Veterans given special honor in Rock Hill

adouglas@heraldonline.comMarch 3, 2013 

Many had to be pushed in wheelchairs or on beds with wheels. Some walked slowly with a cane, and one man rolled into the room on a motorized scooter.

It didn’t matter how they got there – it was just important that they were there and that more than a dozen fellow military veterans from Rock Hill’s American Legion Post 34 joined them.

On Sunday afternoon, members of the post partnered with Uni Health Post Acute Care to honor seniors who live at the Herlong Avenue facility. Many of the seniors served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

Decked out in riding gear, American Legion riders cruised into the health facility’s parking lot on motorcycles, ready to lead two buses back to the post on South Cherry Road.

Sunday was the first time in many years that some of the senior veterans have left Uni Health or participated in a veteran’s program, event organizers said.

“A lot of the veterans here live here year-round, so it’s very difficult for them to attend outside memorials,” said Kate Johnson, Uni Health administrator.

Johnson organized the event as a way to give back to the community, she said. It’s all part of service to her patients who have a range of health needs, some of whom are in the hospice stage.

Honoring veterans is also personally significant for Johnson, she said.

Her father served in the Air Force. He flew planes to deliver medicine for wounded soldiers in war.

For those veterans who come through the door at Uni Health, the Rock Hill facility will soon have a permanent “living” memorial to honor their service. Patients who have served in the military will have the option of having their names inscribed on a plaque as part of Uni Health’s memorial.

The facility hopes the memorial will remind aging veterans that their sacrifice has not been forgotten.

The American Legion members shook hands with all the senior veterans on Sunday, thanking each one for his service, no matter how long he had served, where he went or whether he saw combat.

No veteran should ever be forgotten, said Randy Moxley, a Marine veteran and one of several motorcycle riders on Sunday.

“We’re here to make sure that doesn’t happen,” he said.

For those who could make the bus journey from Uni Health, the American Legion held a reception for the veterans at its post on South Cherry Road.

Seniors from Lake Wylie Assisted Living also took part in Sunday’s event and reception.

For veterans like 91-year-old Graham Rumfelt, the day was a welcomed time to share his story with anyone who asked. Rumfelt was drafted in 1944 and spent three years in the Army as a tank instructor at Fort Knox in Kentucky.

He recalls narrowly missing an assignment to serve in Korea – something he says he was happy to avoid because his wife had just given birth to their first child.

After his stint in the military, Rumfelt started a dry cleaning service in Belmont, N.C., with his brother, who served in the Air Force during World War II.

The American Legion Post 34 is diligent about connecting with area veterans such as Rumfelt. Many young war veterans back from Afghanistan and Iraq have also joined the post.

On Sunday, the post chaplain offered two prayers, thanking God for the service of the veterans and asking that American men and women who are fighting in the Middle East be brought home safe.

“We thank you for this great country we live in,” he said. “We pray that you continue to keep America safe...and bless all the servicemen and women who are overseas.”

Anna Douglas •  803-329-4068

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