An easy opportunity to support the troops, missed
South Carolina and the military are supposed to go together like peas and carrots.
So it’s a little disappointing that an event for wounded veterans here next month may be cancelled because it seems some folks are not, uh, supporting the troops.
The Independence Fund, a nonprofit that provides medical equipment and therapy for severely injured veterans, has planned a concert for Sept. 14 at The Citadel’s Johnson Hagood Stadium featuring the Lt. Dan Band, led by actor Gary Sinise.
Yes, Lt. Dan from “Forrest Gump.”
Sinise and his band play dozens of shows around the world each year to support our troops. They have sold out Waterfront Park in Beaufort three years running. That’s 4,500 tickets each year.
Independence Fund organizers thought they would provide the Lt. Dan Band a bigger stage this time, so a few months ago they moved the event here.
And so far they’ve sold 300 tickets.
Steve Danyluk, the founder and president of the Independence Fund, is perplexed.
Beaufort admittedly is a military town, but Charleston is much larger, yet the show is going practically unnoticed.
“Ticket sales are non-existent, local sponsorship is non-existent,” he says. “Word either isn’t getting out, or no one’s interested.”
The Citadel is working with the group — the college is all about supporting disabled veteran causes. And when the Corps returns, no doubt many of them will buy tickets.
But the whole Corps of Cadets wouldn’t be enough. Danyluk says he fully expected to sell all 20,000 tickets. They’re only $20 each — a pretty good price for a night’s entertainment, and to show veterans they are appreciated.
That’s why, if ticket sales don’t pick up, he’s going to pull the plug on the show. A mostly empty stadium, he says, would be demoralizing to veterans.
“I’m not going to do that to them,” Danyluk says.
And that’s a decision he shouldn’t have to make.
A needed support net
Danyluk knows a lot about the psyche of severely injured soldiers. He knows what they have to deal with when they get back to the world.
When he was in the Marines, he saw policies that denied vets some of the equipment they needed to survive. It bothered him.
Instead of complaining, he founded the Independence Fund. He and some other veterans run the charity in addition to their normal jobs.
“It’s amazing what you can do in your spare time,” Danyluk says.
In six years they’ve raised more than $700,000 to buy veterans all-terrain wheelchairs that military insurance won’t cover. They arrange events to help veterans connect with each other, because once these soldiers are out of the service, their support net largely disappears.
Danyluk says the vets will come to Charleston no matter what. There’s a retreat at Palm Key, near Ridgeland, where a group will gather for seminars and therapy. Then they come up here for a Warrior Ride and a 5K run.
The concert is supposed to be the highlight of the weekend. And Charleston needs to make sure that it is.
These days, politicians throw around “support the troops” to rally voters. And some of these same people then cut funding for veterans’ insurance and education.
Until the government wises up and makes sure that anyone shot at while defending this country gets free education and medical care for life, there is a real need for groups like the Independence Fund.
Right now, the easy way to support the troops is to support this show.
And that’s all there is to say about that.
Reach Brian Hicks at email@example.com