By Marsha M. Brown
Often times people consider that when notable circumstance takes place in their life, it’s “coincidence” or “the luck of the draw” but to me and the majority of people I’m the closest to, we are convinced without question or reservation that significant occurrences happen because they are meant to – not by chance but rather by divine intervention.
As a person of deep faith, I absolutely believe that God is alive and well; that He’s ‘large and in charge’ and that He not only knows us individually but loves us all equally. I believe He knows our past accomplishments, our mistakes and our future too including the opportunities that will come our way to help bring good things into this world and to others. I feel this way because I’ve personally experienced countless confirmations showing me it is so.
Case in point:
Our friend and avid veteran supporter, Barbara St.Amonde whom we met during one of the Dare County Veterans Advisory Council meetings in 2012, is responsible for the initiation of the annual Veterans Writing Project that is now hosted each year during Veteran’s Week in Dare County.
Several years ago while driving in Washington, D.C. Barbara “just happened” to hear a radio program in which Mr. Ron Capps was being interviewed. Ron, a veteran himself is also a writer and instructor who encourage veterans to write their stories/experiences on paper. Being adamant about the importance of veterans writing their military experiences impressed Barbara greatly and she was convinced that what he did could be of great help to Dare County veterans as well. Soon after and thankfully, on her way to the Arlington National Cemetery to lay a wreath, she reached out to him and a meeting time was established to discuss the possibility of his coming here. They met, he agreed and relative matters were put into motion. Hence, preparations are again being made for the fourth – three day free annual event that will begin Friday, November 4th – Sunday, November 6th, 2016. It will again be hosted at the U.N.C. Coastal Studies Institute at (Skyco) 850 NC-345, Wanchese, NC 27981.
From the onset and through Barbara’s diligent efforts to engage additional support for this golden opportunity for veterans, Dare Arts Council Director, Chris Sawin, enthusiastically joined Barbara on her quest and he and his staff worked fervently to solicit financial support, accommodations, meals, advertising etc. Since then and with great perseverance he, his Dare Arts Council staff and others in our communities who support our veterans, have faithfully continued to sustain the class ever since. As I understand it, the maximum 25 seats are again reserved to capacity and interest in the event itself is drawing not only local participants but out of state veterans as well.
Fortunately very soon veterans will come together and be inspired in a private setting with fellow comrades. What did Ron Capps encourage the vets to do with their writings? Whatever they WANT to do with them!
I fortunately had the privilege to attending the first Veteran’s Writing Project class with my husband Billy Brown, (Vietnam veteran – U. S. Army) and I heard Mr. Capps specifically tell the class that what they did with their writings was up to them. The veterans were not required to show anyone what they had written – their private thoughts and memories were just that…private…unless they so chose to share them with others. He suggested they might keep their writings in a shoebox under or in a more secure safe location set aside for family to treasure after their passing…or to just burn them once they were finished. It was clear, there was no pressure one way or the other but IF a veteran wanted to seek an opportunity to have his/her writings published, he was there to help guide them toward that goal.
The essence of this particular GIG LINE is about encouraging you to grasp the value of your thoughts, and the most memorable experiences of your military service. It is also to remind you that you have a lot to share (if you’d like to) but if not…that’s O.K. too. It’s about divine opportunity…by sheer chance Barbara heard Ron Capps on the radio that day; then her inspiration and passion to see that opportunity extended to our veterans on the Outer Banks came to pass and her drive paid off. And…fortunately for the rest of us and especially my sweet husband Billy whom I mourn the loss of each and every day, he saw that putting things on paper was not only a good but great thing to do as a veteran.
Billy was grateful to Barbara. He felt her desire to help veterans was sincere and he appreciated the love, respect and admiration for her late U. S. Marine Corps husband. Barbara, as Billy saw it, was a warrior for veterans and he was proud of her grace and her tenacity. He knew Dare County veterans were better because of her and others like Chris Sawin who put action behind their words. Barbara saw something in Billy and in all the attendees of the first Veterans Writing Project class. She observed the expressions on their face and the pain sometimes in their voice. Over time she has come to realize what her ‘divine intervention’ has brought about for our deserving veterans.
This year, beginning on the ‘First Friday’, Nov. 4th in Downtown Manteo at the Outer Banks History Center, Barbara will host another special event to compliment the Veterans Writing Project. For the first time, she will have on display written stories from veterans themselves for visitors to sit and read and embrace. Though some of the writings are brief, they are heartfelt. Please don’t miss this opportunity to share very private thoughts of those who have served. The address is: 1 Festival Park, Manteo, NC 27954 if you are able to attend…you will leave somehow different…enlightened and perhaps inspired to also serve our veterans in another very special way.
No…it wasn’t by chance Barbara heard that interview; or that she reached out to Ron Capps; or that she met and inspired and helped Billy…and me. In searching through some of Billy’s notes recently, I came across several writings that he had put on paper and I wept. I felt blessed to read his words…tough words to write…sad words too reflecting the experience of war. And I read even more what my standing beside him 48 years had meant to him…they were his private thoughts…in his words only…they were precious gems and I will “always and forever” as Billy used to say treasure them. And like other family members of veterans who will provide their loved ones words ‘on paper’…I too along with Barbara St. Amonde, invite you to witness precious original literature in its finest form.
Thank you Barbara for being Billy’s friend and my friend too. Thank you for taking the lead God gave you to help bridge an understanding between loving couples and children who know only part of their loved one’s heart. I truly appreciate what you have done. Because of you, I am blessed. I now have newly discovered, unspoken words from my darling veteran husband whom I will only see again in heaven.
Until next time, be happy, be safe and be proud. We have our incredible veterans…older ones who are seasoned and younger ones too who are eager to “pick up the flag and carry it” as my veteran friend Gary Felder always says. Our veterans keep us safe and make the world a better place…just like Barbara. God bless you all and stay tuned.