By Marsha M. Brown
Well friends I’m tickled! Between Nov. 9th and Nov. 17th Dare County was all abuzz with veteran events and activities. As a veteran’s wife embedded in ‘the thick of it’ I can tell you the significance of seeing so many veterans together at various times was priceless.
On Friday, November 15th the Dare County Arts Council hosted the first of their 3-day ‘Carolina Veterans Weekend’ events beginning with awesome entertainment. There was music by veteran ‘Jonny Waters & Company’, poetry readings by acclaimed Joseph Bathanti, WWI family letter readings by local author and veteran Suzanne Tate and popular music by ‘Molasses Creek’. The event was held at Festival Park in the indoor theatre downtown Manteo. For anyone who hasn’t attended an event there before…please do! The facility is beautiful, the seats are very comfortable and the intimacy of the theatre itself makes you feel drawn in to whatever the performers are doing. Thank you Marc Basnight…we love you…always have…always will! Without your help, we may never have had Festival Park! Your good work and influence has given us all a lot to be proud of in North Carolina and your heart for the home town folks of Dare County is evident. Because of you, many dreams have come to fruition and your thumbprint is all around us. Visions for the future and remembrances of the past are alive and well – so…again thank you!
At the request of Chris Sawin, Executive Director of the Dare County Arts Council, it was my pleasure to briefly address the audience regarding the Dare County Veterans Advisory Council. Prior to the Council being established in May of 2012 I had never met Chris, though, I had met his Dad, Steve Sawin a very long time ago when he taught real estate classes for C.O.A. I can personally attest to the fact that both gentlemen are dedicated to bring forth the good in others. My personal observation has been that they seek edification…but not for themselves…rather for those around them. I met Chris through the Veterans Advisory Council who’s been working to develop a ‘Council’ logo or image that exemplifies what the Council stands for…basically acknowledgement of, pride in and help for our veterans and without question, he’s an A+ kind of guy.
Following my brief address from the podium, he surprised me when he referred to me as an “activist for veterans”. Never having embraced the term “activist” before, it struck me funny until I considered that “activist” really only means being actively passionate for something you adamantly believe in (or against). Yep! Chris was right…I am an ‘activist’ for veterans and proud of it! J
With vision and the creative help of his valued friend and Associate, Barbara St. Amond, Chris worked to organize the Friday night entertainment followed by two days of intense, emotionally stirring…mind sweeping writing classes on Saturday and Sunday at the U.N.C. Coastal Studies Institute (Skyco). The instructors for the Veteran Writing Workshop were two brilliant men…N. C. Poet Laureate Joseph Bathanti and Ron Capps, Veterans Writing Project founder, author and veteran himself…and even days later…I’m still in awe. The two gentlemen, both very accomplished in their respective fields, were in my opinion…exceptional. They were caring, interested and attentive to the male and female veterans who sat attentively listening to their every word .
As a veteran’s wife, I too was privileged to attend and soak in audible gold. Over the two day workshop Mr. Bathanti and Mr. Capps addressed d-e-e-p subject matter with the veterans and encouraged them to put their experiences into words and onto paper…if they wanted to. Their advice and guidance for veterans about writing was no joke. They were specific, direct and they told simple truths about the importance of veterans “getting it out” and recording their feelings onto paper while pointing out that it was the veterans personal choice as to what they did with it after that. They explained that they could choose to publish their writings; preserve them for future generations or just write their thoughts down…then shred them.
A war veteran himself, Mr. Capps personally attested to the fact that writing can have therapeutic benefits and he invited everyone there to at least consider sharing with others what they had been through. Even with the material the two gentlemen wanted to cover, they still took the time to listen to their ‘students’ and invite them to share past experiences…both traumatic and humorous; they answered virtually every question that was posed to them; they didn’t try to persuade the vets to give them their story either…what they did do was show support, dignity and integrity to the men and women who had valiantly served our country.
I can’t express enough how valuable those two days were in their company and I hope with all my heart they’ll be back again. Their words were golden…each and every one of them; they broke the subject matter down in bits and pieces so you could understand and digest the material and even if you’d never had an interest in writing before…the prospect for virgin writers came alive in that room. I’m no clinical expert by any stretch but even I could still see in our veterans eyes and their body language that they seemed at ease and comfortable talking with Ron Capps and Joseph Bathanti openly. Both men encouraged the group we love to write with honesty, integrity and responsibly. They were masters at conveyance, instruction and sound advice and their teachings increased my personal desire to write more.
Together they increased our appreciation for literary arts; encouraged self expression through writing and suggested that veterans incorporate art and photography into their stories whenever possible. They made us hear, smell and taste bittersweet battle victory by sharing excerpts from recommended reads of other veteran authors. No doubt about it, they touched all of our lives and not only did they honor and emphasize the value of veterans recording their story, they stressed the value of veterans families telling theirs. They fully acknowledged that a veteran’s spouse and children have their own stories to tell and write about.
I was privileged to attend and witness first hand what unfolded in those two days. If you were one of us…I’m confident you feel much the same way. The writing workshop on Saturday and Sunday just didn’t last long enough…I wish there had been more. They brought both domestic and foreign war military service veterans together to share and bond as comrades and friends. Barbara was right – the setting for the workshop was beautiful, peaceful and unobtrusive and it was ideal for the ‘magic’ that took place.
I write about what I observe in life…what I see, hear and feel. And as much as I’d like to share some of the things that were said in that room, I won’t. I won’t out of respect for the brave men and women who were there and took part; I won’t because to me it would be like stealing flowers off of a grave…very disrespectful; I won’t because I was honored to take part in a first time setting of something very special to special people…and very sacred.
If in 2014 Chris and the Dare County Arts Council arrange for an encore of this past weekend…please make plans (if at all possible) to attend. The whole weekend was tastefully and impeccably executed and my sweet Billy, one of several Vietnam veterans who participated felt a deep appreciation to the two men and for what they had done. On behalf of all Dare County veterans, thank you Chris Sawin, Barbara St. Amond, Kip Tabb, President Dare County Arts Council Board of Directors and all who shared in the vision and fulfillment of a memorable event.
Now about your Dare County Veteran I. D. Card, please come to the Dare County Administrative Building, 954 Marshall C. Collins Drive in Manteo on the following remaining dates in 2013: Tuesday, Nov. 26th, December 3rd, 10th and Dec. 17th (the last time this year) from 12:00 noon – 3:00 p.m.; bring your DD-214, (we don’t keep it or a copy of it). If you don’t have yours, we can tell you how to apply for a copy online or you please call Rhonda Creef, Dare County Veteran Service Officer at (252) 475-5604 to schedule an appointment so she can help you. Also, bring your Drivers License or proof of local address and that’s it! Come get yours and start saving money!
UPDATE: Speaking of Driver’s Licenses, I’ve justconfirmed through our local N. C. Driver’s License Examiners Office and the District Supervisor Angie Sawyer (Greenville) that you can go into 517 Budleigh St., Manteo with your DD-214 showing HONORABLE discharge (see how important having your DD-214 is?); pay a $10.00 fee and receive a duplicate Driver’s License that will designate you as a VETERAN. To be clear, if you’re not due to renew your Driver’s License, the fee is only $10.00. As I understood it, if you’re between the age of 18 – 65 and you’re due to renew your license – an 8 year license renewal would cost $32.00; if you’re age 66 and due to renew your license, a 5 year license renewal would cost $20. In essence, veterans who are due to renew their licenses will not be charged the additional $10 because the $10 is only relative to those who want to have their current license updated showing VETERAN designation now. Also, until the beginning of the New Year, the duplicate license will indicate VETERAN in blue letters on the front of the Driver’s License with an American flag(s) on the back which is done manually by hand. After the New Year, the images will be processed using a machine with VETERAN on the front and back but no American flags (front or back) as she understands it. The Drivers License designation has no connection to the Dare County Veteran’s I. D. Card in any way and the business discounts are relative to the County issued I. D. Card only. So if you want the ‘veteran’ designation prior to your required Drivers License renewal, they’re open from 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. in Manteo – Monday through Friday, no appointment necessary.
Until next time, be happy, be safe, be proud and thank our veterans every single day. If we can be of help to you or your family, please write to me at [email protected] We love you all and we’re looking toward more good things for veterans in Dare County. Stay tuned…