By Marsha M. Brown
It’s important to open this GIG LINE by sharing excerpts from recent conversations I had with local veterans this past week while I was issuing Dare County Veteran I. D. Card(s).
First – a stop in ‘just to say hi’ visit by one of our local veterans started the day off just right. Now mind you, it’s always a pleasure for me to see a Dare County veteran…no matter where I am…no matter what I’m doing…I love to sit and talk…and talk to them and exchange thoughts about veteran related matters, events, concerns and pride.
This particular veteran (who already had his I. D. Card) told me he was on his way out of the Administrative Building to go “give some more business” to a local eatery. Then he added…that he was going there not just because of the good food or because he’d realize a savings (discount) off of his meal as a cardholder but because when he did business there he was recognized as a veteran who had served his country. He further stated that he had almost been killed three times during his military service and that he felt he had earned the privilege of being ‘honored’ in a special way and I couldn’t agree with him more. He and every single one of you who have served…deserve special recognition…to stand out in a crowd, to be noticed…and you deserve whatever ‘break’ a business is willing to offer you. And veterans who think they aren’t as special as those who saw combat let me say this to you…you served in our United States military. Even if you expected your enlistment to remain stateside throughout your military career, orders were subject to change, meaning deployment with little notice was a possibility. The fact you served is what matters. Regardless of rank your life could have taken a drastic turn and that’s the point. And what gets me is that some folks think that if you didn’t retire, you aren’t a veteran…r-e-a-l-l-y? YOU ARE A VETERAN IF YOU SERVED AND WERE HONORABLY DISCHARGED…period!
Our veterans who served overseas would not and could not have done what they did performing their tasks and accomplishing their objectives without everybody back home in all capacities performing theirs. YOU are all worthy of the term ‘veteran’ no matter the length of your service, the position you held or where you served. And the rest of us can’t thank you all enough.
The second veteran I met with that day showed me his DD-214 along with proof of his local address (a requirement to get his/her ‘Card’). After I entered his information on our log sheet and issued his numbered Card, he enlightened me on something I didn’t know. He told me that if a veteran is married and receives VA benefits, but at some point in time they divorce, he or she is expected to notify the VA. Before I left that day I saw Rhonda Creef, Dare County Veteran Service Officer who not only verified that but also said that if a veteran receives VA benefits equal to or in excess of 30% and they become divorced OR if they have dependents that reach the age of 18 years old, they are expected to notify the VA in either case. If a veteran doesn’t, they may be subject to having to pay the difference back (to the VA) from the period of divorce or from when their children turned 18 and no longer considered a dependent. Regardless, it’s important to communicate with the VA about a veteran’s life changing events. Because I’m not an expert on the subject and for further clarification, PLEASE contact Rhonda at (252) 475-5604. Because of so many new veteran inquiries and a increased workload, she asks veterans to please call her ahead to schedule an appointment so that she can devout the necessary adequate time to meet with you, explain the claim process, fill out all of the forms and file a claim in your behalf. It goes without saying that it will behoove you to call ahead and plan the appointment time with Rhonda and she welcomes your call.
The third veteran I met with that afternoon came in with his devoted wife. Like the others, they too were a joy to talk to and believe me when I say our conversations ran the gambit! I found them to be community spirited, very patriotic and crazy about each other! He was happy to receive his ‘Card’ and his list of 21 Dare County businesses who offer special discounts to veterans at checkout. During our discussion, his endearing wife praised Dare County for the attention and dedication it is showing overall to our veterans. She expressed her gratitude for what we’re doing in Dare County and her comments made me really proud. Through our time together, I realized that while he was a Vietnam veteran (like my Billy) she like many wives was ‘serving’ at home, holding down the fort and taking care of family matters until his return. I praised her for that and told her how thankful I was that my ‘sweetie pie’ and I weren’t married while he was in Vietnam because of the constant worry wives went through every single day until they knew the love of their life was back at home safe and sound. That also prompted me to ask him if he had been screened for Agent Orange (A.O.) and he told me that he had NOT. At that point, I called Jeff Pearson with the R.H.I. (Rural Health Initiative) based at the VA Medical Center in Hampton, VA. who provided a number for him to call to make the appointment for his screening. If you have served ‘boots on ground’ in Vietnam, PLEASE call this number: (757) 722-9961 x 2225 to arrange for your Agent Orange screening. P-L-E-A-S-E do that for yourself and for your spouse.
Our veterans are coming in to get their ‘Card’ but to be honest…we have several thousand…yes, I said several thousand (per Raleigh)…Dare County veterans yet to claim theirs. This is a pretty clear indication that many veterans still may not realize they are entitled to a ‘Card’ allowing special privilege. So, I’m asking you all to please let your church members, friends, work associates, family and neighbors know that a Dare County Veteran I. D. Card is available to them (at no charge of course) that entitles them to area business discounts. Each Wednesday between now and the end of March, veterans can get their Card at the Dare County Administrative Building in Manteo between 10:00AM – 1:00 PM. What are veterans required to provide in exchange? Their DD-214 (just for us to see) showing HONORABLE discharge and proof of their local address…that’s it! Furthermore, several events will be held within the coming weeks again at the Dare County ACE HARDWARE locations and in conjunction with the R. H. I. (Rural Health Initiative) whereas veterans can come in and determine eligibility/make application for VA Health Care benefits AND get their Dare County Veteran I. D. Card at the same time.The dates of those events will be circulated throughout our communities, posted in GIG LINE and through other sources of media.
One final note and just to be clear, I write about many topics in GIG LINE and often times about my Vietnam veteran sweetie pie husband of 45 years…Billy. Sometimes folks who are consistent readers comment that they like the stories and the personal references to Billy. Thank you for that and please know that not only do I love my hero husband very much, I also respect him beyond words. And trust me; Billy has proofed all of my writings prior to them being submitted to the Coastland Times for print. That’s because no matter how much I want to drive a point home or share his or our personal experiences, stories or memories…it would only and always be with his blessing first.
Until next time, be happy, be safe and be proud. Think about our veterans…all of our veterans…they (you) are special…and golden. We love you and we want all of you to realize your contribution to our country, ensuring our safety, security and our happiness. Stay tuned…