Palmetto Pathfinders

Throughout the last year, representatives from the South Carolina Department of Veterans’ Affairs (SCDVA), Vantage Point Foundation (VPF), Semper Fi and America’s Fund, South Carolina Department of Mental Health, and the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center worked together as part of the SAMSHA/VA South Carolina Governor’s Challenge Team to find ways to improve social connectedness and care transitions to prevent suicide among Service Members, Veterans and their families.  On Thursday, September 16th, 2021 this team, in partnership with Boeing, SC, implemented and trained the state’s first certified Palmetto Pathfinders. These initial Pathfinders are graduates and mentors from VPF’s program who volunteered to pilot the certification process.

The Palmetto Pathfinder 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. Pathfinders are volunteers, who will be trained and equipped to guide fellow veterans to organizations and resources within the state. Pathfinders will provide a human-to-human connection to Veterans in need of resources that will increase the likelihood of successful transition. These volunteers will work directly with the SCDVA.

“After living a life of service to men and women in uniform, my natural post-retirement endeavor was to not only help but ENSURE that veterans had the best support and resources possible as they transition to the civilian sector.  The Palmetto Pathfinder Program provides all the combined efforts of resources and reliable organizations then supercharges veterans with a corps of willing and dependable volunteers. I am humbled and proud to be involved with the Palmetto Pathfinder Program.”
–SgtMaj Jorge Guerrero, USMC (Ret)

It’s Up to All of Us: Welcome Them Home

As we pass the 20-year mark since the horror of September 11, 2001, we pause to honor the memory of all the Americans who perished in terror visited on those in New York, the Pentagon, and Pennsylvania. We also honor those who rushed into the face of danger to save those who could be saved and comfort the families of the fallen. But let us not forget the selfless thousands of Americans, volunteers all, who put on the uniform to confront the threat that would continue to this day.

“…our challenge is to welcome [and support] them as they make the difficult transition into civilian life.”

Confronting the faces of terror across the globe for 20 years, hundreds of thousands wore the uniform of our country and served us well. Many have come home, and our challenge is to welcome them as they make the difficult transition into civilian life. Our mission is to support them as they rejoin their families and their community and embark on careers in a world, they left years before.

In 2016, Vantage Point Foundation was born to support that transition. As one who was involved in standing up VPF, I had to answer the question: “WHY?” Why the need for a Vantage Point? It’s about coming home! It’s about how we honor those who served and support them so they can truly “come home” and set aside the wounds of war.

For me, the challenge of our men and women coming home after service in Iraq, Afghanistan and other deployments across the globe, connect in many ways to the experience of those returning from Vietnam. I have reflected on my 1967 experience many times, to provide a “WHY?” to the need for Vantage Point.

                         Chuck Atkins, United States Marine Corps 1966-1968, in Vietnam

After a short taxi on a dark runway, we deplaned and saw the land we left over a year before to fight a war. I tossed my sea bag over my shoulder and walked off the tarmac, alone into the darkness. No crowds, no bands, no signs, no hands to shake–just the night. I’m on my own now. Welcome home, Marine!

“I tossed my sea bag over my shoulder and walked off… alone into the darkness”

Vantage Point is quite simply a group of dedicated staff, mentors, and community partners who won’t let those who served come home and walk into the darkness alone.  As we remember those who perished in the horror 20 years ago and others who rushed in in the face of danger, let us not forget the thousands who answered the call to keep us safe no matter the sacrifice. The “WHY?” for Vantage Point is: never let those that served us in uniform walk alone into the darkness but rather truly come home. 

Thank you,

Chuck Atkins