Celebrating and commemorating our veterans. United States military veterans and their families.

Growing Up in Dare County – Gig Line #81


By Marsha M. Brown

It’s that time of year when we traditionally shop for turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pies and the like. It’s also when we think…or should think…about all we have to be thankful for.

This Thanksgiving, like most of you, I thought of days gone by and the family traditions that we hold dear. I remembered how proud I was of my Dad in his U. S. Coast Guard uniform and how to me he was the most handsome man in the whole world. Daddy had arms that could reach around a California red oak; he was taller than the eyes could see; he was as strong as a bull and as tough as nails but his heart was also tender about family and loyalty. He loved my Mom and sister and I with all of his heart; loved horses and boats and fishing…well, that was like breathing to ‘Capt. Marv’. Three months after Billy and I were married we became pregnant with our first of two beautiful children. Back then of course there was no ultra sound or scans or ways of detecting that you were carrying a boy or a girl. But somehow Daddy thought our first was a boy and that he would be his ‘mate’ someday and as it turned out, he was right.

Growing up in Dare County where he was born, Daddy was all about the water…and fishing and mostly being good at it…fishing was serious business to him. Having experienced the Great Depression he knew it was important to know how to provide for a family and to be able to fish and hunt and make do when money was scarce…really scarce. His dream was to design his own Charter boat and many days it was all he thought about. In the meantime he ran charters out of the Manns Harbor Marina for others, and eventually his dream became reality. His sketches graduated from a drawing on paper to construction on Harker’s Island, North Carolina followed by a glorious transport into Manteo of his beloved Charter Boat ‘Playboy’.

At nine years old, our son Bill started fishing with his ‘Pop’ where Daddy chartered his course in life. He taught him countless maritime skills, respect for the Coast Guard, lessons of people and vessel safety, guidance in rescue of others in distress, hanging tough and loving what you do. At 18, Bill acquired his Captain’s License and has fished for a living ever since. Like Daddy, Bill has loved being on the water all of his life and now at 44 years old, he’s still at it having done just about every kind of fishing there is…Charter, drop net, long line and just like his Pop…he’s good at it. Bill, a commercial fishing boat owner and operator, he has had stories to tell about the really hard times, the good times and tales that would make your hair stand on end.

Our daughter Bonnie is a very faithful, devoted supporter and advocate of the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center. She believes in keeping dreams alive, in young men following their visions and in positive inspiration from others; she also embraces the younger generation who cherish and hold dear the heritage of their grandfathers, fathers, brothers and uncles. She believes that tradition is priceless and precious and that all of the Captains from ‘back in the day’ are not only great contributors to the economic growth, popularity and overall good of Dare County but that they are icons and living relics worthy of preservation. Bonnie embraces the value of fishing stories told from the front porch of the ‘house’ and spoken from briny, chapped lips. For countless years Oregon Inlet Fishing Center has drawn men and women to the Outer Banks who love to catch and eat fresh fish. The value of that special place cannot be measured…just ask Bonnie. Tradition is good folks and it is golden. No matter what comes down the pike, please hold on to what is precious to you and your family. Keep alive and well, the big and seemingly insignificant habits and practices that you experienced growing up. Hold tight to the images of those you looked up to, admired and loved.

Our family deeply cherishes the Coast Guard but not just because Daddy or my cousins or friends were ‘Coasties’…its more because the men and women who serve in the U. S. Coast Guard and in particular Station Oregon Inlet & Hatteras have been there for us to help save the lives of those we love. They have faced great peril in the process and they’ve protected our coast and our American way of life. I thank God for them, for their service, for their love of the water and for the frequent challenges they face navigating the channel under the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge or ‘crossing the bar’ safely – just like our working watermen…on a consistent unrelenting basis.  

Turkey? Ham? Sweet potato biscuits…yummy good! But the food, the warm inviting fragrances of ‘home’ are only a part of it…the biggest joy always and forever is FAMILY baby! American family customs, spirit…no matter how many people say, “Out with the old, in with the new”…I say file that! Appreciating modern technology is one thing but holding onto those beautiful years of unity, undeniable faith in our Constitution, our flag and our God…is quite another. The old, faded, handwritten family recipes, the shiny retro Christmas ornaments and the faded pictures, uniforms etc. of our ‘Coasties’, Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines are treasures…r-e-a-l treasures of life. And if anybody reading this GIG LINE doesn’t have room for what I call ‘treasures’…please let me know. I’d love to take ‘em off of your hands…protect and preserve them! Memories…they’re pictures in our mind and if you want to hard copy them, then write them down or tape them…but just please don’t let them scourge through time until they are no more. 

As of this writing, we have a total of 214 Dare County veterans who have their Veteran I.D. Card using them for discounts at local businesses! If you haven’t received yours yet, we’ll look for you on Tuesday, Dec. 3rd, 11th and 17th at the Dare County Administrative Building between 12 Noon – 3 PM.  As usual bring your DD-214 showing HONORABLE discharge (just for us to look at) and proof of your Dare County residency…that’s it!  Also, the VA Rural Health Initiative is co-coordinating dates with my sweetie pie Billy for two consecutive appointments in Dare County early December. One event will be in Manteo and one will be in Kitty Hawk at which time veterans can investigate health benefits through the VA and also obtain their Dare County Veteran I. D. Card at the same location. Stay up-to-date through GIG LINE or you’re welcome to write me editor@giglineheroes.com.

Until next time, hug your veteran…tell others about the men or women in your life who  have served our country…give them lots of hugs and embrace their legacy. Thank you all for reading GIG LINE and from this day forward…love each other more. Be happy, be safe and be proud of the blessing of being an American. Stay tuned…

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Marsha M. Brown has been writing a weekly Gig Line since 2012.  Marsha is the widow of Vietnam War, U.S. Army, veteran Billy Brown of Manteo, NC.  She was instrumental in establishing the Dare County Veterans Advisory Council and maintains an active role in the veteran community. You can reach Marsha with questions or suggestions at editor@giglineheroes.com.  Have a story to tell or a veteran to feature? She would love to hear from you!

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