By Marsha M. Brown
Last Wednesday night March 20, 2013 was a very special night. It was a night when the Town of Kill Devil Hills Board of Commissioners and Mayor Sheila F. Davies conducted their usual monthly meeting but…in addition, they offered a special recognition of Vietnam Veterans.
Now let me explain something I’ve observed especially over the last two years, about Vietnam Veterans. They’re proud of their country, they love these United States and they respect all branches of our military…period; they are ‘brothers’ to each other…even if they’ve never met previously. When they meet for the first time, they ‘connect’ and this is fact because I’ve seen it time and time again. Sometimes, not always, they wear their Vietnam hat or T-shirt publically but then again a lot of times they don’t because they feel ashamed to admit they served in Vietnam. That’s not always the case of course but it takes encouragement on behalf of the veterans spouse’s part sometimes to convince them to don the special emblems that in just one sighting, tells it all.
If you’ve read GIG LINE for a while, you may have read before how I feel when I see a veteran. And whether they served in a war…or no war…the fact they have or currently serve our country is enough for me. It makes me smile, it makes me happy, it gives me pride, it makes me always want to walk up to them and ask if I can hug them…seriously.
But when I see a symbol of the Vietnam War…this is what I think. First and foremost I want to say thank you. The symbols of green, red and black make me think a lot. Why? Because I know the person that experienced Vietnam was matured quickly and in ways no parent, classroom or even an outstanding teacher could have prepared them for; because I know that they have endured physical challenges that don’t get the praise or accolades that our celebrity athletes or Olympic champions receive but just the same they had to be as tough as nails, strong as bulls and sharp as a tack…to have survived. It makes me proud to know they withstood the distain many of them felt from people who didn’t know their heart or their soul or hear their experiences upon their return to their (our) homeland.
At 62 years old, I have now become a ‘warrior’ of sorts myself. I’m a ‘senior citizen’…(gracious, it’s still hard to imagine because I sure don’t feel it)…who believes it’s never too late to show your passion about things you believe in, love or care about in life. I am proud to support all Vietnam veterans everywhere, not just my sweet husband or other veteran homefolks in Dare County. I am the ‘old but new’ Vietnam veteran advocate.
I enjoy writing GIG LINE to lift up and celebrate ALL United States military veterans. And while I know that some men and women who served in Vietnam may never fully recover from the heartache, I want to know in my heart that I tried during my life to put them on the pedestal I think they deserve to be placed on. I am a better person to know them, celebrate them and honor them. My life is enriched because of Billy, my Vietnam veteran husband. He has taught me a lot over these years. He’s taught me that not giving up is critical to survival; that you can only depend on those who are dependable; that God can see you through the toughest of times; and that ‘home’ is sweeter than sweet.
The meeting with the Kill Devil Hills Officials was touching, enlightening and impressive. After the introduction by Mayor Davies of Moncie ‘Punk’ Daniels, U.S.A.F. Lt. Col. (Ret.) who also serves as Vice Chairman of the Dare County Veterans Advisory Council, he recited facts and figures about the Vietnam War that was eye opening. When he spoke, he was clear and concise in his delivery. His intent to make those in attendance understand the subject matter in a different way was very evident. His point, as I saw it, was to establish…no mistake about it…that Vietnam veterans were an outstanding bunch, a unique mass of perhaps greatly underestimated men and women who accomplished incredible results regardless of media insult at that time and…that they were all heroes.
The numbers he quoted were staggering of how many had served; of how many hadn’t come home and so much more. And even as much as I’ve seen on TV or read about Vietnam, my eyes were opened wider with each verbal reveal. ‘Punk’ had done his homework, in part from memory, by familiar remembrance of the subject time and essence but also through research. He made it a point, also, to acknowledge the love and faithfulness of spouses who waited and supported their men and women who served knowing full well they might not return.
‘Punk’ Daniels proudly introduced the veterans by asking them to stand and it was surprising how many in the audience that night were our United States veterans. He also introduced Clarence Skinner, U.S.A.F. Major (Ret.) and Chairman of the Dare County Veterans Advisory Council. He went on to explain the meaning of GIG LINE and that it referenced the required straight line of the military uniform (zipper, belt buckle, buttons and collar). He said GIG LINE was about “discipline”. Thank you, Mr. Daniels.
He also spoke about the upcoming Vietnam Veterans Reunion Picnic to be held on Saturday, March 30th – 12 noon at Aviation Park off Veterans Drive Kill Devil Hills. He asked all veterans who would like to come and share the experience of military service to bring their lunch/non alcoholic beverage, family members and friends and “swap” stories with each other.
Proud is a word I use a lot in GIG LINE. I was proud at that meeting. It meant a lot to me that the Board of Commissioners in Kill Devil Hills chose to honor special people, not only with an invitation to speak but by creating a Proclamation dedicated to the honor of Vietnam veterans that Mayor Davies read out loud.
It was a touching document that encompassed the passion of the Vietnam War from all perspectives. It respectfully referenced those who didn’t support the war and beautifully written and eloquently executed, it praised the veterans in a way that I had not heard before. The Proclamation grasped the exceptional difficulties our men and women faced who had served there. It included references to less than full support of our receiving nation upon their return. And all of the Proclamation “Whereas” points of reference were composed with respect and integrity for all concerned. The room was as quiet as an empty elevator at a standstill and as my eyes scanned the room with little movement of my head, I could see it touched the Vietnam veterans and other service veterans who were there within eye shot. A couple of the men cupped their hands to their face when a wave of emotion filled their heart. Thank you Kill Devil Hills. Thank you for the Town staff that supported this endeavor. Thank you Board Members and Mayor Davies.
I felt at the end of the presentations for the veterans as Billy and I left the Meeting Room that something had been accomplished…something significant. The Vietnam veterans whom we greeted and hugged outside seemed moved in a positive way, a healthy healing way or at least it was a start. Public acknowledgement, public praise, public remembrance and honor bestowed on a deserving bunch of red blooded through and through Americans made it an exceptional day.
I hope to see you at the picnic, Saturday, March 30, please don’t forget that EVERYONE is welcome to join us! A lot of new, informative subjects for GIG LINE are in the works for the upcoming weeks, so please be safe, be happy, be proud and thank a veteran. And until next time…stay tuned.