EASTON — The Easton Rotary Club held its weekly meeting, this time at The Milestone, on Nov. 15 to award donations to this year’s Flags for Heroes beneficiaries.
The program involves spectacular visual displays of American flags local residents have purchased to honor veterans, past and present, which are found in several locations around Easton for Memorial Day.
The Easton Rotary Club organizes and provides manpower for the event, and its founding partners include Easton Mayor Bob Willey, APG Media of the Chesapeake President David Fike and Easton Utilities Chief Financial Officer Steven Osche.
May 29 is Memorial Day in the United States. It is a federal holiday dedicated to remembering those who have died fighting for America while employed in the armed forces.
Flags for Heroes Co-Chairmen John Flohr and Jackie Wilson announced Nov. 15 that the club continues to exceed its expectations. In the seventh year of Flags for Heroes, the program grossed $52,141, with about $6,000 in expenses to replace some flags and to purchase another trailer for storage purposes.
The Easton Rotary Club presented checks derived from a majority of the collected funds to 16 organizations. Those groups were Richards Memorial Park, Talbot Goes Purple, Spring Hill Cemetery, Civil Air Patrol, Easton Police Department, Easton Volunteer Fire Department, Talbot Paramedic Foundation, NJROTC, Oxford Volunteer Fire Department, Mental Health Association of the Eastern Shore, Mid-Shore Recovering Vets Group,For All Seasons Inc., St. Vincent DePaul Society, Widows of Warriors, Talbot Emergency Management Services, Lady Patriots of the Eastern Shore, Talbot Hospice, Operation Open Arms and American Legion Post 77.
“As you can see by the attendance here today, there are any number of people that are helped by this program, and any number of people that will be helped in the future,” Willey said, thanking the club for its indulgence in the project.
Talbot Hospice Director of Development Kate Cox shared remarks about the veterans program, which dates back seven years.
“We joined forces with Easton Rotary seven years ago to start funding the program,” Cox said. “Primarily, the purpose of the money is to help Talbot Hospice care for veterans in our hospice house who are financially disadvantaged and can’t afford the room and board fee.
“We served 39 veterans last year in the community ... 14 of the 19 veterans served in the hospice house were touched with a gift from Rotary.”
All 275 current Talbot Hospice volunteers are trained on how to talk to veterans through an annual training, she said.
“Our volunteers have profound conversations with dying veterans; sometimes they are told things about war experience that veterans have never shared before,” she said.
To show reverence for the veterans’ service, Talbot Hospice veteran volunteers offer special recognition visits with hand-sewn patriotic pillows and quilts, pins and a veteran commemorative poem.
Operation Open Arms Founder Captain John Bunch discussed his program, which takes soldiers, primarily those with post-traumatic stress disorder, hunting and fishing on the Shore.
“It’s hard for me to communicate when each one of us are going to be called to do something truly special,” he said. “My encounter with the calling had to be from above.”
What started out as a chance meeting with an active duty soldier who just wanted to go fishing before his redeployment to Iraq 12 years ago has turned into a major operation to provide R&R and same-day mental health services to military personnel serving in combat arenas.
Master angler and fishing charter guide, Bunch, or “Giddyup” as he’s been known from childhood, his wife Jennifer and a battalion of volunteers and business owners have made it their mission to do whatever they can for active duty military members and their families.
“As of today, we have helped 3,918 U.S. troops since 2005,” Bunch said. “The importance of not letting someone contemplate the unthinkable for a day, two days, three days, to me is of the utmost importance that we see that person the very same day.”
“We have also bestowed on E5’s and below 103 free weddings, valued at $20,000 a piece ... There are six little kids named Giddyup now.”
Lastly, American Legion Post 77 Judge Advocate Walter Black spoke on behalf of the group’s capital campaign project, which seeks to renovate, expand and modernize its current facility on Glenwood Avenue.
The project priced at $900,000 intends the updated building to better serve veterans and their families, and uplift youth and the community.
“Only because of the veterans can we keep America strong and democracy strong,” he said, thanking Easton Rotary for its generosity.
This year’s Flags for Heroes $500 sponsors were Provident State Bank, Morgan Stanley, Nagel Farm Service Inc., Paris Foods Corp, Doc’s Sunset Grille, Dwelling & Design and Ewing Dietz Fountain & Kaludis.
$1,000 sponsors were Aqua Pools & Spa, Dawkins Management Inc., Lewis Auto Body Shop, Paulson Investment Group, Pixel Print & Post, Preston Automative Group, Willow Construction and Londonderry on the Tred Avon.
The Easton Rotary Club is a service-oriented organization that meets at noon every Thursday afternoon at Scossa Restaurant & Lounge. For more information about club activities or how to join, go to eastonrotary.org.
Community News Editor Connie Connolly contributed to this story.