Sgt. Randle Ballenger likes to bring military vehicles and displays to Freedom Blast to inspire a new generation of patriotic young Americans.
Randle Ballenger does double duty as First Sergeant with the Army National Guard's1052nd Transportation Company based in Kingstree and Traffic Sergeant with the Greer Police Department.
Sgt. Randle Ballenger wears his uniforms proudly. Both as an Army National Guard sergeant and traffic sergeant with the Greer Police Department.
Ballenger is instrumental in bringing military vehicles and equipment displays to Freedom Blast, set for Saturday 6-10:30 p.m. at Greer City Park and amphitheater.
The goal, Ballenger said, is to inspire a new generation of patriotic young Americans.
“This year we'll have a Ewing 72 Lakota helicopter that will be coming in from Donaldson Center," said Ballenger. "We also (Friday) morning went and picked up an M2 Bradley fighting vehicle. If we can bring it up here for the kids to look at we can recruit for the next generation."
Ballenger wants to inspire awe in the children while giving them a first-hand look at military hardware.
"My time is about up so we need some people to take our places as we retire and become veterans," Ballenger said. "We want the next generation to get a chance to see that stuff and get a chance to look at it, touch it, and play on it."
Ballenger has served in the U.S. Army National Guard for 28 years and is First Sergeant of the 1052nd Transportation Company based in Kingstree. He completed three tours of duty, two in Iraq and one in Kosovo.
Ballenger also serves double duty as Traffic Sergeant in Greer, a community he holds in great reverence.
"The city of Greer is just the greatest place to work on Earth," Ballenger said. "It's not just Team Greer (city employees) that makes it great, it's the people of Greer. I tell people all the time, they asked me where I was raised. I tell them I was born in Travelers Rest but I grew up in Greer. I have a lot of friends here and the day I finally retire from here will be a sad day."
Team Greer, he said, is also instrumental in making Freedom Blast a possibility. The work in conjunction with the Greer Police Department is crucial in making sure the citizens of Greer have a great time.
"It's not so much the police department as it is the whole city," he said. "Team Greer puts this together every year. It's really a salute to our veterans and for the people of the city of Greer to come out and have a veterans celebration along the lines of July 4th. It's a way Team Greer can give back to the veterans and do something for them."
Ballenger wants to make sure Preston Johnson, who died in January, is remembered for his influence and passion as commander for the upstate Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and his contributions to Freedom Blast. The City of Greer will include a tribute to Johnson renaming the annual veteran’s segment the Preston Johnson Veterans Walk.
"Preston Johnson was big into Freedom Blast," Ballenger said. "He was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam and he was very instrumental in some of the things that go on in Freedom Blast. I would be remiss if I didn't mention Preston Johnson and how much he's going to be missed this year."
Ballenger also has a message for the people of Greer, one he hopes will make this the biggest and best Freedom Blast yet.
"I would challenge you to come out (Saturday) when the equipment is there and look at that three -and four-year old kid's face when he walks up and actually gets to see it and touch it," said Ballenger. "Stuff he's seen on TV and the movies maybe, but has never got to see in person. That's the true reward."