This week, the Lowcountry received a special visitor from the state capitol: South Carolina Secretary of Veterans Affairs Todd McCaffrey. Secretary McCaffrey visited Marine Corps Air Station – Beaufort and attended a lunch hosted by the Lowcountry chapter of the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA). The visit was a prime example of how the military ecosystem of the Beaufort area helps keep our communities on the radar of our government officials, and also provided insight on a state program that is helping our veterans and servicemembers find the best ways to use their talents.
The program discussed by Secretary McCaffrey is called the Palmetto Pathfinder, an initiative which promotes successful community-based connections between veterans and servicemembers to ensure transitioning military members are best positioned to succeed after they leave service. This program was started in 2021 by the South Carolina Department of Veterans’ Affairs (SCDVA) and was originally created as an upstream approach to reduce veteran suicide in South Carolina. The program achieves this goal and helps integrate servicemembers into their communities by connecting them to relevant resources and services with a focus on helping them grow both personally and professionally in their post-military life. As the program’s website states:
“The program is comprised of military Veterans from all demographics who desire to guide and support service members and fellow Veterans transitioning into civilian life in South Carolina. Potential Pathfinders are immersed in VPF’s three-day intensive Leadership Development Course, spending time on interpersonal growth work as a part of the preparation to become an SCDVA Palmetto Pathfinder. These volunteers will work directly with the SCDVA. Each Pathfinder will guide up to ten fellow Veterans in their communities across South Carolina to ensure they find the right resources and support.”
While this program is a valuable tool to prevent veteran suicide, it is also an excellent method for local communities to grow populations of skilled, employable veterans. According to numerous studies, one of the largest difficulties for veterans who have left the military is the loss of the daily camaraderie and community they experienced from their fellow servicemembers. The Palmetto Pathfinder is a way that South Carolina can assist veterans in a personable manner and provide a new community where they can feel at home. Simultaneously, the community that welcomes veterans through this program will gain motivated new citizens who contribute both economically and socially to the community’s success.
It’s clear that programs such as the Palmetto Pathfinder are paving the way for future veteran support and community-military services across the nation. Secretary McCaffrey alluded to that fact at the MOAA lunch when he referenced pending federal National Defense Authorization Act language that will help state and local veteran support organizations like the Palmetto Pathfinder more easily identify and connect with separating service members.
We’re proud to have standing programs like the Palmetto Pathfinder already leading the way in providing the best services for our military veterans and excited to take advantages of opportunities to grow the program further. For more information about the Palmetto Pathfinder program, including how to get involved, explore the following link: https://scdva.sc.gov/palmetto-pathfinder-program