By Marsha M. Brown
Whenever I sit down to write GIG LINE, I invite the good Lord to help me put words together so they’ll mean something…lift someone up or inspire the reader to do a good thing…especially for a Veteran.
I’m grateful for this setting in which to talk not only to Veterans but to the folks who love them. I’m cognizant of the fact there are readers of GIG LINE who may have lost their ‘hero’ as a casualty of war, in a terrible accident, through illness or even old age. I’m mindful too that there are family members who mourn still not having had the privilege of final closure because the heroes they love are perhaps still missing or unaccounted for. I feel it a huge honor to honor our Veterans, no matter how long they served, where they served, if they fought in battle or if they didn’t – it doesn’t matter – just knowing men and women who have worn a uniform of the United States military is enough for me.
Last fall while we were calling friends, family and neighbors to invite them to a celebration of Veterans at our church, I phoned a sweet little lady, that we all know and love whom I shall leave nameless. Her Veteran husband had passed away a few years before and during our conversation, I was surprised to learn that she was surprised to learn just how decorated a service member her husband had been. Apparently they had met or married following his military service. He had never bragged on himself or his military accomplishments; nor had he acknowledged the respect he so deserved. He had basically kept that part of his life private and only unto himself.
Only recently when she looked inside a trunk that had been tucked away for years had she realized its hidden treasures. There inside was evidence of her husband’s surprising military achievements. Was she proud? Do roosters crow? She saw his medals and commendations and wished she had known those beautiful secrets years before. Would it have made her love him more? Of course not. At whatever time the surprise came in her life…it was never too late and most certainly a blessing. The reason I’ll leave the special little lady nameless is out of respect for that tender moment in her life. Unless someone gives me permission to identify them I don’t. To Hollywood (Billy calls it Holly-weird) maybe that event in her life wouldn’t have been a multi media – earth shattering – news flash nor would it have meant the paparazzi would swarm in and take over our little Roanoke Island to get the full scoop. Truthfully, it goes far above and beyond that. It was a day of revelation about the love between two people and service to our country kept ‘close to the vest’ as they say. It was a precious accounting of someone dearly loved who had ‘crossed the bar’ and just discovered news revealed for the first time – to his wife, lover and friend.
As she spoke, I could picture her face and the event as it unfolded. I imagined her sitting in the midst of boxes, bags and an old slanted roof while she bent over a dusty old trunk. I envisioned her reaching gently inside gingerly sorting through the treasure trove of goodies and moving things from side to side, carefully discovering memorable possessions one piece at a time. The contents tucked away for no telling how long undoubtedly brought a smile to her face, probably soon over shadowed by a reminder of his absence in her life.
As she recounted her experience, I envisioned her sorting faded, yellowed wrinkly papers that displayed her husband’s name further reminding her of her loss. To her that new discovery must have seemed like diamonds in the rough…new surprises from old times made known to her for the first time seemed sort of ironic. I pictured her pondering over the event of that day and probably wondering what had led her to go to the trunk in the first place. Was it the good Lord? Or the love of her husband that inspired her to look for something else…only to find fresh new secrets to cherish? Memories and mementoes are so important, aren’t they? Her husband undoubtedly exemplified characteristics typical of those who serve.
Veterans are trained to be respectful, to accept discipline, to take orders and to give commands, to concede to authority, to take responsibility, to give and to sacrifice, to manage extreme discomfort, to work when all strength is gone, to endure extreme heat, to sit, stand or squat in tight spaces for long periods; to manage stress, to control fearful moments that turn from into hours, then days, then weeks into months. They are brave, honorable and dedicated. They are in it to win it. And somehow, as remarkable as it is, they know almost instinctively just by looking into another Veterans eyes that they have served too. They’ve learned and have experienced many things most of us will never know.
Because my sweetie pie Billy is a member of the American Legion – Fort Raleigh Post 26 which meets every fourth Tuesday 12:00 noon at 302 W. Lake Dr., Kill Devil Hills (turn west beside T-Tops and it’s a little building on the right), he gets The North Carolina Legion News – and the Nosey Nellie that I am likes to read it too. Besides, I joined the Woman’s Auxiliary there not long ago myself that I’m looking forward to being a part of.
In their last issue, July – September 2012, the Legion News featured an article about the Arlington National Cemetery and I was so impressed, I wanted to share some of it with you. It related to the remarkable requirements of the guards who walk across the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Per their article, “Guards are changed every thirty minutes, twenty-four hours a day, and 365 days a year.”…“For a person to apply for guard duty at the tomb he must be between 5’10” and 6’2” tall and his waist cannot exceed 30. They must commit 2 years of life to guard the tomb, live in barracks under the tomb, and cannot drink any alcohol on or off duty for the rest of their lives. They cannot swear in public for the rest of their lives and cannot disgrace the uniform or the tomb in any way….”The first six months of duty a guard cannot talk to anyone nor watch TV. All off duty time is spent studying the 175 notable people laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery. A guard must memorize who they are and where they are interred.”…”Every guard spends five hours a day getting his uniforms ready for guard duty.”…”The Tomb has been patrolled continuously, 24/7, since 1930.”
As a side note: the article did say “175 notable people” – which references nationally known figures such as “President Taft, Joe Lewis (the boxer) Medal of Honor recipient Audie L. Murphy, the most decorated soldier of WWII and of Hollywood fame”.
RESPECT – need I say more? Adults and children of all ages who have not seen the Veteran related Memorials in D.C. should make it a priority to do so as soon as possible. A few years ago we were invited to visit a client friends’ house in Fairfax, VA. It was our first visit to D.C. and I can’t begin to tell you what it was like to see the Cemetery and the Vietnam War Memorial up front and personal. You’ll have to see it and feel it for yourself and trust me when I say…it will change your life. Thank you for writing to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and until next time be happy, be proud and stay tuned…