Harold Eckhoff was enjoying a night of food, fun and fellowship with members from the Veterans of Foreign War Auxiliary Post 7331 when he got the surprise of a lifetime.
The group’s annual Christmas party turned into a celebration of service for the Cold War veteran, who was gifted a new truck just in time for the holidays. The vehicle was provided through a collective effort between Fight the War Within, Veterans of Foreign Wars Auxiliary 7331 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7331.
"I’m still on a little bit of a high from this event,” said Eckhoff. "It is awesome what the organization has done. I've only seen things like that in the news. I'm humble. When I received this, it blew me away. I continually serve by helping others and I learned these things from my mom and dad.”
The organization works to support members in the community through fundraising events as well as other outreach programs. James Collins, treasurer for the auxiliary, said the decision was perfect timing for a man that has been a "huge value to Richmond Hill.”
"His old truck died and he was in a bad spot,” said Collins. "The decision to help him was not a challenge at all. We knew this was the right thing to do.”
The organization did not stop there. The backseat of the truck was filled with gifts for Eckhoff’s family. He felt undeserving of the truck due to his short stint in the military, but Jenn Allen, president of the auxiliary, said his service to the community is unmatched.
Whether it be helping a homeless veteran find a hotel for the night or connecting them with the VA clinic, Eckhoff’s dedication and expertise has allowed him to lend a hand in a multitude of ways.
"He had the uniform on for six years but he has been very active in our community, so I still consider that service,” said Allen. "He volunteers all of his time, it's his pretty much his baby. Helping veterans is his passion. He is very selfless and a great person.”
The gesture reminded Eckhoff that good Samaritans still exist.
"It probably is the best gift I've ever had in my life,” said Eckhoff. "The best part of it is that I haven't lost my faith in humanity. There are good people out there.”
Latrice Williams is a general assignment reporter covering Bryan and Effingham County. She can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.