11th Hanahan military fest celebrates veterans, offers post-service resources

Published: Nov. 4, 2023 at 10:50 PM EDT|Updated: Nov. 4, 2023 at 11:20 PM EDT
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BERKELEY COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - Hundreds gathered in Hanahan on Saturday for a full-day affair dedicated to honoring the nation’s veterans.

Several community members say it is vital to prioritize our Lowcountry military before, during and after their service.

“That’s what it’s all about,” Navy Veteran Jerry Oldham says. “Right here. I’m one of you all, you’re one of us. We’re in this all together.”

After two tours in Vietnam and several years of service, Oldham now calls the Lowcountry his home.

He believes post-military resources didn’t always exist, but they are more important than ever.

“There’s more programs, opportunities, more things that look to help veterans today that weren’t there in the past.”

400,000 veterans currently live in the state out of 20 million nationwide, according to studies done by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.

28% of them are experiencing a disability of some kind, whether physical or mental health-related.

Besides the day filled with speeches, songs, treats and trinket shopping, a handful of vendors were in attendance to support transitioning and post-service veterans.

“Whether it’s a lifelong career or just a few years, they come out different than when they went in,” City of Hanahan Mayor Christie Rainwater says. “They often need services and support.”

“Education, employment, nutrition, housing, social networking, all the different things which hug a veteran through their transition,” Palmetto Pathfinder Jean Brooks adds.

Palmetto Pathfinder is one of the many options available to veterans who need assistance.

It is a three-day mentorship program through the statewide Department of Veterans Affairs.

“A Pathfinder is a mentor for other veterans,” Brooks says. “We can speak to each other in our own language and provide resources.”

Oldham says it is heartwarming to see advocacy and celebration from the community in a time where it is becoming “less common.”

“It kind of hurts me sometimes, the things that happen today because people just don’t appreciate it.”

The City of Hanahan has been a long-time supporter with a population consisting of mostly military families.

They say they hope to continue to foster relationships and work toward making resources more accessible until the festivities start again next year.

“To those post-military, say ‘Hey, how can we support you, what are you in need of? You have served us, now we want to serve you.’”

For information on Veterans Affairs services, click here.

For information on the Palmetto Pathfinder Program, click here.