Pat Leverette knows exactly why he keeps coming back to our Mauldin store all the way from Greenwood.
"Jeans, work clothing, boots," said the decades-long customer. "I bring my wife up here every now and then to buy jeans. I got attached to cowboy boots, so she had to have some. I remember this store moved at least two times before you came here. I just got attached to the brand, and everybody always does what they say. That keeps me coming."
Commitment is certainly one of Mr. Leverette's strong suits. He's a 23-year Army veteran, and that sentence doesn't begin to touch his service to the country. He was assigned to one of the deadliest positions in the service.
"After basic training, I went to Fort Rucker, Alabama to aviation school," he explained. "I was a crew chief on a Huey gunship."
The famed Bell Iroquois Utility Helicopter was designated HU-1, with the nickname "Huey". They became an Army workhorse in the jungles of Vietnam, whether in medical or evacuation use, or outfitted with rocket launchers, grenade launchers, or machine guns. It's estimated that the life expectancy of a door gunner on a Huey gunship during Vietnam was roughly two weeks.
In the middle of that chaos is where Leverette found himself.
"It was risky," he said. "I do consider myself being a lucky man. I did two tours of Vietnam. I was shot down five times. I was shot four times - through both knees, in the back, and in the hip. I was determined to come back, but it was the will of the Good Lord that I made it."
With a Purple Heart and Oak Leaf Cluster, he returned to Fort Rucker to train younger soldiers. He then went to Washington, D.C. for an order change, became a Drill Sergeant, and spent the end of his military career at Fort Jackson and Fort Gordon.
Somewhere along the way, he became a customer. And we're sure thankful for his loyal business.
But more importantly, we're thankful for his service. And for the service of everyone who wore the uniform, or who still wears it, and who stands in the way of harm.