By Marsha M. Brown
All of us at one time or another have met people who have made an immediate and profound impression on our lives…Thursday, October 11, 2012 was such a day for my sweetheart Billy and I.
It was our great pleasure to meet Mr. Robert J. White, a native of Danville, Illinois and resident of Garner, N.C. who offers a background both in the military and music, excuse the pun “to beat the band”.
In our quest last year to engage a bagpiper to play for our veterans celebration hosted by (Manteo) First Assembly of God Church, we contacted Mr. White only to realize he was already committed for another event the date we needed him. And during that first conversation, we learned that he was not only a professional Master Bagpiper but that he had served in Vietnam in the Army as a Special Forces Combat Veteran and on top of that, he had served in the 101st Airborne Division at the same time and in the same place as Billy whose unit supported and was attached to the 101st Airborne Division while he served in Vietnam. That phone conversation birthed a new friendship and one we embraced for the future.
Because Mr. White was unavailable for the 2011 event, the quest continued and through a search of the Internet, we located another gentleman, Mr. Jerry Zel of Williamsburg, VA who had been playing the bagpipes strictly as a hobby but who graciously agreed to come to our event and play. As it turned out, he, too, was a Vietnam veteran.
Following up early spring this year, we contacted Mr. White again to see if he was available to play for our 2nd annual 2012 veteran’s celebration which will be held this coming November 3rd (Saturday) at 7:00 PM again at Manteo First Assembly. We were happy to hear that he was not only available but eager to come. So, we made the official arrangements, conversed several times in the interim and it was just last week that we finally met him in person.
During a phone call between us prior to that meeting we came to realize that Mr. White was scheduled to play for an Outer Banks wedding on Thursday. A get together between Mr. White, Billy and myself became possible also giving him a chance to preview the church to coordinate in advance the layout in preparation for his performance.
What a nice man! Robert J. White, whom we now call “Robert” met Billy and I at the church at about 5:30 PM. Over the next two hours we reviewed the schedule of activities for the upcoming event. He and Billy also talked about Vietnam. It was something for me to sit on the sidelines and see my husband, whom I love so much, talking with a fellow ‘brother’ who had served our country both in the same place at the same time during the 1968 T.E.T. Offensive for the first time after all these years. It was a sight to see. They talked, they shared, they asked each other questions, they recalled similar experiences and the bond between them was undeniable.
Robert said he felt the Lord had let him to do this event for us and that meant a lot to both Billy and I. We were proud and honored that he would come all that way and not only play his beautiful bagpipe music but also agree to be our ‘key speaker’ and address the veterans and their family members who will attend. It was evident that this meeting was ‘mean to be’ and that Robert was ‘heaven sent’.
This gentle kind hearted man and 21 year veteran of the U. S. Army, exemplified experience, professionalism and a sincere dedication, like Billy, to stand up for, honor and serve his fellow men and women veterans. As my Mama used to say, “You can always tell if a person is good, just by looking into their face”. Robert has a ‘good’ face. There is much more to be said about Robert, however, I suggest everyone come to the event and see the ‘real deal’ for themselves.
We liked Robert instantly. I saw immediately his true commitment to showing our veterans…all veterans…utmost respect whether they served in a battle on foreign soil or not. He and Billy exchanged the same truths – that many men and women who have served our country do not feel as if they deserve the title “veteran”. But the fact is this: military men and woman who have worn the uniform of our United States of America whether in World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Iraq, Afghanistan or on our homeland soil are veterans. All who have served in the uniform regardless of when, where and how, stand up and accept your title of VETERAN. You are one!
Those who encompass the performers, speakers, singers and skit of the veteran’s program on November 3rd, will leave impressed, inspired and maybe even changed, that I can promise. It will be a night of free family entertainment that will strike a cord of patriotism, honor and pride in all who love America.
In the coming two weeks, please look for the event flyers and please call your neighbors, friends, church family, work associates and organizations you’re affiliated with to stand with our veterans and thank them in a very special way!
Also, please mark your calendars…there will be another VA Hampton Rural Health Care Initiative team workshop at the Fessenden Center, Buxton on Friday, October 19th from 10:00A.M. to 1:00 P.M.; a Dare County Veterans Advisory Council booth at the OBX Seafood Festival on Saturday, October 20th from 11:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M. at the site of the former Windmill Point Restaurant sound front, Nags Head; and a meeting of the Dare County Veterans Advisory Council on Thursday, October 25th from 3:00 P.M. – Rm.168 Dare County Administrative Building. More updates on November events in following GIG LINE articles.
At the last meeting of the American Legion, Fort Raleigh Post 26 Mr. Jeff Pearson of the Hampton VA Rural Health Care Initiative team indicated an acceleration of programs for veterans in Dare County. Until next time, be happy, be safe, be proud and stay tuned…