JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA –
Before the United States existed as a country, those who took up arms to defend the land were supported by the local community. In 1636, the pilgrims of Plymouth Colony passed a law to provide for disabled soldiers from the colony who had participated in the war against the Pequot Indians. Support provided to veterans continues today, 380 years later.
Francis Bolds, United States Navy Retired Senior Chief Petty Officer from James Island, South Carolina, and a World War II (WWII) veteran, helps support other veterans by escorting them to their appointments throughout the Veterans Affairs (VA) building in downtown Charleston, South Carolina.
“I enlisted in the military in Aug. 1943,” said Bolds. “I was 16 but lied about my age, saying I was 17, so I could enlist and serve my country. I stayed in until my retirement on May 1, 1973.”
Bolds started his Navy career in the South Pacific at the height of WWII. By being in that part of the world, at that time, Bolds witnessed the most decisive events of the war.
“I was there when the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” said Bolds. “To see that kind of power first-hand leaves you speechless. I was also one of the last people to return from the war. By the time the last of us came home, we weren’t receiving the ‘Hero’s Welcome’ everyone else had been given. We were just another group of men coming home from deployment.”
Bolds, also a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars, served on multiple ships and bases. However, there is one ship that stood out above all the others.
“I was serving on the United States Ship Genesse, a Patapsco-class gasoline tanker. We were in the Cuat Viet River in Vietnam when we were attacked,” said Bolds. “During the assault, we lost two good men. It was one of the scariest moments of my time serving the military.”
Since retiring, Bolds has dedicated his time to volunteering with his church and with the Veterans Affairs hospital. Vicki Johnson, VA Voluntary Service program manager from Ackerman, Mississippi, has personally witnessed Bolds’ efforts.
“Chief Bolds has been volunteering here for over 20 years, accumulating almost 9,000 hours of service,” said Johnson. “He transfers our patients throughout the medical center and is a blessing to have around. With the rest of his spare time, Bolds assists his church by delivering communion to church members who are unable to physically attend.”
While serving his country for almost 30 years and volunteering over 20 more, Bolds found his faith is a key factor in it all.
“I pray for anyone and everyone every single day,” said Bolds. “I believe being faithful to my religion has made a true difference in my life and to me still being on this earth. I will go to other veterans and pray with them, if they welcome my company, because I believe every veteran should have something to believe in.”
On Nov. 6, 2016, Charleston will be hosting a Veterans Day Parade downtown and Bolds will be the grand marshal.
“It means a lot to me that I’m able to participate like this in the parade,” said Bolds. “In my time I have come to learn no matter what branch you serve, we all are military and we all become veterans. We are one.”