On November 11, 2017 at 11:00 a.m., the community gathered at the Mauldin Cultural Center Veterans Memorial to remember and to honor veterans of the armed forces. Over one hundred people attended the ceremony despite the blustery, cold winds. Taft Matney of the Mauldin City Council opened the event by thanking those involved in its planning and execution, particularly Janice Holcombe who served as primary coordinator. Mayor Dennis Raines reminded attendees of the rich history associated with Veterans Day, a holiday first established to commemorate the end of World War I and later expanded to celebrate those who were living and had served this country. A Naval Honor Guard presented and retired the colors. The Ralph Chandler Panthers Choir, under the direction of Holly Traynham Hill, sang stirring renditions of “Star Spangled Banner”, “Thank You Soldiers” with four beautiful solos, and “My America!”. The singers who filled the improvised bleachers had volunteered to present these musical selections on a non-school day.
During the brief ceremony, Staff Sargent Jeff Fulton shared his personal story as a veteran. Having served twelve years in the Army Reserves, he deployed twice during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Most people would not seek out his assigned tasks—manual demining and route clearance. Both involved handling and defusing of explosives. Staff Sargent Fulton outlined three things he learned from his service. First, living among impoverished and oppressed people taught him not to take anything for granted and to be grateful for the freedoms found in this great nation. Second, on the front line and in dangerous situations, he honed his leadership skills and his ability to make quick and sound decisions. His last and perhaps greatest lesson found him upon the return home. Battle can leave its scars and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other complications sometimes await those who survive. He described how faith and family as well as counseling helped him through a difficult and painful time and urged those in similar situations to ask for help.
Mike Cogdill, WYFF TV4 News Anchor, followed with his personal reflections on Veterans Day. He recounted the story of his cousin, Danny Wingate, who served three tours of duty in Vietnam. Mr. Wingate began life with several strikes against him—his mother was only 14 years old; his father unknown. His grandmother raised him and while he served overseas, she passed away. He finally returned to an empty house but he did a very brave thing—he got up and went on with his life. Mr. Wingate married, became a father, and built a successful business. Like all veterans though, he lives with memories of his service including the jungles of Vietnam even as he enjoys his wonderful family. Mr. Cogdill said that we must be thankful for and remember what these veterans gave up, what they did, what they were willing to do, and what they live with every day. He bemoaned the sad and violent stories that fill the newscasts every day but urged each person present to choose kindness and love in their daily lives. These veterans “would call each and every one of us to do better, to be better in acts of love that live up to those colors right now in this great nation state.” Cars whizzed by on East Butler Road, birds incessantly chirped, and a plane sounded overhead but all receded into the background as Mr. Cogdill leaned forward, gazed into the audience, and intoned a solemn challenge to attendees. “May we rise to meet the sacrifice of every man and woman drawing breath this day who is living with the likes of the jungles of Vietnam, the wild wastelands of Afghanistan, places like Bastogne on one of the coldest days this planet has ever known. Ladies and gentlemen, may we rise to meet what they have done and what they live with.” Their sacrifice must mean something and that something begins in the way citizens choose to live and serve.As Mr. Cogdill, concluded his speech, the Naval Honor Guard arose and marched to the individual veterans’ memorials with their flags held high and snapping in the wind. Veterans of all ages and backgrounds, a few using walkers, followed behind them. Attendees joined the veterans, shook their hands, conversed a while, and thanked them for their service to this country. Under the leadership of Mrs. Rita Taylor and Mrs. Jenny Heinz-Butteris, several girls from Girl Scout Troup 1380 served cookies to show their appreciation to the veterans while children giggled and played in piles of dry, crackling leaves. ♦