As the members of the Daniel Island Exchange Club (DIXC) learned last year when they created the First Annual “Field of Honor” flag display along River Landing Drive, it can take a small army to create something special. And while all the DIXC members and extended family who again created the display this past Saturday gave equally to the effort, every army needs its generals.
It was DIXC President J.C. Dominick who stepped into that role, first last summer and again this year, his wife Sandy standing shoulder to shoulder at his side. And the fit has been a good one, natural to the Navy-vet and longtime military spouse descended from a long line of heroes.
The Dominick family’s support of the Field of Honor as flag sponsors began last year with one of those heroes, Sandy Dominick’s great-uncle, World War I Army Sergeant and Medal of Honor awardee Richmond Hobson Hilton. And while this year their sponsor list has grown to a half-dozen, a group that includes family members who’ve served the country from both sides of the Dominick family along with Air Force servicemen who served with J.C., Sandy in particular thinks back to Hilton when planting her first flag.
Hilton was fighting near Brancourt, France in October of 1918 when he and members of his Army Infantry from Palmetto Regiment, a South Carolina National Guard unit fighting with the Army Expeditionary Forces in Europe, came under heavy machine gun fire. The barrage of machine gun and small arms fire, Hilton noticed, was coming from a shell crater just ahead of the group, and so with several soldiers behind him, Hilton charged the crater. Firing shots from his rifle until he ran out of ammo and then his pistol, Hilton killed six German soldiers, captured ten others, and saved his unit in the process. His brave assault resulted in Hilton being wounded by an exploding shell that ultimately cost him an arm.
For his efforts, Hilton was awarded not just the Medal of Honor from the U.S. government but several others from Allied nations. The British awarded him with their “Distinguished Conduct Medal” and the French honored him with the “Medaille Militaire” and the “Croix de Guerre with Palm.” The Italian government presented him the “Croce al Merito di Guerre,” the Portuguese the “Cruz de Guerra,” and the government of Montenegro presented Hilton the “Bravery Medal.”
And in what were perhaps greater honors, or at least those closer to home, a field at Fort Jackson, SC, where Hilton himself trained, was named after him with a statue of the Camden resident guarding the gate. And after his death in 1933, Hilton was buried alongside other upstate war heroes in the Old Quaker Cemetery in his hometown.
“It gives me pride to know that he would care about his country enough and his fellow soldiers enough to make that sort of a sacrifice, to take that sort of a chance,” said Sandy. “And it really hit home when I visited his grave with my nephew, who is a Marine, and could really appreciate what it meant.”
“He is just a terrific kid and he was the one who said ‘let’s go see his grave.’…When we got there he was the one who was telling me about all the different medals and he was very proud,” Sandy continued. “He served three tours of duty with the Marines in Afghanistan and other places and his grandfathers, my father was part of the war, but also his other grandfather was in the Battle of the Bulge. And of course my husband was in the Air Force for 24 years.”
“Twenty-five,” added J.C., correcting her. “It’s a source of great pride for us, that her family is made up of those who fought for the ideals that we take somewhat for granted now, for us to know that people have gone to great lengths to preserve the freedoms that we enjoy today.”
The Dominicks’ relationship with the military and their donations to the Field of Honor don’t end there. Sandy’s father was a Military Policeman who served at Fort Benning, Georgia, during World War II. The second flag sponsored by the family is for him. A third flag is for J.C.’s best friend from his own time with the service.
“The two of them flew A-10s together. He was killed in a crash in Camden of all places. They were doing exercises and he crashed in one of the local golf courses there,” said Sandy, suddenly demure. “Being through the military with him and seeing several others who do not make it, you know the sacrifice, you know what it means, what people are willing to sacrifice for our country, the things that represents.”
“And it’s really not about how we feel about it. It’s about as a nation, as a country, to honor those who have gone before us, to honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice, to honor those who are our mentors, to honor those who have been our loved ones traveling all over the world,” continued J.C. “The names that are on those flags, that’s about all of those who sacrificed to make our nation great. That’s the bottom line.”
The “Field of Honor” will be up and on display through July 8. For more information on the DIXC’s second-annual Field of Honor presentation, check out the event website at www.healingfield.org/danielisland17.