By Marsha M. Brown
On April 19th I received an email from V.F.W. Glynn T. Cahoon Post 10659 Commander Elmo Hassell with a request to be the guest speaker at their annual Memorial Day service to be held on Sunday morning May 25th at 8:00 AM in Columbia (Tyrrell County) N. C.
The email was complimentary of GIG LINE which I appreciated very much but even more than that, it was obvious how dedicated he was in planning a service that would touch his fellow comrades. Commander Hassell wrote that he too was a Vietnam veteran and that he could identify with things I had written about over time in my column. He also told me something else too…that he was “proud to be a vet”. That quote was comprised of only 13 letters and four spaces but it impacted me greatly.
Of course I was honored to be asked to speak for that special morning and my only pause was in wondering if I would make Commander Hassell, the townspeople of Columbia and my husband and sweetheart Billy proud. This address, after all, would relate to the solemn, respectful remembrance of our fallen…a day of reverence, reflection and a unified national pride for our military men and women who had lost their life while serving our country.
It was obvious to me that Commander Hassell exemplified a deep sense of pride having served our nation and also in honoring fellow veterans on that day. Proud of his service, he acknowledged and accepted yesteryear heartache of his return from Vietnam. His focus now in these later years…is to honor not only those who had served and passed but those who are here today. He sees the benefit of honor, American pride and the celebration of our veterans…he’s proud of our troops and he believes that those who served and who serve today should be held in the highest regard.
I responded to Mr. Hassell that I would be happy to address his gathering and how much I appreciated the opportunity.
In between our correspondence and the event itself, I asked God to help me express my feelings about veteran honor and to assure all veterans who would be present that they were important; that they mattered; that their service wasn’t forgotten, nor was it in vain and that because of what they had done…we were enabled to do what we do now. Saturday night after Billy had gone to bed, it was late when I wrote my speech…my wordy path to the ears of veterans the following morning were important to me…I wanted what I said to matter. En route to Columbia Sunday morning, May 25th while Billy drove, I read my speech out loud and when he recommended no changes I knew God had influenced the writing. I knew it would be a very good day and full of blessings.
The weather couldn’t have been more perfect. The ride west was especially nice…and no bears on the way (thank the Lord – they’re beautiful animals but I prefer they stay in the woods and off the road where I can’t see them). We arrived in Columbia right on time – about 7:15 AM. The air was crisp and fresh, the sun was shinning and it couldn’t have been a more wonderful setting. Commander Hassell greeted us warmly, introduced us to each veteran who had gathered early whether they were taking part in the actual service or not and he provided us with a service program – a keepsake now placed in my ‘treasure box’ at home.
As co-coordinator, he had everything in order – isn’t that just like military folks? Their training is to be effective in everything they do…right? He graciously welcomed each and every person as they gathered on site one-by-one; with great joy he introduced the participants including his loving, dedicated and also very proud daughter Tiffany who along with Richard Edwards performed a patriotic medley; he made sure everybody had what they needed – not just because he organized the event, planned the service or out of obligation to his Post but rather out of respect for the essence of the matter. It was very apparent that he took the seriousness and recognition of Memorial Day to heart. He wanted to provide a meaningful service for his fellow V.F.W. members and all veterans and veteran family members who would be present. And Elmo’s wife…what a sweet and good face she has…another woman who adores her veteran husband…so happy to meet another member of the “I Love My Vietnam Veteran Husband Club”.
I had told Billy I hoped I wouldn’t cry while publically sharing my thoughts on the courthouse steps when looking into the beautiful faces of the veterans in front of me, I did pretty well overall except when following the Soundside Missionary Baptist Church choir who sung in absolute accord, “No Greater Love”. Oh my goodness…it was so touching and in perfect harmony. I loved it.
From the very beginning and following the National Anthem, through the Raising the Flag, the welcome and address by Commander Hassell, the patriotic medley on brass, the choir, the Laying of the Wreath, Taps and the Benediction…it was a perfect…absolutely p-e-r-f-e-c-t. It will be a day of remembrance not only of our brave men and women who have gone on before us, but also a reminder of the American spirit of a little town full of love and support for our veterans. Again…clearly a perfect day…in every way…and one we’ll never forget.
To all the little towns and the big, conglomerate metropolitan cities across our land, I have a request…get the spirit of Dare and Tyrrell County. Get into honoring our heroes not just on Memorial Day weekend…or Veterans Day weekend…but every single day. Keep the visual picture of the white tombstones that stand together side by side at Arlington. Stand beside, behind and in front of our veterans to protect them like they protect us, save them, help them and love them. They all deserve our gratitude, our pride and our diligent desire to embrace their sacrifice. Their needs, whatever they may be, should be aggressively tackled and from this point forward we should ALL stand together…more than ever…for them. Please don’t ever take them for granted, or assume that because their wounds are not obvious that they haven’t suffered or felt the influence of their sacrifice. Find ways to help and support those who support them in our government, our schools and our churches.
Locally…I cannot stress enough that The American Legion Fort Raleigh Post 26 is committed to embrace our veterans…both local and visiting vets. Go see them at the Post from 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM, Monday through Friday. If you are a resident of Dare County please take your DD-214 showing HONORABLE discharge with you to the Post located at 302 W. Lake Drive, Kill Devil Hills (west side of the by pass behind T-Tops) each Wednesday where Billy (or I) can issue your Dare County Veteran I. D. Card for area business discounts. Though nearly 325 local resident veterans have their ‘CARD’, there are many yet to be issued…if you are a veteran please take the step to save yourself money and be acknowledged in this special way. Also, if you want to join forces (once again) and become a member of the The American Legion Post 26 or the V.F.W. Outer Banks Post 10950 (or even move your current membership here) – go to the Legion Hall and get your application to join. Come on folks…get involved and stand with each other…veterans are the largest family of brothers and sisters there is…make and take the time you have in this world to help each other. Our local veteran organization groups are eager, enthusiastic and committed to helping our vets. If you’d like to help them do that, perhaps by donating an item, a good or service or even by making a monetary donation, they would greatly appreciate your show of support.
Keep reading GIG LINE…keep posted on upcoming special events honoring our veterans across Dare County. If you’re a resident of neighboring counties or communities, spread the word that you want…no…that you insist on putting your veterans at the forefront…for goodness sake they deserve it.
Until next time, be happy, be safe and be proud. You are an American…you live in the GREATEST country on earth and you are protected by the GREATEST military known to man…isn’t that enough to make you stand up and make a difference? Let’s do it together, OK? Spread the word, pump up the volume…make yourself heard. Hands down our veterans are the BEST of the BEST. Let’s show them just that…as we never have before.
For questions or comments or info on veteran organization memberships, please feel free to write to me at [email protected]. Help us help our heroes…show them you care and by all means…stay tuned. We love you folks and God bless you and your family.