By Marsha M. Brown
My days are different now and adjusting to ‘widowhood’ is difficult to say the least but for the most part it’s becoming a little more manageable. I miss my ‘sweetie pie’ Billy every day…every hour…but that also means my constant thoughts of him remind me of you…youfellow veterans that he loved so much…you that he wanted to help…encourage and refer to sources of help to ease your pain…your burden…your hardship…he desired for others to understand true devotion to and service to our country.
They say “Life is for the living” and I suppose that’s true. It can’t help but be because we have to go on no matter what…don’t we? We have to get used to an empty pillow beside us, an empty seat at the dinner table and rides to and from here to there…alone. Cards still come into our mailbox daily; expressions of shared grief written from the heart; personal notes that touch our children and I so deeply. I thank you all. And speaking of that…you know who else I thank? My most precious son-in-law Woody Rowe.
The day of Billy’s funeral only minutes before leaving our home en route to Manteo First Assembly for his service, I had the bright idea to write a few personal words for our Pastor (whom I fondly call “Preacher Steve”) to share out loud. I wanted so much to tell those in attendance what they all meant to us; the depth of our gratitude; how much their time and support had helped us cope also enabling us to have more hours in a day to sit beside Billy and love on him; how much their loving testimonies of ways he had touched their lives had also meant…so, I sat down to my computer and composed a brief acknowledgement of some of the folks so dear to us. And…even after being cautioned by our daughter Bonnie to reconsider writing it so that in my grief I wouldn’t forget to mention anyone having had so much support and from so many…the ‘stubborn’ me with only minutes to spare before we lined the cars up outside, typed my well intended message. And when Preacher Steve read it as I had asked, it wasn’t until he had finished that I realized I had failed to acknowledge my love and appreciation for Woody. Nobody had brought the mistake to my attention…I realized it on my own but too late to amend.
So…even though he’ll be embarrassed that I wrote this not knowing about it until it’s in print, I want to thank God for him. His support, to our daughter especially, to her brother Bill and I over these last 4½ months following Billy’s diagnosis has been incredible. For all the good deeds he did for us being household chores changing bulbs, repairing fire place knobs, doing lawn care, starting the pool up & cleaning it, running errands, vehicle service (right down to cleaning Billy’s favorite Toyota Tundra that I wanted to personally drive to the church myself), Woody was there for us…our family – his family. Woody loved Billy more like a father than a father-in-law as did Billy loved Woody. Though Woody isn’t a veteran himself, his overall support to veterans has been incredible through the years. Not only does his business Buxton Auto & Marine (NAPA) offer similar veteran discounts to other local businesses on the list, he also takes the time to encourage vets to obtain their Dare County Veteran I.D. Card; to get an Agent Orange screening (if they served in Vietnam) and he promotes veteran and veteran causes & events all of the time. Woody sacrificed a lot during those countless days and nights giving precious time for care and time with her Dad; he drove to Manteo from his business Buxton Auto & Marine (Buxton) and their home in Frisco countless times following a full day at work to do all the wonderful things he did for us. Thank you son for being the person that you are…I’m so thankful to you and for you. Billy was too.
Update: news you need to consider…for Vietnam veterans in particular who have been exposed to Agent Orange during your military service, please note that according to the Veteran’s Administration (V.A.), there are fourteen (14) “presumptive diseases” associated with that exposure. They are as follows: AL Amyloidosis, Chronic B Cell Leukemias, Chloracne, Diabetes Mellitus Type 2, Hodgkins Disease, Ischemic Heart Disease, Multiple Myeloma, Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, Parkinson’s Disease, Peripheral Neuropathy-Early Onset, Porphyria Catanea Tarda, Prostate Cancer, Respiratory Cancers, and Soft Tissue Sarcomas.
Please understand the list of conditions independent of each other is of equal importance but those conditions I type in bold are the ones I’ve heard more local veterans say they’ve experienced. If you would like more information on the list to ascertain if any of them relate to your personal exposure, please visit the V.A. website at www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange/conditions/index.asp or contact Rhonda Creef, Dare County Veteran Service Officer at (252) 475-5604 to make an appointment to meet with her and discuss it. Because of the frequent contact I have with veterans, I make it a point to ask each one who might have served “boots on ground” in Vietnam if they have had an Agent Orange screening…and the majority? They say they have not. Like my sweetie pie Billy who only heard about the screening in the fall of 2011 did he ever come to know following the exam that his Diabetes Mellitus Type 2 was determined by the V.A. to have been related to his service in Vietnam.
If anyone knows besides a veteran who has ‘been there, done that’, it’s a spouse or other family member who’s afraid of the outcome from their veteran’s A.O. screening…trust me, I know. But aside from the fear of something you dread to investigate, there are two potential positive outcomes: (1) evaluation of your current health status indicates no negative impact from the exposure or (2) if you do have conditions that relate to the exposure…you get the necessary help, support and compensation that you may be due. All I ask that you think about it. O.K.? I hope you know how many people who aren’t veterans themselves love and support you our veterans. Let me assure you right now…TONS! Our Board of Commissioners, our business owners…just look at the list on the Dare County site www.darenc.com under Veteran Services of the proprietors who signed up to offer you goods and service discounts because they appreciate you. Dare County rocks…no question about it.
Until next time, be happy, be safe and be proud. If you have a question or you know of a veteran who could use some help, please call my cell: (252) 202-2058. Stay tuned and God bless you all.