Ten members of VFW 7764 loaded trucks with supplies for the Carl Vinson Military Hospital in Dublin Georgia, and left the Post at Reidsville at 8:35 a.m. Friday, January 12, 2024. They were expecting intermittent rain and wind that was predicted throughout the day, but weather cooperated for the most part. The convoy arrived at the hospital about 9:50 a.m. and was met by Keith Griffin, Chief of the Center of Development and Civic Engagement. Keith had workers with carts ready to get the boxes inside quickly as the threat of rain was constant. Those manning the carts had big smiles, which demonstrated their appreciation for the donations. After the goods were secured, Mr. Griffin carried the group on a tour of the hospital, which made the need for donated goods obvious. Veterans using canes, crutches, walkers, or wheelchairs to get around greeted the group in every ward, and although most probably didn’t know why the men and women in VFW 7764 shirts were there, many came forward to thank them for coming.
Visiting with the vets might be a bigger morale booster for them than the donated necessities. VFW members had the names of some local vets in the hospital, and they had an extended visit with Tattnall County’s Bruce Oliver, who served two and a half tours in Vietnam and a tour in Iraq in 2005-06. Bruce had volunteered for a third tour in Vietnam in 1969 so that his younger brother, Dennis, also a Marine, would not have to go. However, Dennis volunteered anyway and was serving in Marine Recon when he was killed in a firefight during his third week in the country. In the book Inside Force Recon, authors Michael Lee Lanning and Ray W. Stubbe, describe the mission in which Dennis was killed. His team was inserted by helicopter to gather intelligence and found themselves in the middle of a North Vietnamese regiment. Dennis was covering a retreat up a hill to the Marine position by his team members when he was hit by automatic weapons fire. Bruce was sent back to the states after Dennis’ death, and that ended his Vietnam service.
In 2005-06, Bruce served as a First Sergeant with the 118th Field Artillery, 48th Brigade, of the Georgia Army National Guard during a tour in Iraq. At age 57, Bruce could have avoided the deployment, but he believed that his combat experience with the Marine Corps in Vietnam would help him save lives of his soldiers. He adapted to conditions quickly, and his unit was able to complete its Iraq mission with no casualties.
Bruce and Dennis grew up about a quarter of a mile away from VFW 7764 Commander Ronnie McCall, and they swapped stories and memories during the visit. Bruce was an All-State Honorable Mention center and linebacker and led the defense in tackles on the 1965 Reidsville High School Tiger football team. He suffered a stroke while working as an investigator with the Department of Corrections and is paralyzed on the left side of his body. He is able to get physical therapy at the Carl Vinson Medical Facility that helps minimize the effects of the stroke.
Ronnie McCall also recognized Alger Williams of Collins, who is being served by the facility. “When they told us that they had an Army Veteran from Tattnall County and introduced him to us, I recognized him immediately even though I haven’t seen him in years. I introduced myself to him, and he smiled but I don’t think he recognized me. We talked and I could tell he was trying to remember me. I think Alger retired from the Army with 30 years of service.”
VFW 7764 Judge Advocate Gary Mitchell of Glennville was able to visit with his brother-in-law Herschel Rushing, who served in the U.S. Army and was a Vietnam Purple Heart Recipient. Herschel grew up near Hillview and lived close to Earl and Joe Boyett. Gary and several others talked with Asa Brown from Hazlehurst, Georgia, who is a Marine Vietnam veteran and went through boot camp with Bruce Oliver, Tommy Taylor, and Jackie Trim. Asa wanted to say hello to Jackie.
It was a good trip, and VFW members were impressed with the cleanliness of the facility and the level of care and support provided by the staff. Many of the veterans have no families, and they thoroughly enjoy talking with visitors. Another trip is planned for early summer.
A big thank you to everyone throughout Tattnall County who supported the 2023-24 Winter Veterans Hospital Project by Post 7764. Many people donated items on the list provided by Keith Griffin while others sent money. Some money came in late and was not used, but it is earmarked to be used for the next trip. Now that needs are better defined, the planning has begun so more can be done.
Post Service Officer (PSO) Gina Hall must be commended for taking the lead in organizing the trip. She spent many hours putting together the donated items and coordinating with Keith Griffin to determine the most needed items. Currently, Mr. Griffin is planning to bring staff members to a location in Tattnall County to provide a program to help military veterans understand the services available to them through the Veterans’ Administration. Many veterans simply do not understand what is available. More information on that will be provided at a later date.
Once again, “Thanks, Tattnall County.”