Let me start by mentioning up front that Jake Knotts is a friend of mine. I’ve occasionally assisted him with his political battles over the years, and, I can tell you, in the entire spectrum of South Carolina politics, there is nobody that I would rather have in my foxhole than the Senator from Lexington County.
Still, I recognize that he is a polarizing figure to many. Some love him, some hate him. It goes with the territory.
In politics, we learn that many of our greatest leaders were simultaneously beloved and hated: Those who set out to accomplish great things make “enemies” along the way. Reagan and Kennedy both come to mind. Our system of government allows for opposing views to be a part of the same process. Anytime someone of a particular view succeeds in advancing his cause, you can be sure there are opponents who are unhappy with that success.
So, like every other outspoken elected official, Jake Knotts has his critics. But, love him or hate him, you have to admire his straight-talking, get-it-done attitude when it comes to taking care of “the people”.
Last week, Jake (or “Jakie” as friends still prefer to call him) put that attitude into action. “The people” had a problem, and Jake set out to solve it.
“The people”, in this instance, were the families of our soldiers from the 132nd MP Company, based out of the National Guard Armory on Platt Springs Road in West Columbia. Platt Springs Road happens to run through the heart of Jakie’s Senate District.
That unit had recently been deployed for active duty, and had spent the last few weeks in Mississippi training before being shipped to Iraq. Prior to heading overseas, the fighting men and women were being given a four-day pass… a final chance for R&R before heading into battle. But there was a catch: the four-day pass had a stipulation that allowed the soldiers to travel no farther than 150 miles from the Mississippi base. It was far enough to get them to Atlanta, but not far enough to get them home to their families.
It didn’t seem fair. Their final days before heading into a battle-zone from which some might not return should be an opportunity to be with family, many believed. But it’s the military, and in the military, you follow your orders without asking questions.
Family members, however, can ask all the questions they wish… and in this instance, many of them turned to Senator Jake Knotts. Never mind the obvious dilemma that a State Senator has ZERO impact on the United States Armed Forces.
The people needed an advocate: They called Jakie.
And when Jakie gets a call from a constituent that needs help, he doesn’t rest until he’s done everything possible to get them that help.
In this instance, he started with the office of the South Carolina’s Adjutant General, who leads the Guard in our state, finally reaching General Stan Spears… only to be informed that these Guardsmen were on active duty and now under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army, not the Guard. Spears was helpless to assist in this instance.
Undeterred, Jakie turned his attention to the Army. Working up the chain of command, he finally determined that these forces were under the command of Lt. General Russell L. Honore, apparently the only person who could remedy the situation. Using his unique powers of persuasion, Knotts located the General Honore in the War Zone. Eventually, after exhausting the power supply of multiple cell-phones, and going through a chain of multiple military phone operators and dispatchers, Knotts found the General.
Understandably impressed with Knotts’ perseverance, the General listened to his plea for help. Fortunately, he agreed that the soldiers’ final days in America should give them a chance to be with family. From the middle of a war-zone, he certainly understood that some of them might never return.
Equally fortunate, Honore shared Knotts’ straight-talking, get-it-done attitude. Known as “The Ragin’ Cajun”, Lousiana-born Honore was once described by CNN as a “John Wayne dude” who “gets some stuff done.”
“Consider it done,” he told Knotts. Within hours, Knotts got a call from another of the U.S. Army’s top generals, Major General Jay Hood, informing him that the orders had been changed, the 4-day pass would now be a 6-day pass, and the soldiers would be allowed to return to South Carolina during that time.
Knotts thanked General Hood, and went to work arranging needed transportation to bring our soldiers home and back.
For Knotts, its all in a days work. Part of his job, he believes, is taking care of the people he was elected to serve. And he’s quick to tell you that the 166 fighting men and women who are risking their lives to protect us are the heroes.
If you’re one of the people who “hate” Jake Knotts, you’re free to go on hating him. For that matter, if you want to “hate” me because I count him as an ally, that’s okay, too.
But, agree or disagree on the other issues of the day, never let it be said that Jakie doesn’t give his best to serve the people who need his help. And on this day, he made a real difference for 166 families who are making a difference for America.