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Angela Thornton-Guess has a professionalism that clearly shines through a spirit of quiet humility.

She has processed thousands of health and financial claims as a counselor in the Orangeburg County Veterans Affairs Office but has also been a listening ear for those veterans just wanting to talk, or occasionally show her their battle scars.

She recognizes the sacrifices veterans have made to make the country what it is today. She takes pride in being able to help men and women navigate through mazes of governmental bureaucracy to get the benefits she says they deserve. She stands ready to help through their own personal struggles, whether mental or physical.

It is her ability to demonstrate a sympathetic consciousness of others with a desire to alleviate their distress that earned her designation as the exemplification of compassion for the month of September as part of the Orangeburg County Community of Character initiative.

“I’m very honored. Veterans are our nation’s heroes. They have done something that has touched my heart, so I want to do what I can to assist them in whatever they need. If you don’t have that passion for what you do, it’s no reason to be here,” Thornton-Guess said.

She said she enjoys assisting and counseling veterans in making sure their benefit claims and those for their spouses and dependents are completed. She said she wants to make sure every veteran receives what they’re entitled to from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

“We want to do it in the most professional and compassionate way possible. It’s just the way I am. That’s what I was taught,” said Thornton-Guess, noting that her mother, Emma, was a big inspiration for her and her two sisters.

“I attribute it to my upbringing. I was always taught that you do unto others as you would have them do unto you. My mother is a humble person. She is a sweetheart of a person that never caused any problems. Mama is a peacemaker,” said the 43-year-old, who is working to instill compassion in the hearts of her own children, Alexis, 13 and Najee, 9.

She and her husband, Leroy, are making it a priority. She said showing compassion for others is a vital part of not only home life, but the workplace.

“I don’t look at it as a hindrance at all. I just feel helping someone when you see them in distress is the human thing to do. Some veterans come back just horrible. They want to show you their scars and tell you things,” said the Branchville native, who lives in Orangeburg with her family.

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Thornton-Guess also helps coordinate the transport of veterans to the Dorn VA Medical Center in Columbia.

She said she works as part of a team of other dedicated professional in the Orangeburg County Office of Veterans Affairs and is grateful for the appreciation that the county’s Community of Character initiative shows for people of good will who display good character.

“I think it’s a good program. It really boosts the morale of people. I’m glad it’s here in Orangeburg County,” she said.

T&D Staff Writer Dionne Gleaton can be reached by e-mail at dgleaton@timesanddemocrat.com or by phone at 803-533-5534.

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