Advancing National Service

When Vandals Trashed a Park, a Group of Veterans Came to the Rescue

September 9, 2014
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When Vandals Trashed a Park, a Group of Veterans Came to the Rescue
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Undoubtedly, this 70-year-old Army vet's engineering and leadership skills came in handy.

Where would we be without generous people pitching in to pick up what others have torn down? The actions of a group of volunteers in Florida show that for many veterans, helping out is a lifelong commitment.

The Little St. Mary’s River Park in Baker County, Florida is a place for families to get outside, relax and enjoy nature. But last spring, the park’s docks were vandalized. The criminals, who’ve never been caught, ripped the handrails from all the docks, crushed picnic tables and tossed them in the water and destroyed a bridge.

Larry Porterfield, a 70-year-old veteran who served in the Army as a combat engineer, was upset by the damage. “They even came in and tore the handicap ramps out,” he tells Clifford Davis of The Florida Times-Union. “Now, why would they do something like that?”

Luckily Porterfield, whose spirit of community service runs strong, had an army to back him up and help make the repairs. “I was in highway construction for 42 years. But I’m retired, so I thought I’d go ahead and do it,” he says.

Porterfield led a group of veterans from the Baker County Veterans Council, along with some civilian volunteers, in a park renovation project. Baker County supplied the materials, while the volunteers supplied more than 700 hours worth of labor, working four days a week for two months this summer to rebuild all the damaged property.

This isn’t the first time the Baker County Veterans Council has saved the day — they’ve repaired damaged porches for widows, raised funds to help disabled vets keep their homes and given cars to needy veterans, among other selfless acts.

Baker County Commission Chairman Jimmy Anderson says, “What I like about them is they are trying to teach people a sense of responsibility for their community, and for that, I give them high praise.”

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