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2002-2004, South Carolina Statehouse Report. Published weekly during the S.C. legislative session. South Carolina Statehouse Report is a media project of The Brack Group, Charleston, S.C.

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Thank a guardsman for defending our country
By Andy Brack
S.C. Statehouse Report

JULY 5, 2002 - - Over this holiday weekend while we roasted hot dogs, grilled hamburgers and toasted the birth of America, 785 South Carolinians actively defended freedom and protected our country.

They are the men and the women from the South Carolina Army and Air National Guard who have been deployed to wage war on terror.

They're people like Goose Creek's Capt. Marion Bulwinkle, commanding officer of A Company, 1st Battalion, 118th Infantry, based in Moncks Corner. He and the 100 men under his command put their regular jobs on hold in October, left their families and worked throughout this weekend to provide security at Fort Jackson in Columbia.

Since the attacks on September 11, millions of new federal dollars have flowed into the state to pay soldiers and airmen of the Guard to perform homeland security missions.

Meanwhile, this year's state budget crunch left the S.C. Adjutant General's office, which oversees the Guard, with slightly less money than a year ago. The new budget that started July 1 slates the office to receive $7.8 million in state dollars - - some $480,000 less than it was scheduled to receive at the same time in 2001.

The Adjutant General's office, like most agencies, has had to stretch state dollars. Managing cuts has not been easy, even though the General Assembly insulated the Adjutant General's office, education and some health agencies from more drastic revenue measures. Tough decisions caused some things to wane in priority.

One example was the state's caisson unit - - the ceremonial team of white horses that leads funeral processions of dignitaries and heroes. In last year's budget, the Adjutant General's office received $100,000 in "non-recurring" funds to maintain the unit's eight horses. But because the money was non-recurring, it didn't automatically get put in this year's budget. When tough economic times forced a lean 2002 budget, there just wasn't enough money to fund the unit's costs to house and feed the horses.

But after this year's budget was written, Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell pushed the General Assembly to approve a measure that allows the caisson unit to survive. Lawmakers authorized legislation that permits the Adjutant General's office to collect donations to defray costs for maintaining the horses. If it can't raise all of the money, the office has to use appropriated funds to keep the horse team viable.

"Words struggle to explain the message that is communicated by that caisson unit," McConnell says. "It's a solemn salute by the people of South Carolina to the state's heroes and dignitaries."

So in the aftermath of September 11th, there are a couple of things you might want to consider doing to boost the morale of people serving our country.

First, you can donate to help the caisson unit. Send donations to: Adjutant General (Caisson Unit), 1 National Guard Road, Columbia, S.C. 29201.

Or you can thank a guardsman. The best way may be to take part in the Sumter Guards' Adopt-a-Guardsman program. This volunteer unit coordinates delivery of thank-you letters, books, magazines, CDs, videos and other items to South Carolina guardsmen on duty overseas and in the U.S. To let a guardsman know how you feel, call (toll free): 1-866-SC-GUARD.

Maintaining our freedoms calls for sacrifices. Thank goodness the Guard is there to help.

11/3: Use your vote wisely: a lesson
10/27: SC GOP to keep control of House
10/20: Black voters may be secret weapon
10/13: Talk is cheap; action takes courage
10/6: Creating sunshine to dampen negative ads
9/29: SC Set to be world leader in news research
9/22: SC Senate shift could be around corner
9/15: Gov's race about barbs, ads, not people
9/8: Shorfall may cause look at prison alternatives
9/2: Revitalize your patriotism by participating
8/25: S.C.'s fiscal situation could be a lot worse
8/18: State wetlands policy needed
8/11: The bully vs. the whiner
8/4: Noah's Ark approach to tax reform
7/28: Two-party system could be political outcome
7/21: State budget woes loom for 2 more years
7/14: Agencies can do better job on Internet
7/5: Thank a guardsman today for service
6/28: Hodges-Sanford race will be wild ride
6/21: Sanford-Peeler race's impact on GOP
6/14: Ethics reform needed now

More done than you'd think(1.23)
More education $ also means cuts (1.22)
PSC reform to come, but when?(1.21)



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