Palmetto Pathfinder Course — February 2022

In 2021, the South Carolina Department of Veterans’ Affairs (SCDVA) chose Vantage Point’s Leadership Development Course as the entry point to SCDVA’s Palmetto Pathfinder Program. The Pathfinder program was created as an upstream approach to reduce veteran suicide in South Carolina. It is a human-to-human connection-based approach to ease the transition out of military service. Pathfinders are veteran volunteers trained and equipped to guide fellow veterans to organizations and resources within the state.

Palmetto Pathfinder Course participants

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.

Vantage Point Foundation is honored to be a part of SCDVA’s efforts to improve veterans’ social connectedness and progression into civilian life. If you are a veteran in South Carolina and would like to apply to serve as a Pathfinder for fellow veterans, click here to apply.

Shannon Boxx, former member of the United States women’s national soccer team, and three-time Olympic Gold medalist shares her story with future Pathfinders.


SCDVA Secretary Will Grimsley addresses future Palmetto Pathfinders.


February 2022 Palmetto Pathfinders, Pendleton, SC

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

VPF organization develops new tools to better serve post-9/11 veterans and their spouses

CHARLESTON, S.C. –– Charleston-based nonprofit organization Vantage Point Foundation (VPF) is pleased to announce the development of a new tool for evaluating and serving post-9/11 veterans, developed in partnership with the CDC Foundation (CDCF), through the Veteran Suicide Prevent Evaluation project (VSPE).

The tool, Whole Health Profile Tool (WHPT), is an instrument used to measure the effectiveness of VPF’s programming in upstream suicide prevention. Through the support of the CDC Foundation, VPF analyzed existing data collection tools to identify gaps relevant to veterans’ health as a whole. A new survey was created to formally collect data on the following elements: (1) Moving the Body: Energy & Flexibility; (2) Food & Drink: Nourishing & Fueling; and (3) Recharge: Sleep and Refresh. The new survey, along with existing survey tools, makes up the WHPT.

The WHPT was piloted during VPF’s most recent Leadership Development Course, which took place in April 2021. It was found to be an effective way to build support for individual veterans through VPF’s Veteran Transition Program, and ensures neither the veteran nor the organization gets stuck in an ineffective loop. VPF believes the project will significantly improve the lives of individual veterans and their spouses, while giving the organization the data it needs to continuously improve its programming, which supports veterans across South Carolina.

“That reference document of my results gave me an idea of where I self assessed in each category. It was a good rudder check on some of the continual work I’m going to need to engage with to better balance things out and grow into a better person,” said Paul, U.S. Army veteran and participant in VPF’s spring 2021 Leadership Development Course.

The evaluation plan was funded through a grant with the CDC Foundation as part of the VSPE project. VPF was one of just seven organizations from throughout the United States to receive the grant in year three of the project. Prior to receiving the grant, VPF supported veterans and created improvised support plans on a case-by-case basis. As a result, veterans and their support team often found themselves in a reactionary position, which limited progress. The WHPT now considers the full range of physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual and environmental influences in veterans’ lives from the very beginning of the transition process, which paves the way for more holistic and effective healing and transition.

“One of the biggest benefits it has helped me with is keeping me grounded,” said U.S. Marine Corps veteran, Sean. “There have been many times over the past few months where my anxiety has taken me high to the right in the red. Being able to recognize what my baseline is supposed to be has helped me reorient and stay more focused.”