Celebrating and commemorating our veterans. United States military veterans and their families.

Richard Johnson – Gig Line #70


By Marsha M. Brown

Dedicated to Veterans

Before I get too deep into GIG LINE this time, I want to acknowledge the love, dedication and devotion to the citizens of Dare County as evidenced time and time again by our late Richard Johnson, Dare County Board of Commissioner who just recently passed away.

Richard exemplified the term ‘public servant’. He was a man’s man who showed no hesitation of expressing love for his wife Cheryl (Lassiter) Johnson and for their children. He understood family. He understood struggles that Dare Countians’ face each day. He was sensitive to the plight of many and he was open minded about their financial and health burdens. He was straightforward and he wasn’t a candidate prone to intimidation (from anyone) plain and simple…he shot from the hip.

When we first heard about Richard’s illness at church during a Wednesday night prayer meeting, my sweetie pie Billy and I, like so many, and were heartsick. Having run errands earlier that evening and having driven there separately, I asked him to go on home ahead of me because I wanted to call Richard and check on him before it got too late. I remember where I was at the moment I talked to him. I was sitting in our car in the dark.

First, I prayed. I asked God to help me say something that would help or encourage Richard. I dialed his number and when he answered I told him we had just heard he had been sick and that we loved him. I offered words of comfort and encouragement as best I could and I told him how proud we were of him. I told him that he was an inspiration to a lot of us (people in general) and that we’d all hang in there with him to see it through. I mustered a positive attitude to remind him of all the strides in medicine and the great accomplishments doctors had made in the quest to find answers and a cure. He told me that he was going to do everything he could to get better and that he had every intention of continuing on with his position as Commissioner. He told me he was scared but he knew that it was all in God’s hands. I had called Richard to hopefully cheer him up but in fact, it was he who cheered me up.  

Over the months that followed, I’d call Richard sometimes just to chat. I talked to him about Dare County veterans and how happy they were that the Commissioners had embraced establishing a Council. I thanked him for supporting the endeavor. And the last time I saw him wasn’t long ago when he reached out to hug me in the hall after a Commissioners meeting. I told him again…then…how proud we were of him. He looked good. He smiled a big ole smile and asked me to give his best to Billy.

Richard always seemed to love serving the folks of Dare County. Richard loved helping people; he cared about them; he listened to us. If he agreed with you, he’d say so…if he didn’t…he’d say so. No false pretenses, no fake and phony pretend stuff with him, he was genuine. Even with all he had gone through, he still hung in there with all of us…for all of us. He amazed me with his attitude, his determination and his love for the Board even when they disagreed sometimes. He was ready…just like he said…you could just tell. He was thankful for his life and his beautiful family. In the face of overwhelming odds, Richard rose above it. To my knowledge Richard wasn’t a military veteran but he was a hero just the same.

 Years ago I considered our right to vote as simply that…our civic duty…you know, like serving on jury duty. And while I didn’t truly embrace the concept like I should have, I did make a stab at it paying moderate attention to candidate’s views on matters of overall concern both locally and nationally. But as they say, time changes everything. And while I’m ashamed to admit it, until something really struck a nerve with me some years ago, (which I’ll leave to memory), I took overall freedoms, opportunities and the right to vote for granted. I admit that I was spoiled like many Americans (unfortunately) used to the benefits of living in a country where privileges were afforded to us at the expense of our veterans. I was used to thinking that one vote…my vote…was only just that…one vote…and while I knew most elections weren’t won by one single vote, I also knew it was possible that it could be.

I studied the importance of public service and servants as well as the impact that politicians, both good and bad, can have on our daily lives. I also felt the foremost prerequisite to a candidate asking for votes from anybody should be that he or she was in it for the right reasons and that the candidate ‘threw their hat in the ring’ for the right reasons. Because he or she wanted to serve fellow men and women and to make our communities better…safer…happier…and healthier for all of us.  

That brings to mind that in Manteo High School I loved my teachers, all of them; Mr. Wayne Gray my most favorite, Mr. Steve Basnight another and Mr. John Bone still another. Mr. Gray as I’ve written before inspired me to write, to express myself, to grasp the power of words and to never underestimate the value of what I had to say…hence GIG LINE; Mr. Basnight inspired me to do good things for people from every walk of life, to contemplate serving others in a public way and to never think that my life couldn’t make a positive difference in the lives of others. Because of him, a seed was planted about the importance of volunteering in our communities, extending a hand of friendship to those in need and to try to meet the needs of the less fortunate through a career in the Peace Corp or maybe even just right here at home; Mr. Bone? He drilled history into my pea brain and when it just didn’t click the way he thought it should, he took the time to help me. He made an extra effort to show me he cared and that it was important to him that I realize the value of learning our American history. Now, much more mature, I can see that much of what we experience today is connected to the brave soldiers and statesman who influenced our future so long ago. His inspiration taught me that learning about our history is more than just important…it’s imperative. At least in my case, Mr. Bone’s determination to inspire us kids went further than he may have thought. And like other great teachers who taught, guided and inspired us to be the best we could be, I owe them my gratitude. I owe them my respect and my love for their patience, their perseverance and their care of my education.

I’ve learned a lot over these years…a whole lot. I’ve been reminded that life is short, that we are remembered for the things we do in life…and the things we don’t. I’ve learned that if you care about people, you should show it by getting involved. I learned that the brotherhood between veterans never goes away and the bond between all of us is or can be truly wonderful.

I’ve been back to the jeweler on the beach again and he called in the order for Billy’s duplicate dog tags. I’m looking forward to getting them hopefully next week and I’ll let you know in the next GIG LINE how they turned out. I plan on wearing them frequently and I can hardly wait.

Billy and I will also hold another schedule to issue Dare County Veteran I. D. Cards at the Dare County Administrative Office Rm. 168 on Tuesday, September 10th from 12 noon until 3:00 PM. Please bring your DD-214 showing HONORABLE discharge and proof of local address.

Until next time, be happy, be safe and be proud. Get a history book out and brush up on it. Read to your little ones about the things our veterans have done to influence goodness in the world today. Tell them that the goodness of our country is directly connected to the service and sacrifice of our veterans. Help them understand the worthiness of our Constitution and that the United States of America shines above all the others on earth. If you have a question, comment, idea or anything else you want to talk about please let me know (252) 202-2058 or write to me at editor@giglineheroes.com. We look forward to hearing from you! Thank you for reading GIG LINE and as usual, stay tuned…

Contact the Editor

Marsha M. Brown has been writing a weekly Gig Line since 2012.  Marsha is the widow of Vietnam War, U.S. Army, veteran Billy Brown of Manteo, NC.  She was instrumental in establishing the Dare County Veterans Advisory Council and maintains an active role in the veteran community. You can reach Marsha with questions or suggestions at editor@giglineheroes.com.  Have a story to tell or a veteran to feature? She would love to hear from you!

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