Called the “Thank A Veteran” discount program, the idea has already been implemented successfully in approximately 20 North Carolina counties, the first being on Memorial Day 2015 in Guilford County. Guilford has since issued more than 1,600 cards involving more than 300 participating businesses.
Raby indicated that since the Register of Deeds regularly records a variety of documents including military records, his office seemed like a natural fit to administer the program.
“We will be purchasing the photo I.D. machine after the beginning of the fiscal year which begins July 1,” he said, “and I hope to have the program up and running as soon as possible.“
Raby told Macon County commissioners that he is coordinating the program with the Chamber of Commerce, individual Macon County businesses, and other organizations to “get the word out.” Participating businesses will be listed on his office website. Raby said he will be issuing a press release to indicate when veterans can expect the program to begin.
Eligible veterans include all Macon County residents who have been honorably discharged from any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces.
“All a veteran needs to do is to come into our office (located in Room 230 on the second floor of the government center) with their original DD-214 discharge papers,” Raby said. The office will then record the documents, take a picture, and issue the discount card free of charge.
“Our goal is three-fold,” Raby said, “First, to get vets to come in and register their discharge papers; secondly, to get as many businesses as possible to participate in the program; and thirdly, as a token of appreciation to our vets for their service to the country.”
When contacted for their individual experience with the program, other North Carolina Registers of Deeds expressed overwhelming positive reaction to the “Thank A Vet” program. Haywood County Register of Deeds Sherri Rogers characterized it “personally as one of the best days of my life.”
“The camaraderie of the vets was so incredible,” she added.
Rogers began the Haywood program on Nov. 10, 2016 and had 75 participants register the first day.
“The vets were so appreciative,” she said.
Other organizations including the American Legion, Vietnam Veterans Association, and Veterans of Foreign Wars were on hand during the kick off. To date, more than 300 Haywood County vets have signed up.
Amy Zieverink, Asstistant Register of Deeds for Johnston County, said they also began their program in November 2016.
“We had 150 vets register the first day and now there are more than 900 individuals registered with 94 participating businesses,” she said.
“It was just overwhelming,” she added.
Guildford County Register of Deeds Jeff Thigpen said proudly that his office won the 2016 Innovation Award from the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners and the Local Government Federal Credit Union for “excellence in innovation.”
“I see this as an organic movement throughout North Carolina,” he said, adding that his hope for the program is that it will expand to all 100 counties.
Raby said he was looking forward to adding Macon County to the growing list of governments participating in the program.
“It’s our way of saying thank you to those who have served,” he concluded.