By Marsha M. Brown
Life is busy! Even with all the time saving conveniences afforded us, we still struggle to make the hours in a day count so that come sundown we can sit back, take a deep breath and know it was productive. But even if the items on our work and personal ‘check list’ are processed/completed, what about our ‘dream’ list? Do you have a dream? Is there at least one special thing we’ve always wanted to do but we just haven’t had or taken the time to do it? If not, why not? What are we waiting for?
Last week on the way home from a doctor’s appointment just outside Elizabeth City on the Camden Causeway, our grandson Ben noticed a boat docked at the PELICAN (Marina). There were quite a few boats there that day but none were quite like this one. It was special…it was unique…it was historical…it stood out like a diamond in the rough…it was a magnet to history buffs. Ben asked, “Pappy, is that a 50 cal?” which Pappy replied “Yep Ben, it sure is…how ‘bout that?” At the time I was driving and with cars behind me, we couldn’t just stop to stare. Being just beyond the entrance to the Marina, Billy asked me to turn around and go back. When we did, the up close and personal sight was awesome and the look on both of their faces was priceless…they were looking at a ‘PBR’…in essence…a River Patrol Boat.
I looked at Billy and his eyes were fixed…as a Vietnam veteran the sight before him was striking…a flood of remembrance, appreciation for the weapon itself and of those who operated it…a meaningful mass of metal valued much like the Huey Cobra…the figure resonated…it recalled defense, protection and a chance to come home. In a few words, Billy attempted to explain (to me) that “the PBR was an awesome war weapon…an awesome piece of machinery” he said. Our 12 year old grandson who’s all about the military, the Civil War and everything historical (written about in GIG LINE) already knew what the term ‘PBR’ meant. I didn’t know the term itself but I recognized the boat immediately for its use in the Vietnam War; the vessel – a predominant figure known for its speed, maneuverability, security and resistance to the enemy. I had seen it on news accounts, in military books and in magazines and I knew it was a critical piece of military equipment.
About that time I asked a man walking by if he was the owner who told us that he wasn’t but that he knew the owner whose name was ‘Dennis’. When I told him that Billy was a Vietnam veteran and that it would be really nice to meet the man who had preserved such a piece of history, he offered to go see if he could locate him. When he returned saying that Dennis had already left for the day, Billy suggested to Ben to go up on the dock beside it so he could take a picture with his cell phone. The next thing I knew Billy was on the dock too looking inside the PBR next to our grandson. That moment…is one I won’t forget. You see, Billy never bombards Ben with information about Vietnam but he does answer Ben’s questions as honestly and as gingerly as possible. He wants him to understand but not go overboard with intense details for obvious reasons but Ben’s interest in veterans, their service in general and his thirst for knowledge about his ‘Pappy’ and what he experienced while serving means a lot to Billy. Will Ben always maintain that hunger to learn more? I don’t know but for this time in his life his showing to my husband and to all vets who read GIG LINE that history matters; that men and women in uniform are critically important to our past and our future…and that they are all heroes and NOT to be forgotten.
That afternoon we weren’t able to meet ‘Dennis’ but we were able to get ‘A SHORT HISTORY OF THE PBR’ paper that was provided for onlookers. After we got home we emailed Dennis Ambruso (owner) who called us back and at that point we had a lengthy chat with him. At the end of the phone call he invited Billy to come back (with Ben & our son Bill) so he could take them out for a ride on the river. Oh my! Oh my! Oh my! That…my friends will be an experience of a lifetime and I can’t wait to write about it next week! It was great talking with Dennis who seemed especially nice, determined and committed obviously to a dream that he saw to fruition. Hearing his story struck you especially knowing he was a Vietnam veteran and that the project took years to complete…the time and financial sacrifices he made…the devotion of his friends who helped him see it through were nothing short of touching…and the thought that other Vietnam vets will have a chance to see a masterful piece of history, preserved for future generations is a blessing. Dennis did this for Dennis…it was his dream and his heart’s desire but perhaps he didn’t realize at the onset of his project…or maybe he did…that families like ours will embrace his dream because it’s personal to veterans like my husband and our grandson. Dennis would like others to see his masterpiece if they want to and are up for it so, the next time you’re in Camden, please stop by and see it. Thank you Dennis Ambruso…thank you for all you went through to re-create this PBR…your PBR for yourself and for those like us who appreciate its extraordinary value. If you’re interested in learning more, Dennis invites you to visit his web site: www.pbr721.com. His story will inspire you, make you laugh and make you proud that a veteran cared to protect and defend the demise of a historical PBR for future reference. Next week after the boys have had a chance to meet and actually ride in it (good Lord willing), I’ll share their thoughts…and mine too of course. Also, I’ll write about special events coming up over the following months to acknowledge, celebrate and honor our veterans so you can save those dates!
We couldn’t be happier serving on the Dare County Veterans Advisory Council which has made great strides reaching out to our vets. Our seven Council members are working daily to reach out to our veterans and it shows! We now have close to 400 Dare County Veteran I. D. Cards issued to veterans who can appreciate savings at nearly 50 local businesses; we have initiated interest across not only Dare County but with other counties near and far inspired by the work we’ve done and while we can only share some of the things we do due to the privacy factor – we are proud and grateful for the overall boost in veteran interest and the positive feedback we have gotten from the public! Last week when Billy attended a V.F.W. District 1 meeting out of town, he presented information on what our Council had been doing since its inception and how other counties should consider establishing a council or committee etc. if they hadn’t already to reach out and provide similar help and services to their veterans as well. Following his ‘talk’ several fellow vets approached Billy and clearly indicated they were inspired to grow their outreach potential. That’s GREAT!
God bless all of you who not only say you support veterans but show it in many different ways. You are all GOLDEN! Until next time, thank you all for reading GIG LINE. Be happy, be safe and be proud of our veterans and their families! Please support those who volunteer on behalf of veterans everywhere and if you have a question, please write to [email protected] or call me (252) 202-2058. God bless you all and stay tuned!