This year’s fifth annual Warrior Family Beach Week, Sept. 5–10, will bring 25 military families to Bethany Beach for five days of free lodging, meals and activities as a thank-you for their service and sacrifice.
“It’s overwhelming the amount of love and support by the town,” says beneficiary Bryan Asaf, an Army veteran who will volunteer this year to help newcomers. “We cried with our host family. We had never experienced that patriotism. So humbling. So generous.” And that was just the first night.
The idea for Warrior Family Beach Week sprang from a conversation among local homeowners who decided to donate the use of their houses. Businesses then followed with goods and services. The event was an instant success.
Two dozen activities are planned this year, plus everything the Quiet Resorts are known for. “Everything is free,” thanks to growing support by businesses and volunteers, in Bethany and nearby, says Annette Reeping, a board member of Operation SEAS the Day, which coordinates Warrior Family Beach Week.
Families are selected by the Wounded Warrior Project, the USO and the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes. Five families return the next year to ensure that everyone feels at ease in the “very casual, not very military” week of activities and relaxation, Reeping says. “Only they understand the world they live in.”
Emotional highlights of the week include flag-wavers watching the motorcade of Very Important Families drive from Sea Colony to The Freeman Stage at Bayside concert and “the children coming up to hug you,” she says. “They feel normal because they’re having fun as a family.”
Good feelings continue beyond the beach in online networks among veterans and their children, which help to break down the isolation that some feel at home. “They are grateful. They are loving. They are enthusiastic,” Reeping says of the soldiers.
Volunteers benefit, too, by realizing “the sacrifices they made so you can live the way you live.”