By Marsha M. Brown
Billy and I have four beautiful grandchildren; two boys and two girls ranging in age from 22 to 10. Like many of you who have grandchildren or maybe even great grandchildren, each one is the greatest joy in our lives. Am I right? You look at them…you study their mannerisms and their approach to life…you listen to their dreams and aspirations…you embrace their sweet goodness…you boast on their accomplishments academically and in sports, music and dance. You tear up when your grandchildren say the blessing at the table and when they pray a precious prayer for others who are sick and their words are genuine and straight from their heart. You want to chastise anyone who hurts them…you praise and love anyone who praises them and who helps you help them realize just how unique and perfect each one of them are. You are proud. You think of your son and daughter-in-love or daughter and son-in-love who brought them into this world and how much you love them too. You vividly remember the day your ‘little and big loves’ came into being and how much they have touched you and made you…in some way…a better person. We are much the same, you and I. We all love our family and we hope that our little ones grow up to follow their dreams and believe without question they can accomplish anything they set their mind to – through hard work, integrity and a desire to help others more than themselves. That brings me to my point.
Our 12 year old grandson Ben has a r-e-a-l big heart for veterans…but especially for his “Pappy”. You see…he’s a dye hard, true fanatic over all things military…everything patriotic…and anything historical. He loves books, TV shows and movies about our nation’s history…the struggles we’ve been through…the battles we’ve fought…the hardships we’ve endured…the undeniable sacrifices of our military men and women and the successes we have achieved as a nation because of them.
Not long ago Ben established his own collection of old things: a family member’s U. S. Navy pea coat, military pins, medicine bottles and arrow heads. Since then, his collection has grown spending his own money helping which chores and birthday gifts to research and buy war era uniforms pieces. He seeks items from military surplus stores buying duffle bags, combat boots, canteens, belts and patches and everything he can afford at the time. On occasion he’s been present when we’ve issued Dare County Veteran I. D. Card(s) and jumped at the chance to personally thank our veterans for their service; he (and our granddaughter Elizabeth) have helped us circulate flyers for veteran events/fundraisers; we’ve watched countless DVD’s together where the plot, or story line is related to…what else? the military. When Ben stays with us for a weekend, we hear news on TV and frequently ‘current events’ pulls up a chair to join us at the dinner table. Sometimes the news is grim and it’s difficult to explain how the events of today have rocked our world and come to be. At times I feel inept to explain to my grandson why something as outstanding as our United States military…so respected throughout all of my life has come under such attack. I find it impossible to understand…especially knowing that our military IS our defense…but what should they use now? Harsh words? A locked glass door? A pea shooter or spit balls? Give me a break people…enough is enough. Is it political correctness? Or a desire NOT to offend those who are anti guns? Is that it? Dear God, how do you defend when you’re defenseless yourself?
This sweet, exceptional young man looks up to the pedestal where his Vietnam veteran “Pappy” sits and its clear just how much he loves and respects him. Ben’s thirst for knowledge exceeds all expectation and you only have to be around him a few minutes when you see his interest is sincere. He dearly loves his robust war veteran ‘Pappy’ and he can’t get in enough “talks with Pap”. Last year he was one of the actors in our annual ‘SALUTE TO VETERANS’ at Manteo First Assembly and he’ll (hopefully) participate again this coming November.
Several weeks ago I heard him and Billy talking in our guest room. They were looking at Billy’s U. S. Army uniform when he came into my ‘writing’ room to show me some things ‘Pap’ had given him. His eyes were bright…he smiled…he had treasures of a time in his grandfather’s life that is impossible to forget. Billy profoundly touched Ben’s life that day. He shared the flight jacket he wore in Vietnam with his grandson. It wasn’t just a mere giveaway…or an item to appease Ben…it was part of his life…his history…his heartache. Ben said, “Nanny, look at what Pappy gave me”. I was shocked to be honest, not because Billy doesn’t give to Ben whenever he can…it was WHAT he gave him that amazed me. But that’s because he knows Ben looks up to the men and women who have served…who have risked their life for people they never knew…people they protected, saved from harm, persecution and death…but still in all would always remember.
I said, “Ben, that’s wonderful that Pap shared that with you babe. He loves you a lot and he’s happy that you care about his service and the service of others so much.” He responded with, “I know that Nanny and I’m gonna take care of it. I’ll keep it safe and I won’t let anything happen to it”. And folks…as much as kids promise good care of their IPod, IPads and cell phones…I know without question…hands down…that Ben means what he says. Pap’s love gifts will be honored, kept in a safe place and Ben will continue to collect old and new items of references to all branches of the service. You know why? Because for a very unique and mature 12 year old, Ben Brown sees opportunity to teach others…to inspire all of us who know or meet him to love what our flag stands for…to cherish what the pins, patches and everything else relative to our United States military uniforms represent. He’s got it. He’s got it down pat…how about the rest of us?
My husband Billy is a hero just like many of you reading this GIG LINE. He is a hero like all of you who have served this great nation. Ben is a hero too.
Until next time, be happy, be safe and be proud. As former or active military personnel, continue to inspire our youth. Stand up to anyone who needs to hear that as Americans we want our military protected, honored and cared for as they should be regardless of politics and big speeches. Expect all of us (as Americans) to stick together on this one topic, no matter what else we disagree about…that our military deserves a mighty sword in the defense and protection of us all!
God bless you all. If you need us, call our me (252) 202-2058. Phones are for communicating, right? Make it happen. If you know of a veteran who needs help or if you want to help our veterans in some way, call us. On this particular topic…we have to stick together for all of our sake. Thank you for reading GIG LINE and as always…stay tuned.