As state holidays go, it won’t be a day of parades or grand speeches.
But on South Carolina’s Day of Recognition for Veterans’ Spouses and Families – the day after Thanksgiving – there should be more than just a day of thanks, say those who advocated for the day. It should be a day of action and not words, they say.
Gov. Nikki Haley celebrated the new state day of recognition on Friday with a ceremonial signing of a bill that passed through the Legislature unanimously on its second try this year.
Surrounding Haley at the bill signing in Columbia were veterans and their families.
Spouses and their families, said Harvey Mayhill, an Air Force veteran and Rock Hill resident, “are pretty much alone without support,” when loved ones are deployed.
They go through “just as much hell as veterans deployed,” Mayhill said. “They are veterans in a different way that support this country.”
Mayhill first took the idea for a day of recognition to honor spouses and families to U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C.. When Mulvaney, an Indian Land Republican, asked Mayhill what day should be celebrated, the day after Thanksgiving was suggested as people were already giving thanks.
State Rep. Raye Felder, R-Fort Mill, introduced the bill in the state Legislature.
South Carolina, Felder said, has historically embraced its military families and the day of recognition is a chance to “embrace them forever.”
“All military wives deserve this day,” said Gino Del Buono of Rolling Thunder and a Navy veteran of 30 years.
Among those attending Friday’s ceremony was Robyn Dudley, whose son, Marine Staff Sgt. T.J. Dudley, was the last York County native killed in action in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. She has another son deployed and a daughter at the U.S. Naval Academy.
“I’ve traveled this road a lot years, supporting military families,” Robyn Dudley said. To celebrate the day, she encourages people to reach out to military families. “Take the time to be there, to take care of children, to give parents a breather,” she said. “Brothers and sisters are also left out. Go to a movie with them, just let them talk.”
Joe Padgett, state captain of the Patriot Guard Riders, said for veterans and their families the day also can be a time for reflection. Padgett, a 20-year veteran of the S.C. National Guard and Edgefield County resident, said he will likely spend the first family recognition holiday remembering the time he spent in Iraq with the 122nd Engineers and how it affected their families.
Mayhill said the day of recognition will “be one of the finest days of my life. I’ll be saying thank you to a lot of people.”
If done right, the day of recognition won’t get lost in all the post-Thanksgiving shopping excitement, Mayhill said.
Tony Pruitt, who served with 3rd Special Forces Group Services and Support and was wounded on his third tour of Iraq, said the number of people serving at bases in South Carolina, as well as military retirees, should help make this holiday special.
“The first year, questions will be asked,” Pruitt said. “Those questions will open doors for wounded warriors and their caretakers.”
Pruitt praised his wife, Meagan, as the kind of person the holiday was meant to honor.
“She keeps me up and going. She is my heart, (my life) solely rolls on my wife. It’s hard for us. She does everything for our family,” said Pruitt, who suffers from post traumatic stress disorder and physical disabilities.
Mayhill’s efforts won’t end with Friday’s ceremony. He and others are pushing for a national day of recognition.