Since Marlboro County Veteran Affairs Officer Vikki Harris announced she was leaving her position, there has been a steady stream of visitors coming to the D.D. McColl House.
“It is bittersweet,” she said. “I love and care for every last one who has walked into here.”
She added her decision has nothing to do with them.
After six years, Harris is leaving Marlboro County to take a similar position for Guilford County in North Carolina. Friday will be her last day.
“I am excited,” she said. “I don’t know what is going to happen in Greensboro.”
A cookout will be held from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Aug. 2 at the DD McColl House as a send-off for Harris. Veterans who wish to attend are asked to call 843-479-5622.
She admitted when she came to the position six years ago that she thought she would stay until she retired.
She would only say her leaving was a culmination of reasons.
For her, being a veteran services officer is a calling.
“Everyone cannot do this,” she said. “You have to have a certain amount of compassion for people.”
Harris said she was proud of the many activities her office spearheaded, such as Memorial Day cookouts, Labor Day Family and Friends and Evening of Dinner and Dancing.
She was especially proud of the Veterans Day Parade that was held in 2017.
“It was an enormous success,” she said.
Through the years, Harris has helped many veterans. Her most memorable one was a Vietnam veteran, who had put in claims and had been denied.
Harris worked with him to submit additional information. Then one day, he called her and said something was wrong with his bank account because there was a lot of money in it. The veteran had received 100 percent of his benefits.
Harris said she would never forget how the amount of money afforded him a better life to pay off his home and to travel.
Freddie Hodges, retired Sgt. first class in the United States Army and Vietnam veteran, said Harris has always been a very knowledgeable person about veteran affairs.
“She is willing to go 110 percent to help you get benefits or to get the information that you need,” he said.
Hodges added he was upset about Harris leaving but knew that everyone has to move up to better themselves.
“She came in, did a good job, somebody saw it and allowed her to go up,” he said. “I wish her well.”
In addition to being an asset in the county, Harris was elected first vice president for the state Association of County Veteran Affairs officers.
She felt it was a position that allowed her to deal with the governor and other senators and to not only get work done for the veterans but to spotlight Marlboro County.
Tyron Abraham, retired United States Army staff sergeant, said Harris came in six years ago and held different events that weren’t held in the past.
“She is always cheerful and makes you feel comfortable,” he said. “She is knowledgeable of all the programs available to veterans.”
Abraham added Harris would be missed.
Chaplain Deborah A. McNair, a retired specialist in the United States Army, said Marlboro County veterans are like family.
“Vikki Harris was not only a veteran services officer but our family,” McNair said. “There will not be anyone able to replace her.”
She feels that Harris had been an asset not only to the veterans of Marlboro County but to all veterans regardless of race, gender, age or religion.
She added as the chaplain of American Legion Post 213 in Marlboro County and a member of DAV Chapter 50, it had been a pleasure and honor to work with Harris and her assistant Amber Goings.
“Veronica (Vikki) Harris has set the standard of what a veteran services officer is called to do,” she said. “We have cried, laughed and enjoyed each other. She has a compassion for not only the veterans but their families.”
McNair added with what is going on in the world today, more people like Harris are needed.
“Her presence will be greatly missed in this community,” she said. “She is the best of the best. She has taken the veterans services office to another level.”
Harris said she hopes her assistant Amber Goings will stay and continue to run the office until the Legislative Delegation makes a decision on whom they will select.
The delegation consists of Sen. Gerald Malloy, Rep. Pat Henegan, Sen. Kent Williams, and Rep. Jackie Hayes.
Harris said she told Goings that she could handle the position and to be compassionate.
“I think she will stay because her duty to assist runs deep, she got it from me,” Harris said. “Hopefully, she will stay and take care of our veterans.”