This week will be a special one for a group of veterans visiting the Sussex coastal area.
Operation Seas the Day will provide 25 wounded warriors and their families – called Very Important Families – a week at the beach thanks to 25 residents in the Bethany Beach area who have donated the use of their homes.
Rob Arlett, one the organizers of the event, said the families were selected with the assistance of the Wounded Warrior Project, USO and Coalition to Salute America's Heroes. “We had an amazing outpouring of support; we reached the 25 homes easily with tons more offering their homes,” he said.
Arlett said the event may be the only one of its kind in the country. Other towns – including Rehoboth Beach, Lewes, Ocean City, Md., Virginia Beach, Va., and Wilmington, N.C., have expressed interest in hosting a similar event next year. “Who knows where this will lead?” Arlett asked.
“The families are overwhelmed with joy to be part of this,” Arlett said. “There have been a lot of tears shed; no one has ever shed light on them before. We want this to be a time of total relaxation; a time to be a family again.”
The group of 104 family members – 63 adults, including two female wounded vets, and 41 children – arrived Sept. 3 and will stay in the area until Sunday, Sept. 8. Four special events have been planned: a welcome reception on Tuesday, Sept. 3, at VFW Post 7234 in Ocean View with lunch provided by Bethany Blues; a cookout and bonfire on Wednesday, Sept. 4, at Sea Colony in Bethany Beach with food provided by Matt Haley's SoDel Concepts and Plate Catering; a barbecue lunch on Saturday, Sept. 7, at Charlie K's BBQ in Ocean View; and a farewell breakfast on Sunday, Sept. 8, at Blue Coast Restaurant near Bethany Beach.
The grassroots organizing group has lined up a full schedule of activities, but families can participate in as many or as few as they choose, Arlett said. The list of shops, restaurants and organizations jumping on board as sponsors is impressive.
“The goal is for the families not to pay a penny while they are here,” Arlett said. “They are in for the time of their life.”
Events, free rentals and activities offered to the families include golf, miniature golf, horseback riding, shopping at Tanger Outlets in Rehoboth Beach, jet skies, bicycles, kayaking, stand-up paddling and sailing.
Arlett said more than 20 boat owners are donating the use of their boats to take families on fishing and cruising trips.
Each family will receive a $100 gift card to a local restaurant and a $150 gift card from the sale of T-shirts and sweatshirts. Several restaurants and beach-area businesses have filled each family's welcome basket with additional gift cards
One area that was lacking in the week's schedule was a visit to a salon. Arlett said within minutes of mentioning the need on a radio show, Drexler Davison of Bad Hair Day in Rehoboth Beach called him. “Tell me what you need,” he said. “It's amazing what they are doing – everyone there is so excited.”
Bad Hair Day will transport a group of more than 25 women in a limousine to the salon on Thursday, Sept. 5, for an afternoon of pampering at no cost, Arlett said.
Arlett said families are coming from several states, including two families from Ohio and another from Georgia. A Sussex County family from Delmar is also part of the event. “They are coming from many different situations and experiences, and some have never really had a vacation,” he said. “Several have lost limbs and one is a double amputee.”
Each family will have a host family assigned to them as a point of contact.
“This is an opportunity to serve those who have served us – to shed some light on these families,” said Arlett, a veteran with a family military background. “People do care, but we can never really express our full gratitude to these family’s sacrifices. This is a small way we can express it.”
The four other members of the organizing team include Richard Katon, Diane Pohanka, Bill Gay and Becky Johns, all of the Bethany Beach area.
For more information, contact Arlett at 302-462-5746 or go to the website at operationseastheday.org.
Local businesses asked to support wounded warriors
Operations Seas the Day organizers are asking local business owners in the Cape Region to display the following message on their marquees this week: Welcome wounded warriors. We support you.