By Leslie Ann Sully
Columbia Recruiting Battalion
June 2, 2017
COLUMBIA, S.C. - Sgt. 1st Class Deon Nalley didn't know what the future would hold when he started a conversation with a veteran near him before the Greenville (South Carolina) Armed Forces Day parade in May 2016.
What started as a joke between Nalley and Marcia Safran, a Greenville Health System project manager and veterans association member, quickly became a productive partnership with a multitude of local organizations.
"He handed me his business card, and I joked I was too old to join," said Safran, who, in addition to working for GHS, is a Navy veteran, an associate Blue Star Mother, a Greenville Upstate Chapter 4 member, and the finance officer for American Legion Post 33.
She kept the Greenville center leader's card and said she was glad she did. She would need it two short months later.
Right before the Military Appreciation Night Game of Greenville Drive Baseball Team in July 2016, Safran discovered a fellow GHS employee's father and World War II veteran, Henry Bender, would be attending the game. She wanted to organize a special field honor for Bender, who took part in the Normandy invasion. She reached out to Nalley for help.
"Although it was days just before the game, he got us an Army challenge coin," said Safran, who also asked Nalley to present the coin. "What unfolded next was one of the most touching moments in my life. "I am so very thankful for his role in honoring our oldest war generation Veteran."
Nalley and Safran met again in November 2016 at Military Appreciation Event at the Taylors YMCA, sponsored by the local American Legion. In supporting the Blue Star Mothers Chapter 4, Safran spearheads the annual GHS collection campaign for troops overseas so they receive items from home during the holidays. Nalley offered to help.
"I thought this was a great way to support our community and help other active-duty Soldiers," Nalley said.
The Greenville Army recruiters donated their personal time to help with the manual logistics of getting 149 boxes from storage to the post office.
"People donated items, but we needed trucks and muscle to get boxes packed and loaded," Safran said.
Nalley said it was important for him and his team to give fellow troops a morale booster with items from home.
"It felt good to help," Nalley said.
Once again, involvement in one activity led to a new partnership with another organization. During the holiday collection, one of the GHS' employees asked if her Girl Scout troop could do something to support the Blue Star Mothers. The Girl Scouts sold cookies for Soldiers and assisted the Blue Star Mothers in repacking an assortment of cookies to ship overseas.
"They had 250 cases of cookies, which equated to 96 boxes of assorted cookies for Soldiers," Safran said.
The Greenville recruiters stepped in again on their personal time to help load and unload the boxed cookies to be processed for shipment to their final destination.
"What they can accomplish in a short time is amazing," Safran said. "It takes a coordinated effort with a lot of people to get all these donations to our troops.
Recruiters are representatives of the Army, Nalley said, so it's important to be supportive of and active in the local community.