Heritage Trust Federal Credit Union employees joined some 750 volunteers in welcoming 1,300 military dependents and Department of Defense employees and their 30 pets back to the U.S. The group had returned to avoid potential danger arising from the Iraq war.
"When we first saw all the people getting off the plane with all the children and the backpacks, we felt so honored to help them in any way possible," said Tina Doscher,HTFCU Business Development Director. "I felt a very strong sense of patriotism.''
Dosher said she was surprised to see how calm everybody was, considering they had been given only 15 minutes to pack and get to the base in Turkey and had been riding in an airplane for 18 hours.
For two nights, six planes dropped the passengers off in Charleston, where volunteer ticket agents would help direct them to their final destinations throughout the U.S. Doscher said they expected to stay in the country for at least 30 days before being given the option of returning to Turkey if the fighting ceased. Many had spouses fighting in and around Iraq.
The credit union was asked by its original sponsor, the Charleston Air Force Base, to assist with banking needs-among them-trading per- diem checks from the military for free travelers checks so they could avoid the risks involved with carrying cash.
Doscher and HTFCU District Manager Chuck Hiers immediately responded by setting up a make-shift credit union branch at the airport, operating nearly round-the-clock for two days as six commercially chartered jets continued to bring the military dependents in at different times. Other employees rearranged their work schedules as well to volunteer their time, she said.
Some assisted the Lowcountry Chapter of the American Red Cross in making more than 11,000 sandwiches. She said the travelers were very appreciative of the services. "You don't get this feeling working at a bank,'' said Doscher, noting that she worked for two major banks before transferring to HTFCU. "There's a sense of family, sense of belonging and a sense of pride that you really are part of people's lives.''
Doscher said that after a very long night of working at the airport, she had to rush to make a morning presentation to a SEG group that including 40 county government employees.
She said she started by apologizing for looking so tired and explaining that she was part of an effort to repatriate 1,300 people from Turkey.
"I told them that this effort is a prime example of the difference between banks and credit unions,'' she said. "They applauded.''