OCEAN CITY — A sandy spit in the Isle of Wight Bay became an unlikely site of spontaneous patriotism on Sunday afternoon when a determined Selbyville man, with the help of new friends, raised an American flag on the recently restored island.
On Sunday afternoon, Captain Glen Smith of Selbyville waded from his boat onto the Dog and Bitch Island in the Isle of Wight Bay, carrying bags of concrete, tools, a flag pole and an American flag. The Dog and Bitch Island is an historic island in the shallow coastal bays behind Ocean City recently restored during the dredging of the navigation channels in and around the resort last fall and winter.
The island existed on charts dating back to the 1930s, but had all but disappeared over the decades. When the federal Army Corps of Engineers dredged the navigation channels around the coastal bays, the resulting sand and dredge spoil had to be placed somewhere. It was ultimately decided to use the 400,000-plus cubic yards of sand to restore some of the islands in the coastal bays that had not been seen since the 1930s including the famed Dog and Bitch Island.
As a result, roughly 18,000 cubic yards of sand were pumped onto the Dog and Bitch Island. The project essentially accomplished two goals including finding a home for the material dredged from the channels while recreating historic small islands essential for migratory bird habitat and other uses. Throughout the early summer, Dog and Bitch and some of the other restored islands have become popular recreation sites for boaters, many of whom drop anchor and wade ashore on busy weekends.
When Smith of Route 113 Boat Sales in Selbyville, visited the Dog and Bitch Island during the Ocean City Air Show two weeks ago, it occurred to him the beautiful sandy spit of land needed something more. He envisioned installing an American flag on the island and carried out his plan on Sunday.
“It’s such a beautiful little island with a perfect little grade up to a peak in the center,” he said this week. “It kept running through my mind all last week that it would be a perfect spot for an American flag for all to enjoy and for the entire week I gathered the necessary tools and supplies to accomplish the project.”
Two couples boating recreationally in the bays on Sunday afternoon were visiting Dog and Bitch when they observed Smith starting his monumental task. Bryan James of Harper’s Ferry, West Va. said he and his friend Rich Shank watched Smith as he waded onto the island from his anchored boat about 100 yards offshore carrying bags of quickset concrete, rebar, tools, a pole and a flag. Swelled with patriotism, James and Shank joined Smith in carrying the tools and supplies onto the island, helped dig the hole and establish the base for the new flag.
“He was very well prepared and very meticulous in his work,” said James on Sunday. “I asked him if he was a veteran and he said no. As far as I could gather, he just felt very passionate that this needed to be done. I’m not sure if it was out of irritation or disgust with the many images in the news flashes of flags being burned or flags being taken down and removed or stepped on, or perhaps it was just out of patriotism with the Fourth of July around the corner.”
Smith, who is not an Armed Forces veteran but is a certified boat captain by the Coast Guard, said there was no real motivation for undertaking the task, other than a sense of patriotism and the feeling it needed to be done and the island presented the perfect location.
“I was not sure how it would be received, but there was no real motivation,” he said. “It was amazing to see how people responded.
Smith, with help from James and Shank and others, poured the concrete and established the base for the new flagpole. The concrete had to set for three hours or so before the pole could be installed and Old Glory could be raised. James and Shank left to go have lunch, but returned a few hours later to help Smith complete the task.
“He was really happy to see us come back” said James. “By then, a whole bunch of other people had joined in to help.”
Smith said his flag-raising project helped restore his faith in his fellow citizens.
“The American dream is still alive and well,” he said. “People got together for a common cause and you could see attitudes start to change. Other groups joined in and when the flag went up, there were rounds of applause and cheers of God Bless America went up. It was a wonderful experience.”
James agreed the response to the flag-raising was remarkable.
“As we raised the flag, a loud applause sounded from all over the island and nearby boats. People gathered and expressed their gratitude to Glen for what he had done and shook his hand. I sure hope it’s still standing. I’m glad we stumbled onto Dog and Bitch Island that day. It was truly a moving experience.”
Smith said the patriotism surrounding the raising of the American flag was contagious and already there was talk of expanding on the project.
“One couple said they wanted to come back and install solar-powered LED lights to illuminate the flag at night,” he said. “Others said they wanted to come back and maybe install flowers. Phone numbers and emails were exchanged and new friends were met. The group was starting to call ourselves the ‘Keepers of the Flag’ and maybe something more permanent could be installed and maybe there are opportunities in other areas. It has the potential to grow.”