By Marsha M. Brown
An important read…
‘GIG LINE’ – this weekly column has been a labor of love and a blessing in my life for the last nine years. It was initially written in honor of the one and only true love of my life, my husband, ‘Billy’ (alias Sweetie Pie), a Vietnam veteran who taught me what authentic patriotism is.
The first story I wrote was about his coming home from the war and how quickly I matured as his 17-year-old bride. Nothing I had learned as a graduating senior at Manteo High School in 1968…or as a result of watching the nightly news with Walter Cronkite had prepared me for the influence of Billy’s love of country, faith in our nation, heartache over how Vietnam veterans were treated once they came home…and from the very first submission back in March 2012 life has changed.
Over these past almost ten years now and as a consequence of God inspiring me to write GIG LINE, I’ve had the privilege of meeting countless veterans, not only across Dare County and these beautiful Outer Banks, but also in neighboring counties, across North Carolina, Virginia and beyond.
During these past few days, I was contacted by an old friend who knew of someone who wanted to do something nice specifically…for a veteran. He reached out to me knowing that I’m a veteran advocate and a devoted supporter of the men and women who have served our great nation.
Once I understood his goal, the search was on, and it resulted in the right fit of a veteran and his wife who live in Nags Head. And as it turned out, this veteran who had served in the U.S.A.F. during the 1960’s happened to be one of the first veterans who responded to GIG LINE many moons ago and over the years he had emailed me interesting and enlightening references to veteran related topics. When I searched my old emails to review anything I might have saved, found emails that started coming through as far back in 2012 and I was delighted.
In one of the first few we exchanged he had shared with me that some of the gentlemen he had recently spent time with (with the exception of one Marine) were not familiar with the term ’gig line’. It is term that Billy and I thought ideal because it relates to the alignment on a military uniform – basically the collar, buttons, belt buckle and zipper – straight from top to bottom…not cattywampus or misaligned.
Since that time, I’ve come to realize that GIG LINE isn’t always recognized as a military term and that many people think the title refers to fishing given where we live and that my family heritage is of the charter and commercial fishing industry.
Anyway, the reference he shared is helpful for a veteran or family member who had lost someone they loved while serving in the Vietnam War. In fact, the website provides you an opportunity to search the name of a family member or friend who died in Vietnam whose name is inscribed on ‘The Wall.’
I was so glad to realize that his email had not been erased or deleted and that in fact, none of his or other veteran emails had been either after all these years…(hence, my inbox is LOADED) that’s because I appreciate that you all care enough about veterans to share information with me that I can further pass along through GIG LINE to inform, help or benefit in some way other veterans and their family members as well.
If you would like to check out the website, please search: https://www.virtualwall.org/iStates.htm Once in there, you’ll be able to search by NAME – the veteran or the STATE the veteran was from and from there a list of each County. If you search a specific town or village in Dare County, the names of the fallen will be listed and when you click on their name, you will see their full name, rank, branch, their picture, the panel location where their name is inscribed on The Wall and other important information.
Since my husband spoke very little about Vietnam, I never knew the names of those he was close to or served with while he was there, so I searched town by town starting in Manteo where I live, and I found the name of one veteran listed. More town and village searches revealed additional veterans whose name is also on ‘The Wall.’
My eyes teared up…it was moving to see in writing, the first name of one of our very brave local boys who had made the ultimate sacrifice. I thought about his family, and I wondered if his parents or siblings or spouse were still alive. I wanted to reach out to them to say thank you for his service…I wanted to hug each one of them and honor their loved one’s name. I wanted to tell them that my husband, who had also served “boots on ground” in Vietnam, also died…not while he was there but years later because of his exposure to Agent Orange…like so many across our nation. Their names are not inscribed on that beautiful, black haunting ‘Wall’ but still…they died as a result of having served there.
People who haven’t lost someone they love due to their military service or as a result thereof don’t feel the pain of those who have, and I am glad. Life is fragile, unpredictable for all of us…all too short but as long as I live, I will continue my quest to reach out to veterans of all wars and conflicts and veterans in general to thank them, praise them and love them.
Over the years, I came to personally meet the veteran (and his wife) who wrote to me that long ago. They mean a great deal to me, and I am grateful they read GIG LINE and my barrage of expressed affection for my hero husband. I hope that you all will take the time and search the website he referred to me and that you look at the state and towns that you are from or have lived in where you may see a name of a fallen hero that you didn’t realize died while serving in Vietnam. It is sad to read the names…but reading the names reminds us of them…the pride we have in them and a reminder of what they and their families here at home went through.
If you wish to comment on this particular GIG LINE or if you have something to share, please call/text me: (252) 202-2058 or write to me: [email protected] For past writings, you can find many posted on www.giglineheroes.com If you’re a veteran, THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart…family members of veterans…I thank you too for dealing with their long absences from home serving our country…you are heroes too.
If you have a medical problem or concern that could be service connected, I strongly urge you to contact Dare County Veteran Service Officer, Patty O’Sullivan office: (252) 475-5604 or write to her at [email protected] She is very good at what she does and she will help you obtain a duplicate DD-214; explain what benefits you might be eligible for and file a V.A. Claim on your behalf.
Until next time, be healthy, safe, and happy. Love others like you never have before; forgive old hurts and wounds…again life is too short, and grudges only hold us down or hold us back from the joy that life can bring. God bless you and remember that I love you all. Stay tuned!