Scott joins veterans for Memorial Day service

People attending Monday’s American Legion, Post 21 Memorial Day observance look for cover from the rain.

LADSON — Applause erupted when Rep. Tim Scott walked into the VFW hall here midday Monday; he’d made it.

Doing so proved more difficult than expected.

Scott, R-North Charleston, of the 1st Congressional District, came to speak at a Memorial Day ceremony in Parks Cemetery in Summerville, but as rain from Tropical Depression Beryl drenched the Lowcountry, the venue changed, the start was delayed and lines of cars, including Scott’s, streamed toward Ladson.

The crowd of about 200 was dominated by veterans and a handful of families, most of whom seemed to receive Scott warmly, in spite of the wait.

“The folks who truly deserve a standing ovation are not with us,” he said, after receiving one himself. “They’re not with us.”

They were remembered Monday, as two Summerville High School Navy JROTC members in tan uniforms and shining black shoes placed a wreath before the podium and taps played through the hall.

About half the attendees, veterans wearing vests and garrison caps or formal uniforms raised their right hands in salute. The rest — their wives, children and other civilians — held their arms over their chests.

During his remarks, Scott also spoke to the needs of the veterans who did return and took a jab at President Barack Obama, saying he wanted to fund the military with $8 billion more than the president had proposed.

“It’s because of the conversations I have in the malls and the Walmarts and the Piggly Wigglys about men and women who are still trying to get their benefits from this government,” he said of his support for funding for the military and veterans’ benefits. “We have to consistently say yes when it comes to veterans affairs.”

Afterward, Roger Yongue, Scott’s military-veteran’s affairs coordinator, stood near a crowd that surrounded the congressman and heard stories of cuts or reduced benefits. He scribbled notes on an iPad and planned to start congressional inquiries into the veterans’ issues.

As the nation honored and thanked its fallen soldiers, a handful of veterans offered Scott gratitude of their own.

“Thank you for your service,” one said.

“I’m just so glad you’re doing what you’re doing,” another added.

The exchange reflected the support Scott has received in South Carolina, fueled in large part by ties to the military and the tea party movement.

In a later interview, Scott held that line, repeating his support for military spending.

“The way we’re fighting wars is starting to morph in a way from fighting countries to fighting gangs, so to speak, within countries,” he said in the interview. “I’m keenly aware of the fact that the new technology (the military uses to combat them) ... means that our investment’s going to have to be substantial.”

Away from politics and the stump, the veterans who gathered kept their focus on remembering the lives of servicemen who perished in combat.

“No words can come close to honoring our fallen comrades,” said Col. Mark Fentress, a retired Army chaplain.

“But we have to be here to remember them anyway.”

Reach Thad Moore at 958-7360 or on Twitter @thadmoore.