The day after Thanksgiving has been firmly established in the public’s mind as “Black Friday,” the day to kick off your Christmas shopping season. But by an act of the South Carolina Legislature earlier this year, this Black Friday will also be the first official day of recognition for the spouses and families of military veterans.
“I’d like to see Black Friday turned into a day to say ‘thank you’ to our veterans’ families,” said Harvey Mayhill, an Air Force veteran and Rock Hill resident who proposed the bill and pushed for it to receive statewide recognition. “Or at least I’d like to see it given equal footing.”
It isn’t a holiday per se, with the profile and pomp of Veterans Day or Memorial Day. No parades are scheduled. No speeches will be given. But supporters of the measure hope this Friday will become the time to do something for the people behind the heroes honored elsewhere; the families they leave behind.
A few states have formal occasions to recognize the contributions of military spouses, but South Carolina is the first state to create a day of recognition for a veteran’s whole family; the children who often have to move when their parents’ change bases, the parents who dread hearing that knock on the door, and the rest of a vet’s extended support network.
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State Rep. Raye Felder, R-Fort Mill, who sponsored the bill in the House, thought this was a perfect time of year to recognize the importance of family bonds.
“It’s a great time, because it’s already a holiday where you have the entire family coming together. But when you have a warrior off somewhere far away, that’s when you realize something’s missing,” Felder said. “What a great time to call a neighbor who’s missing someone and say, ‘What can I do for you?’ ”
Mayhill plans to mark the day by mailing printed “thank you” cards from DearAmericanHero.com to 50 different families in the area. He encourages others to do good deeds for other veterans and their families.
The bill sailed through the Legislature earlier this year, but before that it struggled to get out of the starting gate. Mayhill asked U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-Indian Land, to introduce a national version of the resolution in Congress during the last two sessions, but the bill never moved past the committee stage. But when he reached out to Felder on introducing it in Columbia, and after a favorable committee hearing on the proposal, the bill received unanimous approval.
The House passed it 107-0 in April and the Senate followed up by a 39-0 margin in May. Gov. Nikki Haley signed the bill June 2. Several local veterans’ groups and military family members later traveled to the capital to take part in the signing ceremony.
Going forward, Mayhill said he hopes the concept will spread to other states. If congressional action continues to stall, he wants other state legislatures to take action to create their own days of recognition for military families. Felder said she’s already heard of legislators from neighboring states interested in the latest addition to South Carolina’s calendar.
But more important than any official recognition is the day-to-day acknowledgment of the challenges military families face, and the willingness to lend a hand.
“When I hear someone say they support our veterans, I always ask, ‘How do you support them?’ because those are just words,” Mayhill said. “Invite them over to your house. Buy them dinner. Give somebody $10 to fill up a tank of gas. Be there for them before you’re needed.”