Love of country a lifeline of humanity for many Lowcountry residents

(Published by Hilton Head Monthly)

By ROBYN PASSANTE

“Patriotism is the manifestation of a fundamental belief in the greatness of this country and the people who’ve given their lives and service to protect it,” says Jack Wilson, a retired Navy captain who heads up the Patriots Outpost at the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing each year. Wilson sees that display of patriotism at the annual PGA Tour event when the outpost’s special skybox on the 16th green fills with active-duty military members and their families, as well as retired service members from all branches of the armed forces.

“I think there is this reservoir of patriotism that is inherent in many, many people in this area. Duty in this area is very highly regarded,” says Wilson, who helped to host 1,034 attendees at the outpost during the 2016 tournament. “I think it’s an absolute blessing for us to have this many military heroes in our presence. They are exemplary people who have the highest ideals of service.”

Mike Danoff, who was born in South Korea and immigrated to the U.S. in 1953 when he was 12, has felt a strong sense of patriotism and duty to his country of choice ever since. He says he feels the patriotism in this area to be much stronger than where he used to live in Pennsylvania.

“I think it’s an entirely different concept of patriotism that I’m seeing among older populations here,” he says. “As people are getting older, I think they begin to do more serious introspection of their own life. And I think patriotism is a lifeline of humanity. I think it gives us purpose for living. I think if we don’t feel patriotism, then we lose purpose of who we are as a country.”

Today, Danoff demonstrates his patriotism by serving as the president of the Hilton Head area chapter of the Military Officers Association of America and the Hilton Head Military Veterans Coalition.

“What JFK said before he was sadly assassinated — ‘Don’t ask what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country’ — that’s the core principle of what I stand for and try to achieve,” Danoff says.

For people outside the military, demonstrating their patriotism comes in different forms.

“I think patriotism has changed a lot today. During World War II it was about joining the military and fighting against pure evil. But today, because there are so many different religions and cultures and issues that make up America, I think people are trying to identify their best way to be a patriot,” says Bluffton resident Heather Bragg, who recently joined the local chapter of the League of Women Voters. “For me, it’s fighting for equal rights, fighting for all Americans regardless of their sexuality or gender or religion or culture.”

To help others demonstrate their love of and hope for this country, Bragg has launched a letter-writing campaign called Letters for Hope (lettersforhope.org), which helps citizens address their concerns to their representatives in a constructive, compassionate way.

“I’ve been writing letters to my politicians since I was in the eighth grade,” Bragg says. “This gives me a sense of direction and purpose, and brings some peace to how I feel about what’s happening in our country.”