SC’s first Veteran of Year speaks at River Bluff Veterans Day tribute

By Natalie Szrajer
Posted 11/14/23

The event was held this year in conjunction with the History Channel’s “Take a Veteran to School” outreach program.

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SC’s first Veteran of Year speaks at River Bluff Veterans Day tribute


About 130 River Bluff High School students participated in a Veterans Day tribute,  bringing back an annual celebration that was halted by COVID-19. 

The tribute was organized by Michael Burgess, a history teacher at the Lexington school and the lead teacher for River Bluff’s Center for Law and Global Policy, and featured musical selections, historical narrations and South Carolina’s first Veteran of the Year, 1st Sgt. Alvin King of the U.S. Army. 

The event was held this year in conjunction with the History Channel’s “Take a Veteran to School” outreach program.

“This is a part of our core values at River Bluff,” Burgess said, referring to citizenship. “It teaches them to value multiple perspectives. It’s our principles and beliefs that unite us. It allows us to honor those who fought for our country and to uphold our dignity.”

The musicians, speakers and narrators represented all grade levels at the school, with Burgess noting that students had practiced since the beginning of the school year in August. Narrations featured the Declaration of Independence, “The Gettysburg Address” and former President John F. Kennedy’s remarks at Annapolis. 

During the “Armed Forces Salute,” played by the River Bluff wind symphony, a couple of guest veterans in attendance — Army Sgt. Chris Hill and Army Lt. Col. Ronnie Cromer — stood during the salute to their branch, while students who had family members who served in a branch of the military also stood. 

Hill has a daughter at River Bluff, while Cromer is a state senator who represents District 18, which covers a portion of Lexington County.

After the narratives and band pieces, King spoke. The Veteran of the Year is a published author and the exectuive director and founder of the Range for Hope Foundation, which seeks to use golf as a theraputic resource for veterans and active-duty service members coping with PTSD along with their families.

He spoke about the impact a person in the military can have and the importance of Veterans Day. 

“What does that mean to everyone here? Less than half of 1% serves and protects this country,” King said. “They enable us to be here today.”

“The reality is we’re all connected,” he added, breaking down that spirit into a few acronyms — MAD (“make a difference”), MOB (“make others better”) and TEAM (“together everyone achieves more”).

“We’re not alone but together.”

He left students with five principles found in his book “Purpose Fulfilled: A Guide to a Life Well Lived”: “wake up to aspire through action,” “believe to achieve,” “live on purpose,” “live with purpose” and “trust the process.” 

“There will be good and not so good. Your perseverance is being worked on,” King said.

While King was recognized by the state Department of Veteran Affairs as its first Veteran of the Year, he said the honor comes second  to the people he meets through his nonprofit organization. 

“The award is not the reason I do this,” he said.

King founded the organization in the fall of 2020 because he had turned to golf while in the Army and wanted to offer the sport as free therapy to veterans and their families. The lessons provided at golf courses in the Midlands are funded by two annual golf tournaments.

He also includes adaptive golf lessons to veterans with disabilities. He talked about one encounter with a veteran who lost his leg but is a professional golfer who doesn’t let his disability slow him down.

"There are lots of moments,” King said, “And smiles.”

“It’s eye-opening to see the people with a variety of disabilities, meet them and they’re just phenomenal people and athletes,” he added. “You watch people do golf and other things with less than and it gives you a different perspective.”

King admitted that golf can be an expensive sport, calling the ability to offer lessons to veterans and their families a blessing. It can also be a mental challenge, with the executive director saying it was a process for him to learn.

“I was an athlete in high school and thought this should be easy but it was hard,” King said. “The mental challenge of golf drew me in.”

Three years into its life, King said nearly 500 families have signed up for free golf lessons across the state through his organization.

As for the next generation, King said he hopes the students at River Bluff will hold on to the life lessons he delivered even if they decide not to join the military.

“We go through life thinking we know things but there’s a lot of ways to look at things. You can promote or provoke thought,” he said.

river bluff high school, lexington veterans day event, alvin king, Range for Hope Foundation


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