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