FLORENCE, S.C. — Corbett “C.B.” Anderson advocates for veterans, especially the homeless, strictly as a volunteer. He devotes his time to helping veterans in Florence and surrounding areas as the founder of several organizations and in leadership capacities of others.
A veteran himself, Anderson was drafted into the United States Army in 1969. Anderson said that like everyone else his age he registered for the draft when he turned 18 years old.
When he got his draft notice, Anderson said, “I was having the time of my life. I didn’t volunteer.”
He said incoming soldiers were classified as RA (volunteered), US (drafted) or NG (National Guard). At basic training, Anderson said, they were given tests to determine areas of interest and aptitude for training possibilities. He said he was offered pilot school training, an opportunity to go to West Point, which would be a three -year commitment rather than the two years required of a draftee, and others opportunities, but he turned them all down. He said there is an old adage, not to volunteer for anything in the Army, and he didn’t.
He said that as a draftee he had no choice where he would be sent, but he could pick three places he would like to be sent with no guarantee he would go there.
“Vietnam wasn’t one of my choices,” he said.
Anderson said he had friends who were sent to Vietnam and didn’t return.
Anderson said he never served in a combat environment. He was sent to MP Military Training School. It was the late ‘60s. He said a lot of his training was in riot control. It was near the time of the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. He said there were lots of riots during that time.
“We were exposed to a lot of gas attacks that irritate your skin and lungs as part of our training,” he said. “We went on forced marches.”
He said training included marching in gas chambers. He had to learn when and how to put on and take off his protective gear in a hurry.
A few days before graduation, Anderson said, orders started coming in. Soldiers were assigned a military alphabet letter from Alpha to Echo. Up to Echo were being sent to Vietnam, he said.
Anderson was first assigned to Alpha, but when he opted to go to leadership training, he was recycled back to Echo.
“That is how close I came to going to Vietnam,” he said.
Anderson received orders to Japan, but his orders were changed.
“I was in the Army, but they sent me to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, where I trained to become a dog handler,” Anderson said.
During training, Anderson said, they would load up in cattle trucks at 3 a.m., go to breakfast and be transported to the desert, where they would spend the morning training their dogs. He recalls there were two long benches, one on each side of the truck. He remembers stretching out under a bench and sleeping. He said he would skip breakfast and sleep until they reached their destination. He said they would train until noon. After that, it became too hot for the dogs to be out. He said they would clean the kennels out, put the dogs up and head back to the mess hall in the cattle trucks.
When his training was complete, Anderson was sent to South Korea.
Anderson said that when he arrived at the base it was dark.
“I was out in the boonies,” Anderson said.
He said it was the later part of 1969. He said it was still hot and muggy. South Korea was a poor country at that time, Anderson said. There were lots of dirt roads with large potholes and no electricity in the rural areas.
“I saw mountains and rice paddies,” he said.
He said his duty station was not on the base but up the top of a mountain, a Hawk Missile site with six different launching pads.
Anderson served part of the time as a dog handler and other times as a military police officer. It was in central South Korea, not the DMZ.
Anderson said he did not see combat; however, he saw one skirmish while he was there.
“As a dog handler, I had a specific post that I covered from dusk to dawn,” he said. “It did not matter what the weather might be.”
Anderson said that on really cold nights he would put on every piece of clothing he was issued that he could still walk in.
His dog was a German shepherd. He said they like the cold weather.
“We did have mittens for the dog’s feet and vest if needed,” he said.
Anderson said thankfully it was a mild winter in 1969-70.
“I saw only about six inches of snow,” he said.
Anderson said a dog handler and his dog become close. Dog classifications are Scout, Sentry, Tracker, Mine and Booby.
“I trained Sentry dogs,” he said.
Sentry dogs were commonly used by Military Police units and were used to patrol a specific location and to defend camps and other priority areas at night and sometimes during the day. Normally these dogs are trained to bark or growl to alert guards of a stranger’s presence.
Anderson said his dog had been to Vietnam and wouldn’t bark to alert him of possible danger or of a stranger’s presence but would get close to the ground.
Anderson said these dogs are trained to grab and hold. He said you couldn’t let them around other troops or dogs. He said attack dogs could not be off leash around others. They were confined to a fenced-in area.
“There is a special bond between a handler and his dog,” Anderson said.
He said in a combat environment the handler knows that the dog could save his life.
He said part of the training is to get the dog used to the trainer, so the trainer can walk in on the dog, and for the dog to accept and trust them.
“You train hard,” he said.
For the handler, training includes getting suited up and allowing the dog to attack. He said you are covered, except for your head. He said you can feel the pressure of the dog’s bite. He said these dogs are powerful; they will knock you down.
“I made a mistake once and my dog turned on me and went for and grabbed my arm,” Anderson said.
When the dog aw that it was him, Anderson said, he let go.
“It was my fault, not his,” Anderson said.
“I got volunteered for this training,” Anderson said. “But it was a good experience.”
His dog was named Victor; his number was A375. He was born in 1962. The Army got him in 1964 and he died in Korea in 1971.
Anderson said Sentry-trained dogs were not allowed to be adopted when they retired. He said when the Vietnam War ended a lot of the dogs were left behind.
“I now have a full-blooded German shepherd,” Anderson said.
“I came home in November 1970,” Anderson said. “I got an early out in Korea after 14 months.”
“I went back to Mullins and worked in a T-shirt factory,” Anderson said.
Anderson said he wanted to go back to school and eventually enrolled in Francis Marion College, where he majored in political science and received his bachelor of science in 1977.
At one point, Anderson said, he sold everything he had and went to Eagle Pass, Texas, to be a dog handler. When he got there, there weren’t any apartments to be rented so he turned around and came back home.
He went to work for Nucor. During his career he also owned a retail and construction business.
Dealing with veterans, Anderson said, he realized a need for an organization where veterans could go to have their needs met. He retired from his job and created such a place for veterans.
Although Anderson didn’t see combat in the Army, he now fights continuously as a volunteer army of one for veterans, especially homeless veterans.
Eight years ago, Anderson founded the Veterans Resource Center of Florence, a nonprofit 501c3 organization, which is currently housed out of Lighthouse Ministries on East Elm Street and is a one-stop referral service for veterans. He operates the center four days a week.
“I rent an office in Lighthouse Ministries,” he said.
Anderson said he wanted to create a place for veterans to come, to make it easy on them to find answers to their questions and to find support. He helps veterans find answers and solutions to a wide range of issues, from legal services to medical problems, financial assistance, employment and housing issues, and more.
He works closely with support agencies, including the local Veterans Affairs office. His goal is to assist veterans by getting them in touch with other agencies and give them information about resources that they may not be aware of that they’re eligible for.
He also has some funding he can use to assist with past-due utility bills or rent and other things.
“A lot of people don’t believe we have homeless vets, but we do,” Anderson said.
He said some veterans are homeless for a variety of reasons, including mental problems. He can help find them shelter but he can’t make them stay. Some choose to be homeless, he said.
He is Employment/Homeless chairman for the VFW Department of South Carolina and Employment/Homeless chairman of the Pee Dee Area Veterans Advisory Council.
He has organized Stand Down operations in Florence to provide multiple services to homeless and at-risk veterans at one site. He also participates with the First Friday Homeless Connect.
Anderson also serves as Veterans chairman for Florence Elks Lodge #1020 and NC/SC president of Veterans of Vietnam motorcycle club.
He is founder and director of The Frank Dunlap Foundation (501-c3), which provides military uniforms to dying veterans or to the families of deceased veterans if they knew their love one wanted to be buried in a uniform and didn’t have one. He said he started this foundation after trying to help a WWII veteran in Myrtle Beach find a uniform to be buried in. Anderson helped find all the patches that he had on his original uniform. He was a POW, Anderson said. He said he was able to reconstruct his military record.
He said it feels good to be able to help others. Once he helped a female veteran with a light bill that was too big for her to pay. Her heat in her home didn’t work and she was heating the home with a space heater and turning on the stove. She and her husband had lost their jobs and had three children. He was able to pay the bill and get a friend in the heating and air conditioning business to check out her heating system. It was something minor, Anderson said. He was able to fix it and the air conditioning for free. He said she didn’t even know she had air conditioning. She was so grateful, he said.
Anderson said the rewards for what he does can’t always be seen. It’s a good feeling from the heart.
Anderson said it is getting time for him to step down.
“I need someone to take my place,” he said. “It need to be younger veteran. I will always be involved; if people need me they know where to find me.”
A native of Mullins, Anderson lives near Timmonsville with his wife, Gewene. Between them they have four children and “a big German shepherd, Miss Lucie.” His wife is a retired nurse from McLeod Health.
“Miss Lucie is 9 years old,” Anderson said.
“I had a heart attack at one of the First Friday events,” he said. “I’ve had my left knee replaced, my wife has had her left knee replaced and Miss Lucie has had knee problems that started with her left knee.”