CECILTON — Almost 12 years after one of their own was killed in service to his country, town officials are working to raise enough funds to build a permanent memorial in the center of town honoring his sacrifice.
U.S. Army Cpl. Brandon Craig, who was killed by an improvised explosive device while deployed in Iraq on July 19, 2007, has been on the mind of Town Administrator Mary Cooper since before she even took over the day-to-day operation of the town nearly two years ago.
“Many years ago I was in the PNC Bank when the teller told me that they would be closing the branch for a few minutes to pay their respects,” she recalled. “We went outside and silently watched the funeral procession through town for Brandon, and that moment has stayed with me.”
In the past year, Cooper has overseen the rollout of a Sit and Stay campaign that is installing public benches throughout Cecilton, with each dedicated to someone who has left a lasting impact on the town. Since its inception, she knew that Craig should be among those who was honored.
While his family lives just outside of town limits in Earleville, Craig was well-known to many residents through his years in local schools and playing youth and high school sports. Today, he is buried in Cecilton Zion Cemetery.
“The fact that he is buried here but there isn’t a permanent memorial in his honor has always weighed on me,” Cooper said.
After a few different ideas on how to best honor Craig’s service and sacrifice, it was decided to place a memorial in the most visible spot in town: a small corner of town-owned land at the intersection of Route 213 and Main Street.
The town’s Royal Farms location donated funds to erect a flagpole and bench at the memorial, while Cooper has been steadily soliciting funds to erect an etched granite memorial in Craig’s honor. The memorial, made of a 3,000-pound prism of Vermont black granite, will feature a photo of Craig along with his awarded medals, military information and the quote “Only God Knows Why,” which he had as a tattoo.
“One of the most exciting aspects of the project is that it is going to be in the center of town, so people will be able to see it, and potentially read it, from the town’s only stoplight,” Cooper said. “It was important to us that it wasn’t hidden away.”
Brandon’s mother, Mary Jane Craig, told the Whig that the town’s project was something that left her family speechless when they were informed about it.
“We’re just in total awe,” she told the Whig on Tuesday. “It’s such a gift to my son and we’re completely honored and proud to accept this on his behalf.”
To date, Cooper said the town has raised about $6,600 of the $12,300 needed for the monument. The public is encouraged to help the town reach its goal, and donations can be made by check to the Town of Cecilton, 117 West Main Street, P.O. Box 317, Cecilton MD 21912. Donors are asked to write “Craig Memorial” in the check’s memo line.
Cooper said the messages that have accompanied the donations so far have been as encouraging as the needed funds.
“We’ve had people come in who knew Brandon as a child and share their memories of what he was like,” she said. “It’s definitely a project that a lot of people care about.”
For those who want to help in the memorial’s fundraising effort while also getting a chance at a prize, there is also a raffle opportunity starting Saturday in the county.
After word began spreading of the need for funds this week, Josh Ritter set out to find a way to help.
Ritter knew Brandon Craig through a mutual set of friends and said he got to know him a little bit during a trip to the King’s Dominion amusement park before Craig enlisted in the army.
“I remember when my friend called to tell me what happened to Brandon overseas and my heart just sank,” Ritter said. “I just thought about his family a lot, and I know a lot of people did because you saw decals on cars all over the county in the days and weeks after.”
Spending several days this week traveling to businesses in the county, Ritter has solicited more than a dozen donations for the raffle that will run from Saturday, July 13, to Saturday, July 20. The winners will be selected Sunday, July 21.
Tickets will be available at Pharmkent Wellness, at 330 E. Pulaski Highway Suite B in Elkton; Wesley’s Vape Shop, at 999 E. Pulaski Highway in Elkton; and at Cecilton Town Hall, at 117 W. Main St. in Cecilton. They cost $2 for one ticket, $5 for three, or $10 for 12.
Among the prizes are a session and gift bag at You Bet Your Axe in Elkton, splash parties at Kids First Swim School in Elkton, a $20 Olive Garden gift card, three-month Planet Fitness gym memberships with goodie bag, $20 Food Lion gift card, a $50 gift card and gift basket from Wesley’s Vape Shop, a $30 gift certificate to Serenity Spa and Tanning in Chesapeake City, a $25 gift certificate to Domain Spa and Salon in Elkton, a gift basket from Mined Over Matter in North East, a gift basket from Blue Claw Electric in Chesapeake City, and a wheelbarrow, bird bath and bird food from American Home and Hardware in Elkton.
Ritter’s employer, Pharmkent Wellness, will also be raffling off a medical marijuana concentrate setup for those with a proper medical marijuana registration. Pharmkent staff will also be part of a silent auction for lunch with a budtender, where the winner can talk about the industry, learn more and enjoy a meal.
Ritter said he’s excited to see so many businesses offer to lend their help in raising funds for the memorial, and noted that he’s raised more than $400 in direct monetary donations along the way as well.