The good folks of Bethany Beach have established a great model. Now it’s up to other towns in Delaware the rest of the country to follow their lead.
Several years ago, a few acquaintances got together over wine and hatched the idea of Warrior Beach Week. Then they established the nonprofit Operation SEAs The Day and organized a weeklong vacation in Bethany for wounded soldiers and their families.
The 2015 event was held the week of Labor Day, which included the 14th anniversary of 9/11. By all accounts, Warrior Beach Week has just gotten better.
The mission of Operation SEAs The Day is to show appreciation to the wounded vets and their families for their service and sacrifice. The community-based event is meant to comfort them and help ease their transitions back into civilian life.
“The families really get the most out of each other,” says Annette Reeping, a board member of the nonprofit. “Many live below the poverty line and have never been on vacation. Our vision and dream is that other communities would start one.”
In its three years, Operation SEAs The Day has served more than 80 so-called Very Important Families, which comprises more than 300 vets, spouses, children and other friends and family.
Thousands of volunteers from the Bethany Beach area have donated everything from their homes and condos to homebaked cakes and cookies. More than 100 local businesses have chipped in with sponsorships and gift cards or discounts for food and services. A group of locals also made a Quilt of Valor for every warrior.
The week includes cookouts, water sports, golf, horse riding and a parade. This year’s parade, which featured the vets and their families, traveled by motorcade from Sea Colony on Del. 1 about seven miles to The Freeman Stage at Bayside, where country music star Aaron Tippin put on a patriotic concert. Tippin also served as grand marshal of the parade. Veterans from World War II up through current conflicts also took part in the festivities.
“The power of the way the community has come together is amazing,” Reeping says. “Seeing people thank them, it gives them energy.”