korea, U.S. Army
Bill Poust, seaman first class, Korea, U.S. Navy
Francis Russell, fireman first class, World War II, U.S. Navy
Budd Shea, airman first class, U.S. Air Force
Murray Smith, radioman, Korea, U.S. Navy
William J. Stetter, captain, Korea, U.S. Army
William Whaley, specialist 4, Korea, U.S. Army
John Whitehead, corporal, World War II, U.S. Army
Franklin Baker III, private first class, Active Duty, U.S. Marine Corps
Corey Beckett, airman, Active Duty, U.S. Air Force
Angelia Cleary, staff sergeant, Active Duty, U.S. Navy
Shyheim Cousar, airman first class, Active Duty, U.S. Air Force
Mike Diehl, staff sergeant, Active Duty, U.S. Air Force
Carl Echols, airman, Active Duty, U.S. Air Force
Zachary Hall, first lieutenant, Active Duty, U.S. Air Force
Jared Massey, airman first class, Active Duty, U.S. Air Force
Markell Pinkett, private first class, Active Duty, U.S. Army
John Seward, private first class, Active Duty, U.S. Marine Corps
Seth Woods, private first class, Active Duty, U.S. Marine Corps
Steven Wright, private first class, Active Duty, U.S. Marine Corps