Celebrating veterans: 10th annual Veterans Day breakfast

5th Coast Guard District News
by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jasmine Mieszala

Baltimore – More than 70 years of military service and five wars were represented by 200 attendees during the annual Veterans Day breakfast hosted by Elks Lodge #1044 of Crisfield, Maryland, Tuesday.

Elks Lodge #1044 is a branch of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, a national organization committed helping the community and honoring the service and sacrifice of veterans.

This year, 14 members from Coast Guard Station Crisfield and Coast Guard Aids to Navigation Team Crisfield attended the ceremony.

Members from Station Crisfield and Aids to Navigation Crisfield pose for a photo outside Elks Lodge #1044.  U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jasmine Mieszala

Members from Station Crisfield and Aids to Navigation Crisfield pose for a photo outside Elks Lodge #1044. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jasmine Mieszala

“The Veterans Day breakfast ceremony is wonderful,” said Paul Riggin, former commander of American Legion Post #16. “We love having the Coast Guard here as the active duty contingent.”

The Veterans Day breakfast was sponsored and organized by the Elks Lodge #1044 and American Legion post #16.

The ceremony opened with the playing of the National Anthem and the reading of the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by a prisoner of war/missing in action reading by Riggin.

A missing man table was set up with symbolic items placed upon a white tablecloth. This is a military tradition in which the dead and missing are honored.

The table was set with one chair. No one was allowed to sit there, as the empty chair represented those who will never return. A white cloth covered the table to represent the purity of the mission in which these servicemembers were lost. Salt spilled on the plate represented the tears shed by loved ones. The red flower represented the blood shed by those fighting for freedom. A slice of lemon represented their bitter fate.

Breakfast followed, served by 14 sixth-grade volunteers from Somerset Intermediate School. To volunteer, students wrote essays on what veterans’ service meant to them. The two best essays were chosen and read at the ceremony.

“We have to celebrate our veterans,” said Dan “Krunch” Kuebler, former Air Force captain. “They allow us to do our jobs, they are absolutely fundamental to the U.S.”

The biggest event was the recognition of individual services. One after another, service ensigns were presented and the corresponding service songs were played. Veterans of each service stood and rendered proper respects on their turn.

“My favorite part of the ceremony is the recognizing of the individual services,” said Bonnie Mackenzie, exhaulted ruler of Elks Lodge #1044. “Watching their faces light up as their service song is played is so emotional.”

The active duty Coast Guard attendees received a special thanks and recognition at the end of the ceremony.

“Coast Guard attendance at the breakfast has been a tradition in recent years and it has always been a highlight of the event,” said Riggin. “It means a great deal to the veterans who regularly attend.”

“Being there showed me that no matter what service you are in, we all have the same mission in protecting our country,” said Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Zachary Lopez. “I saw the pride every veteran still has in their service, even after they have been retired for so long.”

Veterans quietly wiped away tears as they remembered their service and lost loved ones as Taps played softly, marking the conclusion of the 10th annual Veterans Day breakfast.

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