OCEAN CITY – The celebration of the arrival of another Memorial Day weekend in the resort would not be complete without time for reflection and prayers for the men and women still on the front lines in Iraq, and even a little piece of Ocean City that has made it through the battlefields in the war-torn country to be safely returned to the resort.
When U.S. Marine Sgt. Fritz Kern walked into the original Fractured Prune doughnut store in Ocean City several months ago with his family, he did not know at the time he would be leaving with a little memento that would accompany him every step of the way through his life on the front lines in Iraq. When the clerk at Fractured Prune learned Kern was on pre-deployment leave in Ocean City, he willingly did not charge the Marine sergeant for his doughnuts, thanked him for his service to his country and gave plastic Frisbee’s adorned with the Fractured Prune logo to his two young daughters.
Kern then thanked him for his support and promised to find a way to repay his generosity – as if leaving his family and heading off to war wasn’t enough – and later decided to carry the Fractured Prune Frisbee with him wherever he went during his tour in Iraq. Little else was said at the time until earlier this year when the Fractured Prune received an email from Kern, who was nearing the completion of his deployment and was heading back to the States.
“I am currently in Iraq going on five months now,” the sergeant’s email to Fractured Prune reads. “Your Frisbee now has its Iraqi campaign medal, sea-service deployment medal, and an Army achievement medal. It has completed over 60 combat patrols, 14 route clearances, and has been in Kuwait, the Dialya Province, Balad Air Base, and is currently in Camp Ramadi in the Al Anbar Province. I have kept it with me in my day-pack on every mission so far.”
Included with the email were pictures of Kern with the Frisbee in various locations around Iraq. Copies of the email and the pictures now adorn the company’s many franchised stores in the resort area and throughout the region. Kern has kept in touch with Fractured Prune owner Sandy Taylor and her family and staff over the last few weeks. For them, the plastic Frisbee has become a symbol of the man that carries it and when it returns to Ocean City, it will mean Kern has also safely returned, according to Taylor.
“We figured this Frisbee is him,” she said this week. “If it comes home, that means he has come home.”
Several weeks ago, Taylor asked Kern if it would appropriate to send similar Frisbees to the rest of the Marines in his unit to which he agreed. The shipment arrived a short time ago and now the 28 members of Kern’s unit are carrying the mementos from Ocean City.
“I’m sure the Marines would love that, not to mention I would appreciate that,” said Kern in an email to Taylor and the Fractured Prune crew. “One thing about Marines is that they are a lot like children. You give them free time and they get in trouble. You give them a piece of plastic that can fly through the air, you can occupy them for hours.”
The Frisbee that has safely toured war-torn areas in Iraq and all over the Middle East is merely a symbol and a conduit for the exchange of information and support from the front to the people at home. Beyond the plastic flying disc, a relationship has formed between the soldier carrying it and the people at home who pray for his safe return.
In an email dated March 22, Kern told Taylor and the Fractured Prune crew their constant care and support have helped buoy him up as he awaits his return to the States.
“Thank you again for your support,” it reads. “It is people like you that motivate us to do our jobs. We would not be inclined to spend time away from our families and risk our lives if we did not have a country that supported us.”
In the same email, Kern told his supporters back in Ocean City the ongoing war is achieving the desired results, albeit slowly, and urged them to continue to support it to its conclusion.
“Your support contributes as much to the war effort as us being here, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for that,” he wrote. “Despite what may be reported on television, I can assure you first hand that the efforts here are paying off. The citizens here are thriving, terrorist groups are being thrown out by local authorities, and the political and spiritual leaders are taking a stance and taking pride in their country. By no means is the country a safe haven, but it has made leaps and bounds in the past six years.”
Kern recently returned to the U.S. after serving five months on the front lines in Iraq. He plans a return trip to Ocean City early next month for a little post-deployment rest and relaxation and, of course, some Fractured Prune doughnuts. When he and his family come back, the plan is to return the Frisbee turned war hero to the place where it started its journey. Taylor and the Fractured Prune crew are anxiously awaiting his return and plan to give the Frisbee, and more importantly the man who carried it to war and back, a hero’s welcome.