Dover Elks Lodge will recognize veterans and first responders Nov. 10.

What better way to celebrate American heroes than a hearty meal of meatloaf and mashed potatoes? The Dover Elks Lodge #1903 will recognize veterans and first responders in a ceremony open to all Sunday, Nov. 10. at 4 p.m. at 200 S. Saulsbury Road.

The specific Elks ritual to recognize veterans will for the first time also recognize first responders. The Caesar Rodney JROTC drill team will take part.

“On both sides, many great lives are lost,” leading knight Beth Tarrant said. “These are people that abandon their own life at the drop of a hat to make sure everyone else’s lives are protected.”

The Elks’ commitment to celebrating veterans each year dates to the founding of the organization, she said.

Commissioner Anna Lopez from the Delaware Commission of Veterans Affairs and other speakers will talk about the transition that many military members and first responders face.

“Sometimes there is a seamless transition and sometimes it creates a lot of havoc both within the family and the military member or first responder,” Tarrant said.

Afterward there is a free meal for veterans and first responders at 5 p.m. Others pay $10 for dinner, which includes comfort food and homemade desserts.

Founded in New York City in 1867, the Elks was originally a group of actors and entertainers who got together when all the restaurants and stores serving alcohol were closed Sundays.

When one of their members died shortly before Christmas, leaving behind a widow and children, “they realized they had to take care of their own,” Tarrant said.

Support extended to veterans when the Elks created a nonprofit for veterans services in 1946. The Elks National Veterans Service Commission serves veterans, military members and their families in education, employment, housing and health.

Their mission is, “So long as there are veterans, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks will never forget them.”