NEWS | Dec. 13, 2013

Sailors respond to vet in need

By Petty Officer 3rd Class Jason Pastrick Naval Nuclear Power Training Command public affairs

With the sounds and smells of a backyard barbecue filling the air, nearly 50 people gathered for a steak dinner in an unassuming room in the LowCountry Chief Petty Officer Association building on Joint Base Charleston - Weapons Station. Conversations, laughs and a meal were shared by individuals of all ages in the tightly packed dining area. The full-house seating was evidence that this dinner served not only to satisfy the hunger of these people, but to answer the much deeper call to help a fellow service member in need.

This past November, a television news program aired the story of Walker Grainger, a 74-year-old Army veteran who has been living without power and water since March, 2012. Grainger stays warm by burying himself in blankets and staying in bed until noon when the sun finally warms his home. On especially cold days, Grainger indulges in the luxury of briefly running his car to be temporarily warmed by the heater.

After hearing the story, local service members opened their hearts and their wallets to help a struggling veteran.

"We've only had about a week to put everything together, but our chiefs, retirees and submarine veterans have really come together to support and help out," said Master Chief Petty Officer Robert Bostic, Naval Consolidated Brig Charleston command master chief.

Bostic and his fellow Navy chiefs took to the grills and offered up steak dinners as a fundraiser in hopes of making a difference.

Some in attendance were already familiar with Grainger's story from the local news story, but many arrived only with a word-of-mouth understanding that a veteran had fallen on hard times. These Sailors gathered to help their brother-in-arms regardless of the branch he served in. Their desire to help him crossed both generational gaps and military branches.

"Anytime I hear something like this, I'm willing to help," said retired Chief Petty Officer Joe Lunn, a member of United States Submarine Veterans Inc., the nation's second-largest organization for submarine veterans located in Charleston.

And junior service members on JB Charleston, those who are just starting their military career, had a first-hand opportunity to see and understand the bonds formed by those who have served before them.

"It's good for the young Sailors to see a legacy like this - good to see where you're going," said retired Petty Officer 2nd Class Ronnie Kerstetter, also a member of the USSVI. "You don't see this camaraderie when you're first starting out, but it builds over time and really develops continuity and cohesiveness."

The steak dinner event raised nearly $1,500, all of which was donated to Grainger. However, more can be done. If you would like to help, call Veronica Macias at 297-2970.