OCEAN CITY — Resort officials this week renewed the Hometown Heroes banner program on the Boardwalk after gaining assurances the initiative will eventually include Vietnam veterans.
In 2014, the Ocean City Elks Lodge 2645 launched the first Hometown Heroes military banner program honoring active members of the armed forces from the resort area and Worcester County serving in various areas around the world. For the last three years, the popular banners have returned each May and proudly display pictures of active servicemen and women throughout the summer and into the early fall.
Two years ago, the Elks Lodge 2645 expanded the program to include U.S. armed services veterans who served in World War II or the Korean War who are from the resort area or live in the resort area. As a result, the number of banners doubled from the original 20 active service honorees to 40, including 24 World War II veterans and 14 Korean War veterans.
During Monday’s meeting, the Mayor and Council had on their consent agenda a request to approve the Elks Hometown Heroes banner program for the coming season, which was ultimately approved unanimously. However, before the vote was taken, Councilman Mark Paddack questioned if the program was being limited only to active duty members and veterans of World War II and the Korean War.
“I’ve seen the banners and it’s a great program,” he said. “The one question I have relates to the veterans of Vietnam. This mentions World War II and the Korean War, but there is no mention of our Vietnam veterans.”
Elks Lodge representative Pat Riordan, who conceived of the Hometown Heroes military banner program for Ocean City after seeing a similar program in California, said on Monday it is the organization’s intent to eventually recognize all veterans.
“Our intention is to recognize all living veterans in Worcester County and we started with our active duty veterans,” he said. “We have since moved on to the World War II veterans and the Korean War veterans. We will get to Vietnam eventually, but probably not this year.”
At a time when the nation is losing World War II veterans by the hundreds, Riordan pointed out the plan was to recognize as many of them as possible before moving on to other local veterans.
“The goal is to recognize our World War II and Korean War veterans while we still have them with us,” he said. “I wish we had 10,000 banners to work with, but we only have 40. … If anyone would like to nominate a Vietnam veteran from Ocean City or Worcester County, please send in the info. We might not get to them this year, but that is the goal.”