AYNOR, S.C. (WBTW) — The Waccamaw Tribe, South Carolina Indians Affair Commission, and Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) took the Stand Down veterans event on the road for the first time this year due to the pandemic.
About 75 veterans drove through the Tribal Grounds in Aynor Friday to receive assistance and supplies such as cold weather kits to medical and dental vouchers.
The Grand Strand Chapter of MOAA is one of the only chapters in the country that did not cancel the Stand Down event, according to the Grand Strand Chapter President of MOAA.
It was a one-stop-shop for local veterans as they received backpacks full of necessities, temporary housing information, and other resources. A veteran and purple heart recipient receiving assistance said support from fellow veterans goes a long way.
“Veterans are getting appreciated for what they’ve done,” said Calep Brown, a Vietnam veteran, and drive-thru participant.
Brown served from 1966 to 1968. He’s one of the dozens of veterans who took advantage of the services offered on Friday during the drive-thru event.
“This will be a boost for me not only physically but mentally,” Brown said.
The President of the Grand Strand MOAA said there is normally a line of doctors, dentists, lawyers, and benefits counselors here at veteran’s need. Due to the pandemic, instead of canceling, they came up with a new format.
“As the veteran goes through, if they need to see a doctor, we check them head to toe and their teeth. If they need legal advice, they go to the lawyer benefit counseling or social workers. We usually have all those at the stand down, but because we couldn’t this year, they all gave us vouchers and said give this to anyone who asks for that type of service, they can call us, and we will provide it for free,” said Jim Albert, retired Air Force LT. Colonel, President of Grand Strand MOAA.
Retired Lt. Col. Roger Pilcher, former president of Grand Strand MOAA, has been giving back to the veteran community for nearly two decades.
Pilcher sends veterans off at the last stop with a couple of gift cards. He says all of this helps take care of homeless veterans.
“The greatest need we have are homeless veterans, nobody seems to want to say we have them, but we do, we do have them,” Pilcher said.
Pilcher served as one of the first presidents of the Grand Strand chapter. He says veterans make up 10% of South Carolina’s population.
While other regions canceled annual stand down events due to the pandemic, the Waccamaw Tribe and MOAA were determined to fulfill veteran needs.
“Our biggest challenge right now is trying to find homes for them. Every time we go to do something, the county is resistant,” Pilcher said.
The next event will be on Nov. 14 in Georgetown. For event details or questions, call (843) 358-6877 or email Chief Buster Hatcher at WaccamawChief@gmail.com.