Lexington, SC (Paul Kirby) – Members of the Palmetto Patriot's Project held a ceremony Saturday at noon to dedicate two new flag poles that they recently had installed at a Lexington retreat for homeless veterans. With the help of Air Force JROTC cadets from Lexington High School, the group raised the American and SC flags on the new poles the first time before treating the veterans to a homecooked meal of chili with all the accompaniments. According to Cody Deering, the group’s leader, this was just the end of the flag project. Much more has been done, and there’s still more yet to do.
The shelter is on Duffie Drive close to the sheriff’s department in Lexington. Called the Central Midlands Transitional Retreat, it houses, cares for, feeds, and trains veterans who’ve fallen down on their luck. It is just one small part of the Christ Central Ministries, a SC based organization that takes a holistic approach to solving the problems that often plague people.
Many who are at the retreat have emotional or physical problems that have brought them to homelessness, and the retreat focuses on getting them well in many different ways. In short, they try and go back and fix the foundation of the person, before building them up from there. Veterans can get a comfortable place to live, eat, and survive, all while working on the core issues that brought them to the point where they have no place to call their own. Their health may be bad, they may be struggling with substance abuse, or other issues that are holding them back. All are vetted by the Veteran’s Administration to ensure they have served and are entitled to the benefits afforded them at the retreat.
The Palmetto Patriot's Project, a group of veterans and patriotic individuals whose motto is “Honoring our Veterans, Past, Present, and Future” and “Patriots Paving the Way for a Brighter Tomorrow,” has adopted the Central Midlands Transitional Retreat as a project of their group. As soon as one of the members found out that there were needs at the retreat that weren’t being met, the men and their families jumped in to help meet those needs. They have remodeled the retreat’s library and then stocked it with all kinds of books with the assistance of the Lexington County Library system. They have cleaned out a nice sized greenhouse on the property and are currently looking for the material necessary to recover it. This would allow the residents to grow fresh vegetable, and gardening in itself can be very therapeutic. They also found some photographs of military men and women in action stored on the property, and replaced other photos that had little or no meaning to the vets who live at the retreat.
One of the most noticeable shortcomings of the site was its flag display. The American flag that the veterans had sacrificed to protect was tattered, faded, and worn. It was displayed on a homemade pole fabricated from old galvanized pipes, and the pulley system was jammed so that the flag wouldn’t go up or down. It was also relatively short and stood at one corner of the sidewalk near the administration building.
Adam Miranda, a member of the Patriots, said that they as a group felt that replacing that pole so that the veterans could have a properly displayed flag had to be a priority. “These guys spent years in training and service to our country so that the flag could be flown with pride, and the way it was displayed at the retreat just wasn’t getting it done. We knew when we started volunteering here, that was something we needed to change.”
The group approached Rhett Ingram, a well-known patriot who proudly displays a huge Confederate battle flag on his property between Swansea and Sharpe’s Hill alongside SC Hwy. 6, about the problem of the little worn flag pole at the veteran’s home. Without hesitation, Ingram donated, and then had installed, two new poles in a courtyard at the center that mimics a parade ground at a military installation in many ways. It is surrounded by the cottages that the veterans live in. Now, each morning as they rise and come out to face a new day, the clients see the taller poles flying Ole’ Glory and the flag of the great state of South Carolina.
During Saturday’s ceremony, the old flag was properly retired by members from the Patriot’s Project. It will be disposed of at a later date. This required the Patriots lift the old pole off its base, and manually lower the entire pole to the ground because of the jammed lanyard; not a problem for a large group of healthy veterans with muscles and energy to spare. Then, the entire contingency went around the administrative building to the parade field. There, everyone stood at attention as the National Anthem was played, and first the South Carolina, and then United States flags were raised by the cadets. It was moving to see veterans of all ages, some of whom were leaning on canes or walkers, saluting as the flag went up the pole and began waving in the stiff breeze. Remarks were made, a blessing was offered, and then the entire group retired inside to enjoy the food.
The Palmetto Patriot members are planning on doing more service projects at the retreat in the future. They need to recover that greenhouse and finish other projects there. Then, they say they’ll move on to other areas where they are needed. “This is just the beginning for us,” Deering said. “As veterans we served our country when asked, but we aren’t finished serving. We see a revival of patriotism and that gives us hope that once again, America is becoming a place where people love our service members, first responders, the veterans who served for so long, and respect the flag that is a symbol of our great land!”
You can find out more about the Palmetto Patriot’s Project, or how you can get involved, go to their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/PalmettoPatriotProject/.