Dataw Island Honors American Veterans: $55,000 raised in one week! - Dataw Island
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Dataw Island Honors American Veterans: $55,000 raised in one week!
Through a series of Veterans Week events, Dataw Island members raised $55,000 to help veterans.

Dataw Island Salutes Veterans: $55,000+ raised in one week!

Veterans and supporters gathered around the flag in honor of their service to our country Tuesday at Dataw Island. Around 100 servicemen and women from all branches of the military participated in this Annual March and Rally.

The early morning fog still hung low as the veterans assumed formation and marched to the pole, led by the Beaufort High School JROTC Color Guard. After a teary-eyed raising of the colors, the Beaufort Harbormasters, a choral group led by Tim McGrath, treated the crowd with majestic renditions of patriotic songs, including each of the armed service songs from each military branch: “Anchors Aweigh” for the U.S. Navy, “The Caissons Go Rolling Along” for the U.S. Army, “The Wild Blue Yonder” for the U.S. Air Force, “The Marines’ Hymn” for the U.S. Marine Corps and “Semper Paratus” for the U.S. Coast Guard.

The week-long Veterans Celebration kicked off Saturday night with guest bartenders at Sweetgrass restaurant, followed on Sunday with the “Flag Brigade,” for which a group of Dataw Island volunteers painstakingly placed 3,500 flags along 2.5 miles of roadways on the island to usher in their honored guests.

Monday, Assistant Golf Professional Chris Fearn bested himself in playing an astounding 219 holes of golf in one day! Fearn took pledges based on each hole he completed, as well as how many birdies and eagles he made, in order to raise money for the On Course Foundation, a 501(c)3 that supports the recovery of wounded, injured and ill service personnel and veterans through golf.

On Tuesday, following the March and Rally, a golf tournament for veterans of all ages and their supporters was played on both of the Dataw Island Golf Courses. The Veterans Golf Classic supports Tee it Up for the Troops, which has beneficiaries such as the Fischer House which builds comfort homes in V.A. and medical centers enabling family members to be close to their injured sons and daughters, which saves them thousands of dollars a month in lodging, travel and food costs. They also support the Gary Sinise Foundation, the On Course Foundation, the Simpson Cup, and the Warrior Canine Connection, to name just a few.

After a fun round of golf, bagpipers ushered attendees into a luncheon in the Carolina Room to celebrate the service and sacrifice of many men and women. Ret. Air Force Sargent Dan Acosta thanked the group on behalf of Tee it Up for the Troops, after which guest of honor ICO Ret. Major Jeffrey Houston extended a "welcome home" to the veterans in the room, especially the Vietnam veterans, many of whom did not receive a proper welcome upon their return from service. Houston gave testimony to his story about war and survival, and the challenges of recovery, for which he was very thankful to all who played a part - from his battle buddy who fought off attack while holding pressure on his wounds to the civilians who donate Bic razors...because, as Houston said of a straight razor he was offered in the hospital, "I haven't seen something like that since my grandfather!" Houston was also presented a Quilt of Valor, hand-stitched by the ladies of Dataw Island. 

Last but certainly not least, the Dataw Island Veteran of the Year was named at a special breakfast Thursday: Jack Cummings. 

VETERAN OF THE YEAR: Jack Cummings

The Dataw Island Veteran of the Year was named in memoriam to a very special Veteran, Jack Cummings.

Cummings’ service to the military as well as the community at large was recognized at a ceremony on Thursday. In addition to being recognized by adults as a great friend, many area children get a special twinkle in their eye as they see the man who served as Santa Claus for military children. Especially, the one child that was selected to ride on Santa's motorcycle to the Christmas luncheon.

Cummings entered the Army in 1968 and spent his duty years at the Pentagon. Coming from a line of police personnel, after his service, he spent almost 30 years in law enforcement, first serving on the Capitol Police and then transferring to the Washington, DC police.

After retiring in 2000, our honoree and his wife moved to Dataw Island, where he quickly became involved in Veterans’ causes, initially with the Marines’ Toys for Tots program, and also helped plan a dinner to honor the Veterans of World War II.

About 14 years ago, a Gunnery Sergeant working with Toys for Tots made a passing comment that it was a shame that nothing was done for the kids of deployed Marines, and thus, the Dataw Island Santa Claus Luncheon was born. Working with Dave Britton, Dataw’s Director of Golf, the event is now one of the biggest events of the Dataw Christmas season and in all year but one has featured Cummings as the jolly ol’ man himself.

Vickie Cummings, Jack’s widow and sometime Mrs. Claus and Chief Elf, noted that her husband always loved this event, sharing the joy of Christmas with these children and their families.

The luncheon elves estimate that over the years gifts and Christmas cheer have been distributed to more than 650 kids, as they sat on Santa's lap, had their picture taken, and thanked Santa for the gift they chose from the many donated by Dataw's residents. Ret. Colonel Peter Buck, former Commander of MCAS Beaufort, summed it up best at one of the luncheons. He said, “For many of these children, this IS their Christmas.”

For this, and many other reasons, Jack Cummings was presented the 2017 Veteran of the Year Award. Vickie Cummings acceptedthe award in Jack’s memory on his behalf.

 


Guests also heard from guest speaker Wells Morrison, Dataw Island’s outgoing Director of Security who was the Field Supervisor in charge of the 9/11 investigation in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

Throughout the week, these events raised more than $55,000 that will go directly to help veterans. Congratulations, Dataw! And to our veterans -- THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE!



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