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

Rural Health Care Initiative – Gig Line #11


By Marsha M. Brown

This past Wednesday and Thursday were both very good days! First of all, representatives of the Hampton VA Medical Center – Rural Health Care Initiative Team came to the Fessenden Center in Buxton on Wednesday to meet with Hatteras Island Veterans.

During the three hour event over twenty Veterans attended to inquire about VA health care; a VA Health Card; to update their personal information if they were already in the ‘system’ and to pick up information to review at a more convenient time later. Billy and I weren’t asked by anyone to attend, we went on our own accord to tell Veterans how the VA health care system had personally proven worthy to us and to encourage them to enroll. We also wanted to suggest that they recommend their Veteran family, friends and co workers, who were unable to attend, to contact a VA representative to initiate the process sooner than later.

The good news we’ve come to realize recently is that a Veteran doesn’t have to go to Hampton to initiate the health care process but rather, he or she can see our Dare County Veteran Officer, Rhonda Creef at the Dare County Administrative Building in Manteo. She can enroll a Veteran into the system and once she files the necessary information, a Veteran should expect to be contacted for an appointment to get their physical in Hampton, VA. Isn’t that great?

Working with issues concerning Veterans over these last seven months has opened my eyes to many things. We knew Rhonda could process VA claims but somehow failed to realize she can also assist a Veteran in many other areas too making access for help a lot more convenient to us Outer Bankers’ who are three or more hours from Hampton, Virginia. So if you’re a Veteran who could not attend the event in Buxton or the last two events held in Manteo and at the Baum Center and you want to enroll in the VA Health Care System or initiate getting a Veteran Health Card, please contact Rhonda.

Though Billy and I reside in Manteo, we lived and worked on Hatteras Island for almost twenty years. During that time, we met and fell in love with a lot of wonderful folks ‘down south’. Going to Buxton gave us a chance to talk to folks about the Commissioners having recently established the Dare County Veterans Advisory Council and to say the least, they were thrilled!   

Several old friends we saw that day complimented the VA for the help they were already getting and others looked forward to seeing the help they might qualify for in the near future. The Rural Health Care Initiative ‘team’ of four included Mr. Jeffrey Pearson, Integrator for the group. They brought displays to demonstrate the effects of high cholesterol and smoking and also offered giveaways of pens, bicycle locks, bags, water bottles and mini flashlights in addition to informative pamphlets.

Compliments and voices of appreciation were expressed by Veterans toward those who had traveled from Hampton, VA that morning. In addition, the Dare County Fessenden Center Staff were courteous and more than willing to do anything they could to assist with the event. It was a productive day and it was a blessing to meet and greet new Veteran faces. One gentleman commented that he had lived in Dare County for many years and was happy to see things “really starting to happen for Veterans”. Again, thank you Commissioners for showing your support of these deserving men and women!

Billy having served in the U. S. Army – Vietnam 1968 over forty years ago, had never contacted the VA about anything until this past January. Veteran, are self sacrificing people to begin with and often times forgo applying for health care/benefits through the VA because they feel it would take away from fellow Veterans who have been wounded or who are “more deserving”. But the point is that Veterans deserve…period!

As confirmed many times through various VA sources, there are all sorts of avenues for help out there for Veterans. Not every Veteran qualifies for the same benefits or entitlements. Some may seek and qualify for medical/prescriptions coverage, others may desire to further their education; some may need financial assistance or information about death or spousal benefits. To date every VA rep we’ve come in contact with has seemed genuinely eager to offer assistance. Also, we have come to realize that the more Veterans enroll in the VA system to be screened, processed, examined etc. and data is collected, the more discoveries can be made to further help Veterans overall. 

Once Billy realized last fall there were fifteen medical conditions directly related to exposure to Agent Orange, he became more interested in investigating Veteran options.

When we went for his exams both in Hampton and at the new clinic in Elizabeth City, the VA medical staff who examined him, processed his Health Card and set him up to access his own VA medical information online have been more than willing to answer questions from not only Billy but me too.  They’re careful to show a Veteran respect, privacy and total confidentiality when it comes to health care screening.  They made it clear to me that they would require his permission for me to be present during his physical. Billy had no problem with it and what I appreciated so much was that he was shown the respect to be asked and that it wasn’t taken for granted that as his wife I was entitled.

The special treat of the day at Buxton was when a wise, decorated Veteran came to the Center whom we were blessed to meet. It’s my hope to capture more insight into his past during an upcoming interview. His memories are golden, precious and could never be told too many times. We need to remember, soak in and learn from people who lived in and through the trying times of World War II their experiences. Since last November I’ve had the privilege of meeting at least six WWII Veterans – one from Colington, one from Hatteras and three from Manteo – one from Wanchese – five men and one lady in their 90’s…how awesome is that?

Secondly, last Thursday, we attended the first official Dare County Veterans Advisory Council meeting at the Dare County Administrative Building. As you may have previously read, there were seven Council members appointed. The officers were elected as follows: Clarence Skinner, Chairman; Moncie “Punk” Daniels, Vice Chair and Marsha Brown, Secretary. The remaining Council members: Clarence Lewis, Joe Pope, Pete Groom and Frank Draper were all present. The meeting was and will always be open to the public for future reference.

It was a productive meeting and very apparent that everyone involved care deeply about Veterans. Ideas were voiced and we anticipate action on those and others to be conveyed at the next meeting. I can tell you without hesitation that no one involved in this Council wants to “dilly dally”.

By unanimous consensus we all agreed to meet frequently in the early stages of getting things underway. There’s a lot of work to do to get this off the ground and we’re willing. It’s all about our Dare County Veterans first and foremost and our visiting Veterans too. Everyone is invited to our meetings and when you know of an event that will honor our Veterans, please try to attend. That show of support from Veterans themselves will encourage us to forge ahead with any endeavor we commit to and further this plan of action to improve recognition, honor and attention to the brave men and women who have or currently serve our great nation.

Good things and positive change is coming! We can’t wait…it’s long overdue.  Remember to write to me at editor@giglineheroes.com if you have questions, comments or suggestions regarding Veterans. In the meantime, be happy, be proud and stay tuned…

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