Charleston, S.C. – Many people would say Charleston is a military strong community.
For years, families have made the Lowcountry their home so that they can serve and fight for freedom.
News 2’s Laura Smith shared a number of stories from around the community that play a role in making Charleston military strong.
The Citadel has been a military staple in the South Carolina since 1842. The college provides an education and warriors to fight for our country.
A new war memorial wall sits on the school’s campus. Over 700 names are seen on the wall and represent all Citadel graduates killed in action.
Family members and the school said its important to always remember the ones that didn’t come home from war.
Dwyane Whittman, veteran and a 1975 Citadel graduate, lost his son, Aaron Whittman, in 2013.
“We found out late afternoon because he was killed late that morning in Afghanistan,” said Whittman.
He described what it’s like to see his son’s name on the new war memorial wall.
“It’s hard, it’s like going over to the chapel and looking at his name, knowing its the last name up there. I wonder quite often if it will ever be the last name up there. Probably not,” Whittman said.
Aaron Whittman graduated from the Citadel in 2009 and was a solider in the Army.
The Coast Guard
Our next story takes us to the U.S. Coast Guard station downtown. The Charleston station keeps a 24-7 watch on surrounding waters, provide security and ready to respond when needed.
Justin Longval is the officer in charge at the Coast Guard station on the peninsula. He says they do different things within the port of Charleston.
“Out of all of the military branches, we are the ones that works closely with the community,” said Longval
They make rescues, respond to marine pollution that gets reported in and around larger ships and they work closely with other local agencies.
“Charleston is a very military friendly and strong community,” Longval says, “the military occupies a significant footprint in the Charleston area and in particularly, the Coast Guard. The community here has been very supportive and we are very appreciative of that.”
Joint Base Charleston: The Air Force Base
The Air Force is ever more present in the Charleston area. Each day, it is likely that you hear and see the military planes flying overhead.
On the ground at Joint Base Charleston and what you don’t see, are the people that keep planes and military vehicles up and running.
James Dodson is from the state of Washington.He is a mechanic at the Air Force base.
“If i don’t leave here dirty, then i didn’t do a good enough job,” said Dodson.
Dodson fixes everything from fire trucks to jet fuel trucks. He kept it simple.
“Without us, planes don’t fly,” said Dodson.
Dodson thinks Charleston is a military strong community.
“When i felt in for the first time, i was welcomed just for flying in, i felt, very, very welcomed,” said Dodson.
Joint Base Charleston: The Air Force Base and The Naval Weapons Station
We end our ‘Military Strong’ series at Joint Base Charleston because we wanted to share how troops are giving back not only around Charleston, but also outside the area.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Michael Bluett works with the 437th Aerial Port Squadron. He joined the Air Force after high school in 2011.
Bluett loves his job, adding “it’s an amazing experience, very humbling.”
He has been deployed twice.
“My grandfather has been a big mentor in my life,” Bluett said “he wanted to be like him so i followed in his footsteps and joined the Air Force.”
Bluett works each day in the warehouse at the Air Force Base. It holds cargo equipment that is then put on the planes.
You may not know that they give back to other countries in need. Each week, Bluett said, they send furniture to Honduras.
The Air Force and the Navy both assist with hurricane relief.
Brendon Breed, operations officer, said their guys are working long hours to send supplies to help in Puerto Rico.
“we knew that we had the capability to help out the community in Puerto Rico,and once we did, everyone came forward to help them out,” said Breed.