By Marsha M. Brown
Well folks…if you are a veteran…first and foremost, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for your willingness to protect and serve our United States of America; thank you for your sacrifice and the many hours you lived far from home in uncomfortable, no…miserable, frightening dangerous places where your life and the safety of your brothers was paramount. Please forgive those of us who have gone through life unintentionally taking for granted the fact that your fight to protect other homelands served to protect ours as well.
What would our homeland be like without you and all you have done to ensure that we can live as a free nation? What would we all do if we didn’t have you to be ready on a moment’s notice even here at home to protect us, defend us and be the heroes that all of you are? On behalf of all the folks who don’t write GIG LINE…except in their heart…we thank you and we love you soldiers, seamen and airmen. Very sincerely please accept our gratitude for who you are, what you have done for us, for our nation and for our future. God bless each of you who have served and who serve today. You are truly our heroes…every one of you.
For so many years it was primarily our men who served in battle but let us not forget the women…nurses who cared for the injured and dying. Our nurses and medics have watched the blood and life literally drain from the bodies of precious American soldiers and they too are heroes we should acknowledge, and honor more than we have. Without them many of our men and women would not have come home at all…the medics and nurses and pilots who retrieved them from the battlefields, jungles and deserts were angels…that is truly what they are…angels.
Thank you also to my fellow widows and widowers who have lost their hero either to war or to service-related illnesses…I feel your pain. The spouses of our service men and women are sometimes not often revered as heroes but you are. Those of you who have hugged and kissed that special man or woman in your life as you stood on the pier or at the airport as they slipped from your arms and out of sight boarding a plane to serve on foreign hostile ground or in the air, I salute you too. You have been brave and strong and hopefully faithful to the one who left your side to serve the nation he or she loved…not above you but for you and your children.
In my case, the one true love in my life served in Vietnam before our brief whirlwind courtship and marriage after he came home in March of 1968. My Sunday school teacher was Billy’s Mom and sometimes she would share excerpts from letters she had received that her only son had sent from Vietnam. Sometimes his letters, she said, were painful to read when he described the loss of his brothers. To be honest, I sometimes wish I was dating him while he was over there so my letters would have encouraged him and shown him all the pride and love I could express but then again…I think God probably held off our union as a couple until he was safe and sound back at home because I don’t know how I could have stood it watching the news, hearing about casualties and wondering…so you see, the respect I feel for the spouses, parents and children of our deployed men and women is enormous. You are brave to face each day praying, hoping and worrying until they’re back in your arms…here at home. You are heroes as well and I greatly respect each one of you.
I captioned “An unforgettable Veteran’s week” because of course, this last seven days reminded me of my sweet Billy, his love of America, his patriotism, his devotion to the U. S. Army in which he served but also because of the suffering he went through 48 years after his Honorable Discharge. And while I typically volunteer to help with the little red Poppy booths and attend other veteran related functions, including the outstanding Veteran’s Writing Project (thank you Barbara St.Amond especially and Chris Sawin, Director Dare Arts Council), this year I hosted a Craft Show at our church, Manteo First Assembly where we collected donations for the Outer Banks V.F.W. Billy Brown Scholarship. And not only did we take in a sizeable offering for our local Outer Banks V.F. W. Post 10950 but I issued Dare County Veteran Discount Card(s) too and in doing so, I got a chance to thank our vets, shake their hand and tell them I love them…because I do.
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I met veterans from all our military branches including an amazing lady who was a nurse (angel) who had served in Vietnam. And with every veteran I saw the same thing in their eyes – reflections of the past, heartache and thankfulness they came home. Some of them briefly shared their service story and while they spoke to me, their spouse or significant other that was by their side put their arm around them or squeezed their hand tightly as if to say, “I love you honey and I’m so proud of you.” It made me happy to see the love between them, it made me proud as well and when I shook their hand looking them straight in their eye, some teared up and one gentleman said he rarely heard anyone ever say “thank you” or acknowledge his sacrifice…that made me sad. When I told them about my Billy, I teared up again. It was a beautiful two days meeting and greeting so many veterans and seeing them support funds toward the Scholarship our local V.F.W. had established in my husband’s name.
On Sunday, the day after the craft show ended, I was driving on the Airport Rd. in Manteo and I saw an elderly gentleman at his driveway securing his American flag at his mailbox. So…having heard from a friend that he was a veteran, I pulled in and talked to him briefly to make sure he knew about the Veteran Discount Card that I (and Patty O’Sullivan, our Dare County V. S.O.) issue. The gentleman’s voice was at a low pitch, a little raspy yet clear as a bell. He said yes, he was a veteran and that he would also like to get the ‘Card’ that I showed him a sample of. When I looked into his eyes and began telling him about Billy, I broke down. I just couldn’t help it and I apologized but after spending Friday and Saturday with a lot of veterans, I missed Billy even more and the tears rolled down my cheeks. The sweet gentleman veteran showed his care for me…for Billy and he thanked me for my volunteer work for veterans. That kind sweet veteran man by the mailbox touched me and my heart was full.
Again…thank you veterans and to all who love you…I (we) are all in your debt. I pray good things for your life, your health and your happiness. I wish for you God’s comfort and peace and I pray for forgiveness to yourself and others who have hurt you through the years. I like so many love and respect each one of you.
Until next time…be happy, be safe and be proud. Love all the veterans you see, take the time to walk over and thank them, shake their hand like my friend Marvin…he does that often and I’m here to tell you that to a veteran who rarely hears it…that gesture means everything to them.
If you’re a veteran or you know a veteran who needs help, please call Patty O’Sullivan at (252) 475-5604 to make a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday appointment. Patty is our official Dare County direct link to the V.A., and I promise she will do all she can to help you. Also, you can call me (252) 202-2058 or any other Dare County Veterans Advisory Council member as follows…Chairman Blake Salmon, Vice Chairman Steve Goodheart, Rick Probst, Ellen Aidoock, Robert Yanacek and Barry “Fuzzy” Holt. As Advisory Council members, we can refer you to Patty or additional sources of help as well. All seven of us care about you and want to be of help in an advisory capacity. In the meantime…stay tuned.