By Marsha M. Brown
Sometimes I wonder how many people go through life only to look back and recall their ‘shoulda’, ‘coulda’, ‘woulda’s. They look around and see the good that others do and they are truly grateful but they miss the blessing and fulfillment of doing for others themselves.
We are entitled after all to spend our life as we so choose…life is a blessing after all and unique to each and every person created. And while most of us will never be a brain surgeon we still have the opportunity to significantly touch, influence and improve the lives of others. We can make people smile…lift them up…help them see their contribution to this world by just being in it…and realize they too have something to offer…no matter how old…how educated or not…how financially secure or not… their gift can be immeasurable when it comes to serving their fellow man.
This is the truth folks. In May of 1968 just prior to my Manteo High School graduation and following a week of revival at church, I dedicated my heart to the Lord. After church that Friday night I wondered about life after graduation only weeks away. I considered that very soon I’d be entitled to make decisions for myself and chart my own life’s course. I was 17 years old.
As it turned out, the very next day I was in a terrible automobile accident. My best friend who was driving was killed. I loved my friend. She was the kind of friend who’d stick by you no matter what. If you couldn’t go somewhere, she wouldn’t either, no matter how much she wanted to. She was funny and perky and beautiful inside and out. My heart was broken. Just thinking about this new step toward maturity, self reliance and independence…then bang…the realization that life is unpredictable, fragile and way too short reared its ugly head.
The accident was on May 11th and close to Mother’s Day. I pined and mourned for the loss of my best friend; I cried for the loss of a Mother’s daughter and for the broken heart of her loving sister who was also in the car with us and for their brother too. I thought about a lot of things after that. I wondered what I could do in my life to make a difference somehow and I wondered if I ever would.
My best friend’s name was Bonnie Jo Waits and she lived in Englehard, N.C. Fifty four days after the accident on July 5th my sweetie pie Billy and I were married. He had just come home in March from serving in Vietnam. A year and 20 days from our getting married we had our beautiful little baby boy Bill (the III). Three years after that we were blessed again with our baby daughter who we named after my best friend…she was our little Bonnie Jo Brown (Rowe now).
Now in reading this you might think…what does all that have to do with veterans? My Daddy was retired U.S. Coast Guard my husband a Vietnam veteran. And what my story has to do with is how God helped me find my purpose in my life serving veterans.
When our children were growing up and we saw the love our son had for fishing, I was a crusader for watermen. Billy and I attended fisheries meetings and we took interest in the fishermen’s plight especially because of restrictions that gravely affected their ability to make a living, carry on family tradition and live their dream to work on the water doing what they loved…commercial and charter fishing.
I am a crusader. I believe that for the most part we have opportunities all around us to make a difference and I believe we have an obligation to at least try. I love my husband so much I can’t even explain it. I’m so grateful for Billy having served our great nation and my heart aches whenever I see or hear that somebody did something to desecrate our flag, protest against our faith or demand we diminish, dismantle or turn our God inspired faith upside down – remove crosses and words that give praise to our Lord, all to accommodate their personal whims.
When I write about veteran sacrifice, I don’t take it lightly. If you were sitting beside me right now, you’d see the tears streaming. Its not right folks that we sometimes fail to do everything we can to love, support and show respect to every man and woman alive that has fought for you and for me.
How many nights have we gone to bed soaking wet, muddy and afraid? How many places have we been that we were unsure we’d ever see the light of day again? How many times have you and I looked death straight in the eye and challenged it? Over come it? Or worse?…you get the picture. Our veterans have on many occasions…and don’t forget the M.I.A. and P.O.W. who’ve suffered, been tortured, beaten, starved and broken into pieces or who died just carrying out the assignment they were given? All in service to our country that is protested against…even at servicemen’s funerals…unbelievable!
Without reservation I’m glad God has “woken a sleeping giant” as my Billy would say. I’m happy that all of us who care about veterans are doing things that matter. I celebrate the people who have answered and returned our phone calls or that have called us; written to us through GIG LINE; offered to work on veteran related committees; who donate their retired motorized Scooter chairs to fellow veterans in need; who use their talents to help build wheel chair ramps; who offer discounts to veterans at their place of business and who find various, creative ways to say thank you to veterans.
Two organizations from Goldsboro – the Wayne County Veterans and Patriots Coalition, Inc. and The Foundation of Wayne Community College, Inc. joined forces some time ago to organize an event to bring “The Wall That Heals” into their community. The Moving Wall is a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. and it was ‘escorted’ to Goldsboro just last week on April 16th through April 22nd.
Billy and I weren’t able to attend so I called one of the key figures involved in the event to inquire the process. Mr. Jack Kannan, Foundation Spokesman told me he was very proud to be involved and that when they expected 100 bikers to escort the ‘Wall’ to its destination, 100 bikers didn’t come…475 bikers escorted it! He also told me that families turned out by the thousands to line the streets and highways and that even while its arrival time was delayed by an hour, people didn’t complain. He said they just wanted to be a part of the ceremony and experience and embrace its arrival.
He said the funds they had raised to sponsor the event far exceeded their expectations because of the willingness of people to support it. And he described the ‘Roll Call’ ceremony to take place that would honor 145 service members and Vietnam casualties from Wayne County and surrounding areas. If you’d like to look at the Website regarding the event go to www.waynecc.edu/thewall. You know the old saying “A picture’s worth a 1000 words”. The pictures you will see are mostly serious, respectful and sometimes solemn faces in almost every frame. Please take the time to look at it.
Mr. Kannan is planning to meet with those of us who are forming a committee to discuss the possibilities for Dare County in 2014. You too can make a difference. We need you. Please let us know what interest, talents and time you have to help our Dare County veterans in one way or another. My cell: 252-202-2058 or write to me through email: [email protected]
In the meantime, be happy, be safe, be proud and thank a veteran! Stay tuned…