By Marsha M. Brown
To those of you whom I haven’t had the privilege to meet (yet) please look out for me on the road or in a business parking lot. The uniquely exceptional vehicle I drive is an old red truck…a 2002 Toyota Tundra. She’s not all that pretty nowadays but she’s mighty special to me because she was my Billy’s all-time favorite set of wheels.
You don’t have to ‘see’ me coming to know I’m headed your way…because you’ll hear me…Billy’s “Toy” has a s-w-e-e-t dual exhaust that makes me think of him every time I turn the key, every time my hair blows wildly out the window when I listen to her purr…and over and over again I can’t help but smile. After more than 3 years since his passing, I still grieve his loss every day. However, I feel so blessed even in the lonely hours having had the most precious love a woman (or a man) could ever hope to have in their life. I got the chance to hug him and kiss his sweet lips all the time, walk through life with him – through the ups and downs – and birth his two beautiful children.
When I call a restaurant to place a take-out or ‘curb side’ order and I’m asked what vehicle I’ll be driving, I tell them this…
“Well, I’ll be driving an old red truck that used to be a deep candy apple red but its faded now and the engine hood paint has nearly all peeled off…but…just in case, look at the front Vietnam veteran license plate.” That mostly yellow, green and red highway greeter symbolizes a profound time in my husband’s life, and you know what? I’ve been asked numerous times since Billy passed if I wanted to sell her but no way and if she completely conks out tomorrow and won’t budge another mile, I’ll let her rest to the side until I’m once again at Billy’s side one day. Sentimental ‘ole girl you say…absolutely. My point folks…the old red truck that so much was Billy…is now a big part of me…the widow of a true American patriot.
My husband of 48+ years died in 2016 as a result of exposure to Agent Orange while serving in our outstanding U. S. Army during the Tet Offensive in Vietnam. So, when you see ‘Big Red’ or hear me coming just know this: this ‘fluffy’ woman with wild and almost white hair is very likely coming from or going to meet an Outer Banks veteran. That’s because I love our veterans…and when a veteran calls me on my cell: (252) 202-2058 to schedule a time to meet and be issued the very special Dare County Veteran Discount Card, I’ll either schedule a time to meet as soon as possible or I’ll suggest that the veteran call Patty O’Sullivan, Dare County Veteran Service Officer (V.S.O.) at her office (252) 475-5604 and make an appointment to get it through her, whichever is more convenient. When we do see you, we’ll expect to see two things: your DD-214 showing Honorable discharge and a Driver’s License or another picture I.D. Also, you must be able to provide either a residential lease or utility bill in your name as a tenant in Dare County or have a Dare County Property Tax bill showing you own property (improved or unimproved) to be eligible. Once you receive your free Card, you’ll be entitled to a broad range of business discounts across the Outer Banks!
I love to issue veterans their ‘Card’ because I get to see your face, shake your hand or hug your neck; tell you how much we love you and appreciate you and how proud we are of you and your service to our country; take a minute to encourage you to register your DD-214 with our local Register of Deeds office for confidential safe keeping; suggest that you meet with Patty and discuss any potential benefits or entitlements you may be due and if I come to realize you served “boots on ground” in Vietnam, that you consider reviewing the Presumptive List of medical illnesses or conditions possibly initiated from your exposure to Agent Orange. If you’re a Vietnam vet, be prepared to hear me tell you about my Billy, now a resident of Heaven and if I tear up, just give me a minute.
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What breaks my heart is that countless veterans don’t realize the illnesses they may be battling every day now could have resulted from time spent in Vietnam. That being said, some veterans have told me they “don’t want anything from our government”, but please let me respectfully remind you that IF you were determined eligible for V.A. disability compensation, the financial acknowledgement would not only help you and recognize your sacrifice but also be of help to your spouse if/when you pass away. And know this too, the V.A. is not perfect but its gotten better over time and if you do submit a claim (which you can do yourself or work through Patty – which I strongly recommend – the result may help you tremendously. My Billy had been suffering with Diabetes II for several years before he knew it was his very personal souvenir from Vietnam. So, can you just please think about it?
In the weeks to come I’ll elaborate on some of the wonderful veteran events and acknowledgements for our veterans across Dare County. All kinds of fun and memorable activities will be taking place during Veteran’s Week, so keep abreast of them all. And of course, Veteran’s Day this year is Monday, November 11th as usual every year.
Save the date PLEASE to come see me on Friday/Saturday, November 8th & 9th, in Manteo from 10AM – 5PM where I’ll be available to issue your Dare County Veteran Discount Card. I’ll be located at the ‘ISLAND HOLIDAY CRAFT SHOW and FUNDRAISER TO BENEFIT THE MEMORIAL SCHLORSHIP FUND for Billy Brown (Vietnam Veteran) at the Manteo First Assembly – Youth House (812 Wingina St., Manteo). You’ll also have a chance to donate $5 per ticket or get five tickets for $20 for a chance to “WINNER TAKE ALL” handmade items on our special Veteran’s table. Proceeds will be donated to the Outer Banks V.F.W. Post 10950 ‘Billy Brown Memorial Scholarship Fund’. Of course you don’t have to be a veteran to buy tickets and you sure don’t have to be a veteran to win either but the good that will come out of your participation will benefit Dare County High School recipients…so…if you believe in supporting our local V.F.W. and our youth, please come out those two days between 10AM – 5PM and eat a bite, meet absolutely awesome craftsmen and get your Discount Card (just be sure to bring the items I mentioned & underlined earlier). I sure hope to see you!!
November is of course a BIG month for veterans and those who love you. In the coming GIG LINE columns, I’ll describe the fantastic veteran events that will be coming up…so please don’t miss reading it!!
In the meantime, listen for ‘Big Red’ and keep your eyes peeled for me coming and going and if you do see me, please come over and say “Hi!” because I’d sure love to see you! One day I hope to be able to have my sweet Billy’s truck painted like new and have the hood wrapped in a patriotic theme…maybe with an American Bald Eagle like the one Billy had tattooed on his right arm just before deploying to Vietnam. I’d love that! ‘Big Red’ would really stand out then, wouldn’t it? And when anybody saw me ride by, they’d say – “That’s Marsha in her ‘Patriotmobile’! She loves her Billy…all our veterans and these beautiful United States of America!” It’s a dream and maybe someday I’ll be able to do that but until then…look for me anyway! Okeydokey?
Until next week, be happy, be safe and be proud and just know we have so much to thank God for and don’t forget…United We Stand! Stay tuned.