Hugh Robinson was highly trained as an Army Air Corps fighter plane pilot in 1945 and ready for his combat assignment when Germany surrendered and World War II effectively ended in Europe. “The Army said ‘we don’t need you any more,’ ” and Robinson’s military service was over. “It was the greatest disappointment in my life. My mother was pleased, though,” Robinson recalls.
The 88-year-old Murrells Inlet resident is a classic example of “The Greatest Generation,” Tom Brokaw’s description of the men and women who won WWII on two fronts and returned home to farms and factories – and to colleges – across America. After a successful career in agriculture-related enterprises, Robinson has founded Help A Veteran, a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization “dedicated to providing direct funding to established veteran organizations” such as the Veterans Welcome Home & Resource Center in Little River and Canine Angels. “I don’t go eyeball-to-eyeball with veterans, but I do with organizations.”
HAV was founded in April 2011, but Robinson started raising money about six months ago. “So far, it’s a dollar here and a dollar there and occasionally a ten” from the folding table Robinson sets up at Kroger and Wal-Mart in Garden City Beach. “We don’t [directly] ask for anything,” Robinson says of his low-key fundraising. The table has a modest exhibit including his pilot’s wings and dog tags and some photos. Robinson is helped by his neighbor John “Jack” Prince who is a WWII Navy veteran. The photos include the destroyer on which Prince served.
“We’ve been very well received,” Robinson says. The table was at the Kroger in Garden City Beach for three recent days. Persons making donations receive a red, white and blue sticker reading “Today I helped a veteran.” Robinson says HAV has given $500 to both the Welcome Home Center and to Canine Angels. He would like to expand fundraising. “We’d like to do this two or three times a week,” at different locations.
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Robinson was an 18-year-old freshman at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., when he and his friend “got on the trolley to Allentown” and joined the Army Air Corps. He was not yet 20 years old when he received his wings. He was hospitalized because of an ear infection which is the reason for a service disability. After he was released from the hospital, he was re-trained to fly the P-47 Republic Thunderbolt.
After being discharged, he and his wife drove their Plymouth coupe to Illinois where he enrolled in the University of Illinois. Their baby’s first bed was the bottom drawer of a dresser. In Champaign, a tornado tore their little house in two. Robinson received a B.S. in horticulture in 1950. He started working as a floral designer in Vincennes, Ind., and was a field representative for a chemical firm and for an international nursery. He founded The Hugh M. Robinson Co., a retail/wholesale nursery, and Tinker Chemical Corp., manufacturing home and garden pesticide products.
He also helped develop a marketing program for the Delaware, Maryland and Virginia state departments of agriculture. He is an instrument-rated private pilot but has not flown for several years.