room just off the dining area of the Hatterasman Drive-In was filled
with about a dozen people on a recent April afternoon. There were men
and women from their late 20s or early 30s to retired. There was small
talk, a lot of catching up on local events and what the kids are doing.
It could have been a gathering of friends, taking a break to check up
on the latest news.
Then Hatterasman owner, Frank Miller, brought in the chicken fingers and fries and the meeting began.
spent more than 20 years in the Army, retired, moved to Hatteras
village and bought the Hatterasman Drive-In. That would be enough for
some retired people, but to him the drive-in represented more than a
business. To Miller, it was a chance to reach out to the veterans on
Hatteras Island and to give them a place to gather, a place to call
The group of veterans that is gathered, though, is about
action, about letting the public know they are a part of the community
and what they have given to the country has meaning and substance. The
action they have taken is already apparent—this is the group that raised
the American flag in a ceremony one Saturday last month in a grassy
area just to the south of the Hatterasman that now serves as the
island's veterans' memorial park.
To this group, it’s about what comes next, not what has been done so far.
what this meeting is about, and after a brief recap, Lorraine Burrus,
who is the unofficial secretary, tells Miller he’ll need to fill the
group in on what’s happening. “Frank, you really need to talk about . .
. the park design, the brick walkway, and the plaques,” she said.
American flag and the picnic tables that surround it are just the first
step. What the veterans envision is a place where families can gather
to enjoy a lunch at the tables in the midst of a small memorial park --
a park that will call attention to the sacrifice that veterans have
To these veterans, Hatteras Island is a natural setting
for their vision. Kal Gancsos, who is organizing the Hatteras United
Methodist Memorial Day ceremony, notes that “Hatteras Island has the
largest representation of military service per capita, during the
Second World War especially, than any other location in the country --
which, I think, is remarkable.”
Steps have already been taken to
establish the park the veterans are hoping create. There has been a
donation of 700 bricks—bricks that will create a walkway with engraved
names—although that plan has hit a snag.
We have a large
amount of bricks that have been donated to us,” Miller told the group.
“Therein lies the problem as much as the fact it’s a gift. Because all
of the places that do any etching so that you can take a brick and put
it on (a pathway) and say ‘in memory of’ and make it part of a brick
pathway . . . They have the bricks. They want to etch them. Whenever I
say we have 700 bricks. We just need to know how to get them etched.
It’s not the easiest thing to do.”
The memorial site is the most visible evidence of the veteran’s activities, but it is not the only project they are developing.
Groom, who until recently was a member of the Dare County Veteran’s
Advisory Committee, has been researching legal assistance for veterans.
“I approached Legal Aid for North Carolina, our local chapter,” he
said. “They knew of nothing other than their own services. But they
acknowledged that there may indeed be a need for it.”
There are more immediate plans to involve the community as well, including a wreath-laying ceremony at the flag on Memorial Day.
wreath laying is generally a pretty short little ceremony,” Miller
said. “Basically it’s a prayer thing. You lay the wreath and then it’s
over. Hopefully we can migrate that into what is happening in the
The timing of the laying of the wreath is designed to
work in conjunction with the ceremony at the Hatteras United Methodist
Church that has been part of the village for the past few years.
six years ago we started a Memorial Day service here in Hatteras,”
Gancsos said.”We have it every year at 10 a.m at the church.” The
service includes a musical performance, a raising of a flag, a 21-gun
salute and taps. “The ceremony lasts about 45 minutes,” he added.
veterans who were gathered in April at the Hatterasman are just a small
part of the volunteers working on projects, according to Miller. “There
are actually about 40 people working on the projects,” he said. “The
ones that were here are steering things.”
The next meeting of the Hatteras veterans' group will be Tuesday, May 19, at 1400 hours.