Andrew Dys

Veterans Day matters even when troops are home

U.S. Army 1st Lt. Paul Bennett, an engineer from the South Carolina National Guard's 1782nd Engineer Company from Lancaster, uses hand signals to direct a heavy equipment operator with fill-dirt placement as their unit repairs a section of Whitehouse Road, near the Richland Wastewater Treatment Plant in Columbia. Veterans Day is a way to honor these other National Guard soldiers who help so many recover from the state’s flooding.
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Paul Bennett, an engineer from the South Carolina National Guard's 1782nd Engineer Company from Lancaster, uses hand signals to direct a heavy equipment operator with fill-dirt placement as their unit repairs a section of Whitehouse Road, near the Richland Wastewater Treatment Plant in Columbia. Veterans Day is a way to honor these other National Guard soldiers who help so many recover from the state’s flooding. South Carolina National Guard

Over the past five weeks South Carolina has experienced some of the worst flooding in the state’s history with thousands of dollars in lost property and 19 deaths.

Among those offering assistance were soldiers from York, Chester, and Lancaster counties.

This week on Veterans Day, Wednesday, they will receive no honors.

They should.

More than 300 Army National Guard soldiers from the 178th Combat Engineer battalion were deployed to flood projects, ranging from rebuilding dams and roads to rescuing people from flooded homes. All of them left their own families and regular jobs to go.

They went to Columbia and Charleston and places so small they don’t havetraffic lights.

A few are still working in rural Clarendon County, where the damage was its worst on old rural roads.

The men and women stayed in tents and waded through creeks and did not call in sick because there are no sick days when people need you.

“The soldiers did an outstanding job,” said Maj. Tom Meares, executive officer for the 178th.

Veterans Day 2015, Wednesday, is for those soldiers.

Monday at Saluda Trail Middle School, the annual veterans tribute will take up much of the grounds and the buildings. Dozens of veterans and exhibits will be there. The kids meet real heroes. The event runs from the start of school until the end of school.

It is a day of honor, said teacher Liz Hood, who organizes the event every year.

“We are proud of our military and our country,” Hood said.

Simple, direct and great.

At Winthrop University, where Democratic presidential candidates and media pundits talked so much about country and service, there is a group of veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who now go to school.

The new top leaders at Rock Hill’s VFW Post 2889 are Winthrop students who are giving back to their community in a different way while trying to go to school.

They receive no TV coverage.

This Veterans Day is for them.

Many restaurants are giving out free meals to veterans Wednesday. The gesture is gracious, and the least that a restaurant, or any business, can do.

At the York County building on South Cherry Road Monday, county employees who are veterans can show up for a breakfast. It is hosted by the Veterans Affairs office in the building, where Iraq and Afghanistan veteran Joe Medlin is the county’s veterans affairs officer. Other combat vets work there, too, helping others who have PTSD, or any problem, get the services all have earned.

Medlin held the breakfast before he ran the office, when he worked at the public defender’s office.

At 10 a.m. Wednesday, at Glencairn Garden Veterans Garden in Rock Hill, area VFW and American Legion posts and others will hold a tribute. It is for anyone who wants to attend.

There is no fee, no cost, no requirements.

It is a chance for the city and its people to gather, and thank, veterans.

Veterans Day is for them, too.

Wednesday at noon in Chester, for the first time since 1941, a veterans parade will wind from the Chester fairgrounds along York Street to downtown and the city fire department. The parade will pass the War Memorial building where there is a monument to all those who died in wars.

These events are not about the debate over wars, or politics.

No, Veterans Day is about the men and women who fought the floods and the terrorists and the enemies. It is about them and there is no debate as to their righteousness.

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