A Columbia political consultant is raising money to buy an estimated 5,000 pairs of solar eclipse glasses for recruits being trained at Fort Jackson.
R.J. May III on Wednesday started a GoFundMe page to raise $8,000 to purchase the glasses, which are needed to safely view the total solar eclipse in Columbia, but aren’t part of the strictly issued military gear for soldiers in training.
May, who served as U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman’s campaign spokesman earlier this year, said he’s raising money to show the state’s support for Fort Jackson and the troops.
“A little South Carolina hospitality,” he said. “These are men and women who have answered the call and come from across the country. While they are in South Carolina, they’ll been in the zone of totality. I thought it would be a good idea to buy glasses so they could view this once-in-a-lifetime event.”
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May said he spoke with Army morale, welfare and recreation officials and they were willing to accept the glasses and distribute them as needed. He said individual battalion commanders would decide whether their recruits would be allowed to briefly halt their training to see the eclipse.
Pat Jones, a spokesman for the fort, said the Army would accept the glasses and, if approved by battalion commanders, would distribute them to recruits.
There are about 8,000 recruits in training at the fort.
With Monday afternoon’s eclipse drawing nearer, the glasses have become hard to come by and prices have risen substantially. Price are listed at up to $4 apiece now, May said; but he has found a vendor that will sell them for $1.50 each.
The GoFundMe/fortjacksonsc page had $580 pledged Wednesday afternoon.
May said he would order glasses that conform to all NASA and American Astronomical Society standards.
Fort Jackson is the nation’s and the Army’s largest basic combat training post, and “I want our war fighters to be able to see down range in six months,” he said.