By Marsha M. Brown
As many of you who read GIG LINE regularly know, my veteran husband and ‘sweetie pie’ Billy recently passed away on July 12th. Like many devoted spouses who have lost their husband or wife, my grief at times seems overwhelming.
I don’t see an American flag that I don’t think of him especially if it’s in disrepair, in shreds or old and faded…that’s because pride in the display of our red, white and blue was paramount with him…he felt it should be for everybody; I don’t look at an American Bald Eagle and not think of the tattoo Billy got on his right arm while stationed at Fort Hood before his deployment to Vietnam…while his Pastor father and mother weren’t fond of tattoos, Billy felt it paramount for body identification to get one with or without their blessing; I can’t hear his (our) beloved patriotic songs that tears don’t instantly swell up in my eyes and drop like lead…that’s because they always did in his. He loved the old favorites that some find a little mundane or boring…he was a devoted fan of tradition and our culture as he had known it especially having personally fought to preserve it; I don’t see a military uniform or wooden kneeling soldier yard display that Billy’s beautiful face doesn’t fill my mind and my heart and since the afternoon of July 12th I mourn…I mourn a lot but I thank God for the privilege of being loved by him and loving him each and every minute of my life. My friend “Bibber” told me one day that I didn’t start to mourn Billy’s loss the day he died, but that I had mourned every single day since we heard the diagnosis four and a half months before in February. She’s right.
‘GIG LINE’ is not just about Billy though he inspired it in me in 2012. Much of what I’ve written each week over these past few years is about his influence, his ‘love of country’, his patriotism, respect for his brothers and sisters, and his desire to support kind deeds toward veterans who have fallen ill, have become disabled and who are suffering hardship. Billy’s love for all veterans was obvious and seeking out ways to honor them (you) was dominant in his daily life. In particular, combat veterans, who had suffered the pangs of war especially tugged hard on his heart strings.
Two years ago November 2014 while on vacation in Florida, Billy told me just ‘out of the blue’ that he wanted to be cremated and what he wanted to be done with his ashes. Naturally, the topic took me off guard. It was a beautiful day, we had been having a great time together and he was happy, so to say I was shocked is an understatement at best. His statement was serious especially not having been sick or concerned in particular about his health at that time. But…looking back now, I’m convinced it was a statement inspired by God in preparation for what our family just went through. God wanted me to know Billy’s wishes.
Glioblastoma Multiforme – Level IV a deadly brain cancer which Billy was diagnosed with this past February. It has apparently caused a considerable number of Vietnam veteran’s deaths. The personal accounts from family members of veterans who have described their husband’s symptoms, diagnoses, anticipated life expectancy with or without treatment are almost identical to what Billy endured. And their description about the way in which his body reacted? Almost verbatim. I want to know. I want to know how many veterans who served in Vietnam in the late sixties or who were exposed to Dioxin are recorded to have died from a GBM. It also came to my attention recently that there is a group of loved ones who have the same question that I do.
I am thankful for any and all help the Veteran’s Administration provides to our veterans but I want to understand more about pending consideration of illnesses or ailments that could be related to our veteran’s exposure to Agent Orange. And…if there are any bills before Congress that are still pending…w-h-y are they ‘pending’ or not voted on when our veterans are dying?
I’m not a medical professional…I’m not a professional researcher…I am a wife who misses holding my husband’s hand, kissing him every morning, throughout the day and every night. I miss joking and laughing and sharing simply and complex aspects of life with him…my best friend in the whole world. My lover and the father of my children now resides in Heaven and that being God’s will, I can accept that…but I thirst for knowledge about Vietnam veterans and GBMs and the group of widows who support each other. I guess you could say that I’m on a mission.
Additional topics of interest…
The Town of Duck is doing a great job letting their veterans know that the Dare County Veteran I. D. Card is available for local, resident veterans who can show their DD-214 indicating Honorable discharge and a local Driver’s License. Thanks to the Dare County Veteran Advisory Council, Vice Chairman Jack Leonard, an announcement was included in the Town of Duck E-Newsletter, August 1, 2016 about the ‘Card’ and how it is provided at no charge (for use at nearly 60 Dare County/Outer Banks local businesses) offering varying discounts and perks as a ‘thank you’ for your service. In this past week, I’ve received calls from four veterans who want one. Help us get the word out. Our vets appreciate the discounts (holidays are coming) and the businesses who want to show their gratitude for your sacrifice would be happy to see you come in. If you want to contact me about this, please call my cell: (252) 202-2058 or through firstname.lastname@example.org.
Again, the Outer Banks V.F.W. Post 10950 is growing in leaps and bounds. The men and women members faithful to their meetings invite you to join or transfer your membership. They WANT you and they NEED you to help grow the opportunities to help more local veterans. Please consider getting involved and serve in whatever capacity you can to further their goals and ambitions to help “carry the flag” as my friend Gary always says. Becoming a member is a great, positive and productive way to benefit your brothers and sisters. Also…since Billy’s passing they’ve engaged the process of establishing a scholarship in his name. If you would like to get more info on membership or if you’d like to contribute to help our area students by remembering my ‘sweetie pie’ Billy, please contact Jim Norrell, Quartermaster at (252) 489-9421 or mail your donation to: Outer Banks V.F.W. Post 10950, PO Box 713, Nags Head, NC 27959 and reference Memo: Billy Brown Scholarship.
Our Pastor Steve Smith at Manteo First Assembly always referred to Billy simply and perfectly as… “A faithful soldier”. You are faithful too. You are heroes just like Billy. Carry your faithfulness throughout your life and continue to offer your skills, talents and devotion to fellow vets and if you’ve never joined in the V.F.W. meetings, please consider doing so. In advance, I thank you.
Despite the loss of my Billy, I am thankful. I’m thankful I had a husband who loved our country so much; who served our nation so proudly and honorably and whose quest in life was to pay it forward. God bless each and every one of you. You were very special to my husband of nearly 50 years and you are important to me…”always and forever”.
Until next time, be happy, be safe and be proud. Check the status of your flag and if it’s faded or tattered, please replace it if you can as a show of respect. Let the world and those around you see that no matter the troubles we face in this day and time, your pride in America and those who have served her remain steadfast and certain. Stay tuned.